A leading national alcohol charity has called on the Government to react and move quickly to tackle rising numbers of alcohol-related deaths.
Recently released data by the Office of National Statistics revealed that the number of deaths inflicted by alcohol has risen to record levels.
The number of deaths in 2020 increasing by 20% from 2019 – the largest annual increase on record – and Alcohol Change UK are calling on the Government to implement new policies and funding for alcohol-related treatment.
Dr Richard Piper, chief executive of Alcohol Change UK, said: “If the UK is to recover from the pandemic, the Government must act.
“We need to have a comprehensive, strategic set of policies from the Government to tackle alcohol harm, including an alcohol care team in every NHS hospital that needs one and sustainable funding for treatment services.
“There’s more work to be done to understand why deaths have increased so starkly.”
Provisional data showing the number of alcohol-related deaths in England and Wales between 2001 and 2020. Source: ONS.
While mental health charity Samaritans stated that there has not been a provisional increase in suicide rates as a result of the pandemic, the rise may not be intentional.
The rise in alcohol-related deaths may stem from a greater inclination to drink due to the absence of other activities in lockdown.
Dr Piper added: “At 13.0 deaths per 100,000, this is the highest rate of deaths since data collection began in 2001.
“One factor may be that since the pandemic began, those already drinking heavily are most likely to have been drinking more.
“It might also be that some who need help with their drinking – and with alcohol-related conditions – are not seeking it as a result of COVID-19.”
As a result of these haunting numbers, Alcohol Change UK is calling on people to remain aware and seek support when they turn to alcohol.
Dr Piper said: “What we do know is that this crisis is worsening.
“Millions of people are suffering from worsened mental and physical health every day as a result of harmful drinking – a huge one-in-ten hospital patients are alcohol-dependent – and the harm ripples out, affecting children, families and communities.
“Any one of us can find ourselves drinking harmfully.
“And every one of us deserves to live a life free from the harm caused by alcohol, and to have high-quality, early support if we do find ourselves struggling.”