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Wednesday, 8 November, 2000, 01:15 GMT
One in 20 'hooked on drink'
Drinking
Drinking is on the increase in the UK
As many as 5% of adults in the UK are alcoholics, according to a charity.

Alcohol Concern says the number of alcoholics in the country is more than double the number of people addicted to legal and illegal drugs, a

Figures due to be revealed by the charity at a conference in London on Wednesday suggest that one in 20 people in the UK are addicted to drink.

This compares with one in 45 who have a physical dependence on prescription painkillers or illegal narcotics.


It is about time ministers treated alcohol misuse with the seriousness it deserves - not lip service

Eric Appleby, Alcohol Concern
At the conference, campaigners and health workers are expected to express anger that the government has not yet published its long-awaited national alcohol strategy to deal with rising rates of abuse.

According to Alcohol Concern, alcohol is associated with 65% of all suicide attempts, 76,000 facial injuries, and 23% of child neglect calls each year.

Alcohol-related deaths registered by hospitals in England and Wales have risen by 66% between 1986 and 1997, while campaigners claim approximately 33,000 deaths a year are related to alcohol abuse.

Alcohol Concern says that 2.8bn is lost by British industry each year because of drink-related sickness absence, unemployment and premature death.

'Unfathomable reluctance'

Despite repeated public health campaigns, women and young people are drinking more than a decade ago.

A recent survey suggested that almost half of young women admitted so much each week that they were in danger of engaging in risky activities such as unprotected sex.

Eric Appleby, director of Alcohol Concern, said: "Alcohol is just about the only area mentioned in the government's Healthier Nation report where there has not been any progress.

"It is about time ministers treated alcohol misuse with the seriousness it deserves - not lip service.

"There seems to be an unfathomable reluctance on the part of the government to adopt the sort of joined-up approach to alcohol misuse that can only come through a national alcohol strategy which co-ordinates action at national and local levels."

'Committed'

But a Department of Health spokesman said: "Tackling alcohol misuse is one of our key priorities.

"Alcohol misuse causes too many early deaths a year and we are determined to put in place an effective national alcohol strategy which focuses on reducing alcohol misuse across the country."

She said that the delayed emergence of the national strategy was due to the need to rework it in light of the NHS Plan.

She said: "We remain committed to the strategy and aim to issue the document for consultation as soon as it is ready."

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See also:

02 Nov 00 | Health
Women 'getting dangerously drunk'
06 Jul 00 | Health
Teenage drinking
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