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The BBC's Karen Allen
"A strategy on alcohol abuse was promised by the Government two years ago"
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Eric Applebey, Alcohol Concern
"People like drinking"
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Wednesday, 10 May, 2000, 23:42 GMT 00:42 UK
Huge rise in alcohol-related deaths
Girl drinking
Alcohol intake is rising among the young
The number of people who died from alcohol-related causes soared in the last decade, according to a report.

The study, by Alcohol Concern, found alcohol-related deaths officially recorded by hospitals increased by a third, from around 3,000 in 1986 to approximately 5,000 in 1997.

But the report claims the real number of all deaths connected with alcohol misuse is closer to 33,000.

I cannot underestimate the importance of alcohol in the workload of emergency departments - we would be out of business if it was not for alcohol

John Ryan, British Association of Accident and Emergency Medicine

Alcohol Concern estimates alcohol abuse is costing Britain 3.3bn a year.

The biggest impact is on industry - 2.8bn is lost through sickness, unemployment and premature death.

But the Alcohol Concern study also found it cost the NHS 200m to treat drink-related illness.

John Ryan, spokesman for the British Association of Accident and Emergency Medicine and an accident and emergency specialist at Royal Sussex County Hospital, Brighton, said emergency departments dealt with a huge amount of cases resulting from acute intoxication and chronic alcoholism.

He said: "I cannot underestimate the importance of alcohol in the workload of emergency departments - we would be out of business if it was not for alcohol."

Road accidents where drink is a factor cost 189m, and criminal activity linked with alcohol abuse is responsible for another 68m.

The report, entitled Britain's Ruin, highlights a 50% increase over the past two years in the number of women drinking above the recommended daily amount.

This compares to the 10-15% increase recorded between 1988 and 1998.

More than a third of men and 23% of women aged between 16 and 24 regularly drink twice the recommended daily amounts.

Alcohol abuse is linked to:
65% of suicide attempts
76,000 facial injuries a year
23% of child neglect calls to national helplines
39% of fires
15% of drownings

The report highlights a string of damning statistics about the impact of alcohol abuse.

Marriages where one or both partners have a drink problem are twice as likely to end in divorce as those not affected by alcohol.

Between 60 and 70% of men who assault their partners do so under the influence of drink.

Forty-one per cent of violent crimes, including assaults and muggings, are committed by somebody who has been drinking.

Child alcohol abuse

The report says alcohol abuse is a growing problem among children.

In the 11 to 15 age group, the average weekly consumption of alcohol among those who drink has almost doubled to 9.9 units in the last two years.

After drinking, one in seven of 16 to 24-year-olds had unprotected sex, one in five had sex they later regretted, and 10% could not even remember if they had had sex the previous night.

Forty per cent of 13- and 14-year-olds were "drunk or stoned" when they had their first sexual experience.

Eric Appleby, Alcohol Concern director, said: "Given this catalogue of problems, we would like to see the Government's promised National Alcohol Strategy introduced as a matter of urgency."

Among the proposals Alcohol Concern wants to see adopted are:

  • drink-drive limit cut from 80 milligrams to 50mgs of alcohol per 100mls of blood
  • police given wider breath-testing powers
  • bans on the sale of glass bottles in pubs
  • high-profile annual alcohol awareness campaign
  • better alcohol education for young people
  • more money for treatment and counselling
  • training for staff selling and serving alcohol

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See also:

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