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Last Updated: Friday, 14 July 2006, 05:45 GMT 06:45 UK
Drink rise 'hits nation's health'
Empty beer glass

More than 260 people are expected to die of an alcohol-related condition in Wales this year, an NHS report says.

Excessive drinking is affecting the population's health as well as causing problems such as anti-social behaviour, according to public health experts.

The National Public Health Service said alcohol misuse was a major cause of cirrhosis of the liver, as well as cancer, mental illness and accidents.

It says higher drink prices and reduced availability can cut drink consumption.

The National Public Health Service for Wales collated published figures for its study on the health consequences of alcohol abuse.

'Mediterranean-style' drinking is no panacea - comparison of different European countries shows that it is associated with high rates of cirrhosis
Dr Edward Coles, NPHS for Wales

The report said alcohol consumption has doubled as the real price of alcohol has fallen over the past 40 years.

It estimates alcohol-related conditions will claim the lives of some 170 men and 90 women in Wales during 2006.

Report author Dr Edward Coles said: "Excessive alcohol use is a serious public health problem in Wales. Health would improve substantially if there was a reduction in the number of people who drink more than the guidelines.

"'Mediterranean-style' drinking is no panacea. Comparison of different European countries shows that it is associated with high rates of cirrhosis."

Wales has some of the heaviest-drinking teenagers in Europe, according to the report, but Dr Coles said the public image of alcohol abuse tends to focus on any social problems it causes rather than the wide range of illness left in its wake.

Drunk person in street scene
Consumption has soared as the real price of drink has fallen

He said: "There is a tendency to think of crime and disorder as being the main cause of illness associated with excessive drinking.

"However, cirrhosis of the liver, cancer, mental illness, accidents, unwanted pregnancies and babies damaged by their mothers' drinking are also important."

'Forgotten drug'

The recommended weekly alcohol limit is 21 units for men, and 14 for women.

Dr Coles added: "There are two mechanisms that have been shown to produce a substantial reduction in alcohol consumption - increased price and reduced availability.

"The National Public Health Service for Wales believe this is an important message for local licensing committees throughout Wales."

The findings were backed by Aneurin Owen, director of Cais, the drug and alcohol agency based in Llandudno, which sees about 6,000 people annually, many of whom have alcohol issues.

He said: "We have taken smoking seriously, we are taking drugs somewhat more seriously, alcohol seems to be the forgotten drug in society.

"We see young people with severe alcohol-related conditions like cirrhosis, pancreatitis, depression associated with alcohol, family breakdown, violence. The list is endless.

"It is hidden for a time in the norm of heavy drinking, until there is a regretful event like violence or risky behaviour, which trips some to start thinking about their drinking."




BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
"Longer opening hours mean people are drinking more."



SEE ALSO
Call to allow teen pub drinking
22 Dec 05 |  North East Wales

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