heavy drinking

Doctors Warning Over Heavy Drinking

Almost 63,000 people in the UK will die as a result of heavy drinking between 2017 and 2022, doctors have warned. The experts behind this new research have forewarned that the government must crack down on alcohol advertising and make changes to pricing to prevent this large number of deaths.

The Study

The news has been released after analysis from Sheffield University’s Alcohol Research Group. The team behind the study also found that health conditions related to heavy drinking will cost the NHS £16.74 billion over the next five years.

Of the estimated 63,000 heavy drinking-related deaths (the equivalent of 35 per day) the two biggest killers will be liver cancer- causing 32,475 deaths and alcoholic liver disease, which will be responsible for another 22,519 fatalities.

However, the Alcohol Research Group also released evidence to suggest that if a 50p minimum unit price was introduced, the number of deaths would be reduced by 1,150 and there would be a total of 74,500 fewer hospital admissions related to heavy drinking. It is estimated that this would save the NHS £326 million over the course of five years and the value of crime in this time would drop by £711 million.

Action Being Taken

It’s not just Sheffield University’s alcohol research team urging the government to introduce minimum unit pricing on alcohol products. Health charities and organisations across the UK, such as the Foundation for Liver Research are campaigning for this change- along with new restrictions on alcohol advertisement- in an effort to avoid this surge in deaths caused by heavy drinking in what has been described as a ‘public health crisis’.

Liver disease is currently one of the biggest killers in the UK, with around 12,000 deaths each year. This number has increased by 400% since 1970 and, as this new research shows, is set to rise over the next five years.

The Dangers of Alcohol Misuse

Alcohol misuse is defined as excessive drinking which exceeds the recommended limits of lower-risk alcohol consumption. According to the UK Chief Medical Officers’ current guidelines, both men and women should not drink more than 14 units of alcohol a week on a regular basis. If you’re not sure whether you are consuming more than the recommended amount, take a look at this NHS guide to calculating alcohol units.

Although liver disease is the biggest alcohol-related killer it is not the only health complication that can arise as a result of heavy drinking. Misusing alcohol on a short term basis can greatly increase the risk of serious accident and injury, violent behaviour, unprotected sex (leading to unplanned pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections) and alcohol poisoning. Alcohol poisoning can cause vomiting, seizures and, in severe cases, hypothermia.

In addition to liver disease and liver cancer, persistently heavy drinking on a long-term basis can increase the risk of life-threatening illnesses such as:

  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Bowel cancer
  • Mouth cancer
  • Pancreatitis

If a person becomes unable to control the amount they are drinking, this is defined as an alcohol dependency (or alcoholism). As well as the many serious health issues listed above, alcohol dependency can lead to social problems including unemployment, divorce and homelessness.

Where to go for help

Dealing with an alcohol problem can be a long and difficult process, but is essential to accept help and make changes. If you find yourself in uncontrollable need of a drink on a regular basis or are experiencing problems in your life and relationships as a result of heavy drinking, you may have a problem with alcohol and might wish to consider seeking professional help.

There are a number of helpful services in and around East Berkshire which can provide advice and counselling to anyone in need of help for an alcohol problem. These include the Cascade Counselling and Advisory Service in East Berkshire, the Resilience Drug and Alcohol Service in Maidenhead and Cranstoun Access Team in Wokingham. Alcoholics Anonymous also hold meetings around East Berkshire, email their team at [email protected] for details of the next meeting taking place in your local area.

Alternatively, if you don’t feel ready to speak to a professional face to face or if you do not believe you are suffering from a serious alcohol problem and would, instead, like to reduce your intake to a healthier amount, the NHS Livewell website is filled with resources and tips on cutting down.