Will minimum alcohol pricing reduce alcohol problems in Scotland?

Alcohol consumption is undoubtedly one of the biggest health challenges facing Scotland.  Research has suggested that Scottish adults consume the equivalent of a standard bottle of vodka or ten pints of beer every week, a fifth more than the average in England and Wales.

The Scottish Government’s plans to introduce a minimum unit price to help tackle this issue are on hold pending a court challenge.  It wants to fix the price at 50p per unit, increasing the cost of cheap vodka for example by nearly 50%.

A study was carried out between 2002 and 2009 in British Columbia, Canada where alcohol could only be sold directly to the public in government-owned stores.   It concluded that, when drink prices rose, there were ‘immediate, substantial and significant reductions’ in deaths wholly attributed to alcohol abuse.   The authors suggested increasing the price of cheaper drinks reduces the consumption of heavier drinkers who prefer them.

Dr Alex Yellowlees, consultant psychiatrist and addiction specialist at the Priory Hospital Glasgow, said:  “As a clinician who treats many people with alcohol problems, minimum pricing for alcohol is undoubtedly a policy worth pursuing.  It is important for health, particularly the health of more vulnerable individuals who abuse alcohol and are at risk of becoming an alcoholic.

“It could save potentially thousands of lives a year and also reduce admissions to hospital, whether for alcohol related illness or A&E admissions.   It could also reduce the burden of long-term care and help with social problems because a lot of alcohol can trigger violence or domestic abuse, and if you look at society as a whole, we urgently have to do something about alcohol and minimum pricing is a positive first step.”  

If you are already thinking about treatment for your alcoholism, then you have admitted that you have a problem and need help, which is a significant first step. Our nationwide network of specialist hospitals, clinics, consultants and therapists has treated thousands of people to overcome their addiction successfully.

At the Priory Hospital Glasgow our personalised treatment programmes include a free initial addiction assessment as well as 12 months of aftercare and family support. Abstinence can be a long and difficult journey, but by using the 12-step model of recovery and a comprehensive support network, we have demonstrated that treatment can work.

In addition, we provide specialist programmes to tackle any emotional issues which are hindering your recovery process, such as the trauma reduction programme. Where necessary, such as for individuals who experience significant withdrawal symptoms, we also provide medically assisted detox programmes.

Anyone worried about their drinking habits should seek advice and support from their GP in the first instance. If necessary, GPs can refer you to the Priory Hospital Glasgow for further assessment and help. Alternatively speak to one of our team about referring yourself.

For further details on how the Priory can provide you with further assistance regarding Alcohol Addiction Treatment, please call 0141 636 6116. For professionals looking to make a referral, please click here.