Priory experts say UK must stop "self-medicating" with alcohol

The UK must stop “self-medicating” with alcohol, say Priory experts, as they urge people to ask themselves if alcohol is “costing them more than money”

Priory rehabilitation services have seen a “worrying” 55% year-on-year increase in alcohol addiction treatment inquiries

  • Services across the UK will see a busy Christmas and even busier January, as cost of living and job worries fuel consumption
  • Therapists at Priory are asking people to consider whether alcohol is costing them more than just money” in terms of fractured work and personal relationships, and serious physical and mental health issues

“Is alcohol costing you more than just money?” This is the crucial question therapists at Priory ask of those seeking treatment.

New data shows a dramatic rise in people seeking help for alcohol addiction across the UK, with a 55% increase in treatment inquiries recorded at Priory, the UK’s leading independent provider of mental health and addiction services.

And a survey by the Priory found that some 48% are not aware that the weekly recommended limit is 14 units of alcohol, a percentage figure which rises to 57% among men.

More than 60% of UK adults also have no idea how much alcohol constitutes binge drinking".

The NHS defines binge drinking as "drinking lots of alcohol in a short space of time". More than 8 units of alcohol in a single session for males, or more than 6 units in a single session for females is the technical definition. A medium (175ml) glass of wine has around 2.3 units of alcohol. A can of lager/beer/cider (440ml, ABV 5.5%) is 2.4 units.

Priory consultant psychiatrist Dr Niall Campbell, one of the UK's leading experts on alcohol addiction, based at The Priory’s Hospital in Roehampton, said: "These findings show that we need to transform the way we talk about alcohol so we all understand exactly how much we are drinking - and what it is doing to us.

"This is especially important because we all want to live longer - and may be expected to work longer - in good health. To talk about 'units' of alcohol frequently confuses people, because many think a unit is a glass of wine almost regardless of its size, and some pubs and restaurants only serve large glasses.”

Celia Harris, Deputy Lead Therapist at Priory Hospital Altrincham, says: “We’re seeing a worrying rise in the number of people needing help for alcohol addiction this year, compared to the same period in 2021. The cost of living crisis is a factor for many, coming so closely on the back of the pandemic which has been catastrophic for people’s mental health. Across the UK, people are finding themselves isolated and anxious, and are choosing to self-medicate with alcohol.

“We know too that Christmas is a time when family tensions and financial factors collide, while others experience great loneliness. Sadly, we’ll be treating people in the coming weeks for whom this time was too difficult.

“But for those who are struggling, it’s not too late to seek help. We didn’t evolve to suffer and struggle on our own; we all need connection. So if alcohol is costing you more than just money, talk to loved ones about it, or seek medical support.

“Addiction is a progressive illness. It’s really hard to get off that train, but the earlier you can, the better."

Early warning signs … Priory’s recommended five-point checklist:

  • Has anyone expressed concern about your drinking?
  • Do you turn to alcohol when you’re feeling low?
  • Are you ever secretive about drinking alcohol?
  • Has your drinking led to an argument with family or made you late for work?
  • Have you tried to cut down but found it too difficult?

For medical support, people can contact their GP, call NHS 111, or contact Priory specialists for a free, no-obligation addiction assessment.




Contact: [email protected]


About Priory and MEDIAN

Priory is the UK’s leading independent provider of mental health services. We treat more than 70 conditions, including depression, anxiety, addictions and eating disorders, as well as children’s mental health, across our nationwide network of sites. We also support autistic adults and adults with a learning disability, Prader-Willi Syndrome and brain injuries, as well as older people, within our specialist residential care and supported living facilities – helping as many people as possible to live their lives.

Priory is part of the MEDIAN Group, one of Europe’s leading providers of high quality mental health and rehabilitation services. The MEDIAN Group comprises 290 facilities with 5,000 beds caring for 28,000 people in the UK, 120 facilities with 20,000 beds caring for around 250,000 patients in Germany, and 15 facilities with 2,000 beds caring for 13,000 people in Spain, with more than 29,000 employees overall.

Need more information?

Email the press office at: [email protected]