Top Priory consultant warns of huge rise in addictions as official figures show highest recorded number of alcohol-specific deaths
A top Priory addictions expert has spoken out about a significant rise in addictions as official figures show the number of alcohol-specific deaths in the UK is at an all-time high.
Consultant psychiatrist Dr Niall Campbell, based at Priory’s Roehampton Hospital, said the dire figures were ‘extremely worrying’ and reflected what he and other doctors were seeing at Priory, which has seen inquiries about alcohol addiction treatment rise 55% this year alone.
The Priory operates a UK-wide network of hospitals and Wellbeing Centres which treat addictions and mental health.
Dr Campbell said: ‘It is clear the government must do much more to address the issue, including public awareness. And the current cost of living crisis, which is seeing huge numbers self-medicating for stress with alcohol, is going to exacerbate our alarming drinking culture even further.
“I am seeing patients now who drank heavily – regularly binge drinking - during the pandemic, when their businesses and relationships were under massive strain, and they never stopped. Liver damage takes years to build up, so we can’t blame Covid for it, but heavy drinking during the pandemic and currently, when people are extremely worried about inflation and job insecurity, will contribute to even more alcohol deaths going forward. The current cost of living crisis is causing alcohol addiction to spiral. We are facing an alcohol addictions emergency.
‘We also know that alcohol deaths are actually significantly under reported as fatal accidents related to alcohol and many medical causes are not attributed by doctors recording deaths to alcohol for various reasons.
‘We must all take responsibility for our drinking and how many units we are consuming - and the consequences on our physical, mental and work health. Many people still think a unit of alcohol is one glass, when a large glass of wine can be nearly 3 units. So four large glasses of wine is almost the weekly recommended limit. And we know people drinking at home put very few controls on themselves - the temptation to keep pouring, I hear it all the time from patients struggling with anxiety, depression and stress.”
The Office for National Statistics figures showed a record number of people died from alcohol last year (2021), which is likely to be the result of increased drinking during the pandemic.
There were 9,641 deaths in the UK in 2021, compared to 7,565 in 2019 - a 27% increase.
The ONS says people who were already big drinkers before the pandemic drank more during the Covid years.
The 2021 figures are alcohol-specific deaths, which are defined as a direct consequence of alcohol. Most are from alcoholic liver disease.
They account for around a third of all deaths linked to alcohol.
In 2021, UK rates of alcohol-specific deaths per 100,000 people were highest in Scotland and lowest in England:
"Research has suggested that people who were already drinking at higher levels before the pandemic were the most likely to have increased their alcohol consumption during this period," says James Tucker, from the Office for National Statistics.
As with previous years, men were twice as likely as women to die from alcohol.
In the seven years running up to 2019, rates of alcohol-specific deaths in the UK had remained pretty stable, before going up in 2020 and 2021.
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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 adults with complex autism, learning disabilities, as well as older people, as a leading provider of specialist residential care and supported living – helping as many people as possible to live their lives.
Priory is part of MEDIAN, one of Europe’s leading providers of high-quality mental health and medical rehabilitative services. Overall there are 427 facilities in the MEDIAN Group, comprising 306 Priory facilities with 5,352 beds in the United Kingdom, and 121 facilities and 19,200 beds in Germany, caring for around 260,000 people, with 35,000 employees.
MEDIAN manages patients who have experienced symptoms of COVID-19 and/or Long COVID and shares information for medical professionals at www.long-covid.de