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Increase in Alcohol Misuse Could Overwhelm Services

The Royal College of Psychiatrists is warning that addiction services may struggle to cope with the number of people who are misusing alcohol and seeking addiction help.

Zara Tunnicliffe
· 3 min read

The Royal College of Psychiatrists is warning that addiction services may struggle to cope with the number of people who are misusing alcohol and seeking addiction help.

The college has estimated the number of people in the UK drinking at higher-risk levels had increased from 4.8 million in February of this year to 8.4 million in June.

Last year, there was great concern surrounding the high-risk levels of drinking in the over 50s age group. According to a national survey conducted in June 2019, over 4 million over 50s said they thought they should cut back on how much alcohol they drink.

The National Survey showed that the over 50s age group was the only group where the rate of alcohol consumption did not decline. The data also showed that the younger groups were drinking less.

However, lockdown has seen a significant increase across the board. There are many cases of people who have resorted to alcohol to suppress feelings of anxiety and loneliness, even sometimes boredom.

The College, referring to the National Drug Treatment Monitoring System statistics, reported that 3,459 new adult cases in April - up 20% from 2,947 in the same month the previous year.

There are national guidelines for what constitutes low-risk drinking. The UK government and the NHS recommend people drink no more than 14 units of alcohol (equivalent to six large glasses of wine or six pints of beer) a week, spreading consumption over three days or more.

The NHS has also reported that people who suffer from alcohol use disorder are more likely to develop more severe health complications if they catch COVID-19.

As the rate in alcohol consumption has increased, more and more people are seeking addiction help. This is an issue as, over lockdown, addiction services had been stretched to beyond a capacity they can cope with.

Prof Julia Sinclair, chair of the college's addictions faculty, said, "Covid-19 has shown just how stretched, under-resourced and ill-equipped addiction services are to treat the growing numbers of vulnerable people living with this complex illness.

"There are now only five NHS inpatient units in the country, and no resource anywhere in my region to admit people who are alcohol dependent with co-existing mental illness.

"Drug-related deaths and alcohol-related hospital admissions were already at all-time highs before Covid-19. I fear that unless the government acts quickly we will see these numbers rise exponentially."

There have also been massive financial cuts to addiction services across the UK, meaning that facilities are insufficient for the new spike in substance addiction. Because of this, the Royal College of Psychiatrists is asking the government to invest millions more in addiction services.

A spokesperson from the Department of Health and Social Care told the BBC that they "have increased their funding this year, providing over £3.2 billion to spend on public health services like addiction.”

Zara Tunnicliffe

Zara Tunnicliffe

Writing has allowed Zara to learn about topics and explore further those that interest her. Zara creates a range promotional copy for events as well as content for a variety of websites and social media platforms. Zara always look forward to researching interesting topics and sharing them with others through her writing.