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Alcohol abuse costs Cumbria £200m a year

Nearly £200 million is spent on tackling alcohol abuse in Cumbria every year, shocking figures reveal.

Alcohol photo

The true cost of the county’s alcohol problem is laid bare in a major new blueprint aimed at combating booze-fuelled harm over the next four years.

It shows that 125 people die prematurely because of alcohol each year – adding up to seven per cent of all premature deaths in the county.

The cost to Cumbria comes as the News & Star can reveal that doctors here have dealt with dozens of cases of liver disease among 16 to 25-year- olds in the past year.

Cumbria County Council’s strategy says that the total annual cost of alcohol-related harm to various agencies in the county, including the NHS and social services, is £199.56m.

More than £44m of that is spent in Carlisle, followed by Copeland with £37.19m, and Allerdale with £34.70m.

Local analysis of alcohol use shows that hospital admissions among men and women is above the national average in Carlisle and Copeland.

Violent crimes linked to alcohol are above average in Carlisle, the report also reveals. And hospital admissions among under-18s are also higher than the rest of the country in Allerdale, Barrow, Carlisle and Copeland.

It comes as the News & Star can reveal there were 27 admissions related to liver disease among 16-to-25 year olds at the Cumberland Infirmary in Carlisle in 2012-13.

The latest statistics from the North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust show there were 11 admissions in 2012 and 16 last year. The figures include duplicate patients which means 16 different people aged between 16 and 25 were treated for liver disease in Carlisle over the last two years. The trust could not confirm how many of the admissions were alcohol-related.

Helen Davies, north service manager at CADAS (Cumbria Alcohol & Drug Advisory Service) in Carlisle, said she was shocked at the amount of public money being spent on alcohol-related harm.

“We are still, as a provider, not seeing investment into services to help tackle these issues,” she said. She believes more money should be invested in services like CADAS to try to change behaviour relating to alcohol use.

She said the numbers of young people abusing alcohol aren’t necessarily increasing but the amount they drink is.

“In terms of providing long-term input for young people, our service should be used more,” she added.

The Cumbria Alcohol Strategy is designed to:

  • Challenge cultural attitudes, including binge drinking;
  • Provide support to change attitudes and behaviour;
  • Make sure appropriate services are available;
  • Prioritise children, young people and parents affected by alcohol use;
  • Reduce availability of cheap alcohol and maximise enforcement powers.

Its four key aims are to reduce harm to health, cut alcohol-related crime and antisocial behaviour, protect children and reduce economic and social harm.

The county’s first alcohol strategy Time to Call Time in 2009 was hailed as a method for other areas to follow. The latest guidelines promise to give a “much greater chance to tackle both the current issues facing us and the wider determinants of alcohol related harm in the longer term”.

Patricia Bell, the county council’s cabinet member for public health and communities, said: “Partners in Cumbria have a long history of working together to address alcohol related health harms, reducing the impact of alcohol on children and families, and tackling alcohol related crime and disorder.

“It is very encouraging that this work will continue as this strategy begins to influence actions on the ground and seeks a joined up response to the challenges we face.”

Dr Rebecca Wagstaff, the council’s interim director of public health, added: “Alcohol-related harm affects all of us. It is a major public health concern and tackling it has to remain at the forefront of our health improvement, mental and social wellbeing and community safety programmes.”

Have your say

I think you have missed the point Kevin.

You can't just ban something that has the potential to cause harm or death if overindulged. Yes millions abuse alcohol that can lead to premature death but millions enjoy it responsibly.

Do we ban fatty foods too just because some people are irresponsible denying someone else the pleasure of a treat every now and then?

Its all about education and having information so we can make informed choices.

People are all susceptible to all types of addictions. We need to understand the reasons for their addictions and offer help.

Posted by CL on 16 January 2014 at 13:33

Brilliant words Anon. Thank you. People can slip into dependency just by regularly drinking after coming home from work every day, and there is also the "functioning alcoholic". It's cheap to buy in the shops, and everything points to alcohol, the great relaxer. It does creep up - you can avoid it for a couple of weeks then an urge for that familiar "bite" is given in to, and before you know it, the nightly drinking pattern is back. The answer? I don't know - it's a million dollar question.

Posted by Joyous on 15 January 2014 at 21:57

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