A Cumbrian addiction help service leader has said that more needs to be done to break the stigma around alcoholism after the Office for National Statistics released data that said alcohol related deaths reached an all-time high in England and Wales last year.

Leigh Williams who is the CEO for CADAS (Cumbrian Alcohol & Drug Advisory Service) warned that although the figures were saddening, she was not shocked after seeing the demand for her service in the county increase by 25% during lockdown.

She said: “I guess when I’m talking to people who are clients and people are ringing up on the helpline, we’re seeing first-hand the negative impact of the pandemic on people’s mental health, whether that’s about their restricted movement or isolation, that’s had a massively profound effect on some of our clients.”

Leigh also said that a lot of people who engaged with CADAS during the lockdown had started drinking due to financial concerns brought on by the pandemic such as, being made redundant or business owners struggling to cope, and blamed the British drinking culture for part of the problem.

She said: “We drink a lot of alcohol and unfortunately because we cope with our problems by drowning our sorrows, or giving ourselves a drink to boost our confidence we use it, kind of emotionally.”

There figures showed in England and Wales 7,423 people died from alcohol misuse last year, rise of 20% from 2019.

In England, men living in the most deprived areas were four times more likely to die from alcohol than men living in the wealthiest areas.

When asked about what society can do to try and start solving these issues Leigh said: “I think it’s about changing attitudes to people who have got a problem, I think if there was less stigma.”

I think for me that’s the solution, it’s to first of all kind of recognise that substance use is predominately a mental health issue and these people aren’t being deviant they are using the strategies that they know how to cope with their poor mental health, which actually sometimes is masking the problem with drugs and alcohol.”

Aswell as helping addicts the CADAS services also provides support for the families and loved ones with issues, to seek help you can call 0800 254 5658.