The effects of Britons drinking more alcohol during the COVID-19 lockdown could be seen for a generation, experts have warned. There was a 67% increase in alcohol sales before the lockdown was imposed as many people prepared for drinking at home.

As part of the nation’s recovery from the pandemic, tackling harm caused by alcohol is integral, said Baroness Ilora Finley, Chairwoman of the Commission on Alcohol Harms, and Ian Gilmore, Chairman of the Alcohol Health Alliance in a joint editorial published in The BMJ.

“Now, as signs emerge of some control over new cases of COVID-19, it is increasingly clear that if we don’t prepare for emerging from the pandemic, we will see the toll of increased alcohol harm for a generation”, they said. Adding that the pandemic “has the potential to be an exemplar of our ambivalent relationship with alcohol and its consequences”.

At particular risk are those people who already had problems with alcohol and those on the brink of dependence, they said. Bereavement, job insecurity or troubled relationships can all be triggers during this crisis. The coronavirus pandemic is forcing support groups for millions of addicts around the world to shut, leaving many to struggle alone at a time of isolation and anxiety, which is increasing their risk of relapse.

Baroness Finley and Professor Gilmore predicted that the number of people with alcohol-related liver disease will rise because of the coronavirus crisis. These numbers had already been on the rise before the pandemic. Alcohol treatment services will also likely see a surge in demand as the lockdown eases.

Concerns have already been raised about alcohol consumption being linked to domestic violence. There was an increase in calls to domestic violence charities at the start of the lockdown. Other charities have also seen a surge in calls from young people stuck in toxic and abusive households during the coronavirus lockdown.

“Tackling alcohol harms is an integral part of the nation’s recovery” was the conclusion.

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