One of the UK’s leading liver specialists has warned that the country needs to address its alcohol problem to curb record-breaking numbers of alcohol deaths.
Figures show that alcohol killed more people in the UK in 2020 than at any point in the past 20 years.
Professor Stephen Ryder, a consultant at Nottingham University Hospital, told the Channel 4 News social affairs team – which was granted exclusive access to the hospital as medics battled the consequences of lockdown drinking – that the government needs to act now to tackle Britain’s alcohol problem head-on.
“Unless further action is taken, we will see deaths rise further and further,” said Professor Ryder.
Covid-19 and alcohol consumption
The number of alcohol deaths from alcohol-specific causes rose by almost 19% in 2020 according to the Office for National Statistics.
Almost eight out of 10 of the deaths were a direct result of alcoholic liver disease.
It has also been reported that UK supermarkets and shops have seen a sharp rise in alcohol sales during the pandemic, with Public Health England reporting a 25% increase.
The dramatic rise has led to fears that excessive alcohol consumption at home has become normalised.
Kieran Grant, an employee of Nottingham’s alcohol liaison service – working in hospitals and the wider community – said drink became a crutch for many people as the pandemic progressed.
“We’ve seen people who have been drinking on the cusp, such as social drinkers, being taken to the next level,” said Kieran.
“It has tipped them over the edge and created more problematic drinking patterns.”
Professor Ryder added: “We have normalised alcohol in our society in a way that is deeply unhealthy. A lot of our social interactions seem to depend on alcohol being part of it which is not the norm globally – and I don’t think there’s been political will to take this on and to change.”
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