New research has revealed that alcohol-related hospital admissions in England are at their highest levels ever.
According to according to NHS Digital data, around 1.1m admissions were connected to alcohol abuse in 2015/16. Between 2006 and 2007 there were only 670,000 in 2005/06. That’s a rise of 64%.
Using a more narrow definition – the amount of people who had to go into hospital as the direct result of drinking too much – the figure was 339,000 in 2015/16. This is 3 per cent higher than 2014/15 and 22 per cent higher than 2005/06.
Older people drinking more
The evidence shows that it’s not young people fuelling this worrying trend. Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) have revealed people aged 45 and over are the ones at risk from drinking too much.
The people who drink too much
- Between 45 and 64? You’re more likely to have drunk in the last week. (That’s 69% of men in the age group, and 60% of women).
- Men are more likely to drink than women and to binge drink.
- Higher earners, on £40,000 are more likely to be frequent drinkers and to binge drink than the lowest earners.
- Over-65s are three time more likely than the 16-24 age group to drink regularly.
- Those who are married or live with their partner, although slightly less likely to binge drink, are more likely to consume alcohol on five or more days a week.
The alcohol paradox
An interesting paradox is that despite the rise in hospital admissions due to alcohol, the proportion of people who drink is at its lowest level in ten years. Experts say this is due to young people eschewing alcohol, choosing to use social media rather that visiting pubs and bars.
However, this indicates that the people who are drinking are certainly drinking more.
Drinking too much alcohol increases your likelihood of:
- Heart disease
- Liver disease
It’s estimated that if everyone was teetotal in Great Britain, 21,000 cases of cancer could be prevented each year, including nearly 12,000 cases of breast cancer. The ONS statistics indicate that 7.8 million people are binge drinking – men are drinking up to eight units and women more than six units a day.
The Alcohol Doctor
These figures hide the individual cases of heartbreak which is caused when alcoholism strikes a family.
According to ‘the alcohol doctor’, addictions psychiatrist Dr Bruce Trathen of London detox clinic Serena House, many alcoholics are in denial about the dangers of their behaviour. He says: ‘It is often the case that a friend or relative of someone who is drinking heavily recognises that this has become a problem before the person themselves.’ He goes on to add, ‘Denial is an essential component of becoming addicted to alcohol - after all none of us really like to admit we have a problem with anything, and in the addictive process this tendency becomes all the more pronounced.’
The emotional cost
Clearly, the cost of alcohol addiction is high. But, according to Dr Trathen anyone with a serious addiction to alcohol should seek professional help. “Many people are surprised to discover that unsupervised alcohol detox is even more potentially dangerous than heroin withdrawal. In some cases, alcohol withdrawal can lead to seizures, brain damage and even death.”
The answer is to cut down on alcohol in a methodical and careful way. However, as Dr Trathen points out, this is hardly an easy thing to do. “It is in the very nature of addiction, that you will be probably not be able to cease drinking in this manner, if you have already become physically addicted to alcohol.”
The answer? A medical detox. “There are fundamental benefits from a week-long detox using appropriate medication while being looked after by consultant doctors and nursing staff,” says Dr Trathen.
The three key factors with detoxing from alcohol are:
On-hand support from doctors and nurses to monitor your health.
Emotional support from those who know what it’s like to have gone through alcohol addiction and detox themselves.
Rehabilitation and breaking the habits of years requires ongoing support and care.
Finding a reputable detox clinic with the best doctors and therapists will maximise a recovering alcoholic’s chance of keeping sober.