Thursday, May 19, 2022
UncategorizedWe Need to Do More to Tackle Alcohol Problems in Yorkshire

We Need to Do More to Tackle Alcohol Problems in Yorkshire

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The UK is currently dealing with the highest rates of alcohol and drug abuse. In Yorkshire, many people are struggling with alcohol dependence which has also led to a rise in criminal activity and social challenges. While programmes offered through the NHS are available to assist with addiction treatment, the sheer number of cases, the pressure on the healthcare system, and the alcohol misuse stereotypes in communities have reduced the efficacy of these services.

Photo by Nareeta Martin on Unsplash
Photo by Nareeta Martin on Unsplash

Many government funded addiction programmes are also at capacity since the onset of COVID-19. For people who are interested in pursuing treatment, they will have to wait weeks to months before admission.

In North Yorkshire approximately a quarter of individuals who consume alcohol do so at hazardous levels. As the rate of alcohol misuse and dependence continues to rise, the county has seen an increase of 200 deaths per year. Admissions into rehab programmes are also increasing owing to criminal behaviours, sexual assault, domestic violence, and incidents linked to high alcohol use.

Because alcohol dependence and misuse have become such a major social, economic, and individual problem, communities have called on government and local initiatives to take a stand against its far-reaching effects. We certainly need to do more to address the rise in alcohol problems in Yorkshire but where do we start and what is being done today to educate individuals and communities?

In this guide, we explore the alcohol related issues that are affecting the lives of individuals and communities and the options to assist those impacted by alcoholism in Yorkshire and beyond.

What are the Alcohol Addiction Rates During the Pandemic?

In the UK, more people who were social drinkers before the pandemic have found themselves relying more heavily on alcohol in the last couple of months.

For a great number of people living on their own, the anxiety, isolation, and uncertainty that came with the onset of the pandemic created escalations in personal drinking. Many have become dependent on alcohol while those in recovery have struggled to remain sober.

In 2018, prior to the pandemic, around 64 000 individuals living in Yorkshire were classified as alcohol dependent. In the UK, alcohol became the third leading cause for illness and deaths since the start of COVID-19 and the East Riding of Yorkshire Public Counsellor has warned that more people are moving from occasional to habitual drinking in response to the stress experienced during lockdowns and restrictions.

Some troublesome statistics concerning alcohol addiction and abuse during the pandemic have revealed that deaths related to alcohol liver disease have risen by 21% in the UK.

When comparing the drinking habits of adults in the UK in March 202o to March 2021, there has been an increase of 58.6% in people who reported drinking at high risk levels.

If we look at the rate of drinking from pre-pandemic to during the pandemic, there is a significant rise between the age groups 16 to 65 years. What we’re seeing is that heavy drinkers from before the lockdowns are drinking more during lockdown despite the closure of pubs and restaurants for approximately 31 weeks. The question is, with the pressure of COVID-19 on existing healthcare resources, how will the addiction pandemic be prioritized? With fewer resources have been dedicated to alcohol and drug treatment and education programmes, it’s become harder for people to access the support that they need.

How Budget Cuts to the NHS are Affecting the Availability of Addiction Services

A major part of the problem is that hazardous drinking and issues of alcohol dependence are currently not a part of the COVID-19 recovery plan.

The UK has been described as having an addiction crisis, but the issue has been worsened by the cuts in funding for alcohol treatment. In 2019, UK authorities proceeded to reduce the budget for alcohol addiction services by almost 60%.

Despite the rise in alcohol and drug related deaths, funds to services such as the NHS have been decreased by £162 million before the pandemic! During the pandemic, healthcare resources have been allocated to hospitalisations, campaigns, and rescue services for COVID-19.

According to UKAT, funding has also been cut for private addiction programmes, which has left many who are seeking treatment in the lurch. More people are reaching out and asking for help but either remain in the grip of addiction or lose their battle with addiction because the help is simply not there.

In Yorkshire and the Humber, there was a significant rise in alcohol related deaths between 2018 and 2019, which rose from 11.7 to 13.9 per 100 000 people. In 2020 and during the COVID-19 pandemic, around 407 alcohol related deaths were recorded for the region with the highest national rates concerning alcohol dependence and deaths at its highest in the last 7 years.

According to the Director of the charities Forward Leeds and North Yorkshire Horizons namely, Lee Wilson, there is a greater number of people who are dependent on alcohol during the pandemic; however, the effects of today’s alcoholism are set to reach epic proportions in the future.

Recognising the Signs of Alcoholism

To find the help that you need or to assist someone with alcohol misuse and addiction, it is important to know the signs of alcoholism.

Alcohol dependency is marked by the following symptoms:

  • An inability to control or quit the use of alcohol.
  • The experience of withdrawal symptoms trying to stop using or when reducing the amount of alcohol consumed.
  • Changes in relationships, trouble with the law, and career problems owing to alcohol use.

High functioning alcoholics may be more difficult to determine because they maintain their jobs and other activities while drinking heavily. Other signs of alcohol problems include increases in the frequency and the amount of alcohol consumed.

How We Can Help Loved Ones with Their Drinking Problems During COVID-19 and Beyond

In North Yorkshire, initiatives with a community focus on educating and assisting people inside and outside of the criminal justice system have been facilitated.

Pursuing private funding for safe community projects and educational strategies should be prioritised to help those in need.

There is no doubt that a pandemic of alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence has become apparent during COVID-19. Since early 2020, numbers of alcohol related deaths and admissions into residential alcohol rehab programmes  such as those offered by the Providence Projects clinic, are on the rise.

Families and friends are encouraged to support those who they believe may have a drinking problem and direct them to educational programmes and resources. The NHS offers both online support and programmes for those who may need assistance with problem drinking.

Individuals can also use drinking tracking applications to monitor their alcohol intake. The app is designed to alert one of frequent or harmful drinking levels while encouraging one to reduce their alcohol use.

Support strategies during COVID should focus on making resources available to communities that have the highest levels of alcohol abuse and dependence cases. A combination of alcohol and drug awareness campaigns along with COVID awareness should become part of outreach programmes. This includes steps to overcome the stigma surrounding alcoholism. Individuals should also know who to talk to and where to go for support despite lockdowns.

Our role is to be there for our loved ones who have a drinking problem. Support them without judgement or criticism and assist them in the search for a programme or healthcare professional who may help them take the steps toward recovery.

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