Treatment services risk being overwhelmed , warns royal college
England ’ s addiction
services are not equipped to deal with the ‘ soaring numbers ’ of people drinking at high risk levels during the pandemic , warns the Royal College of Psychiatrists ( RCPsych ). Treatment services should be given ‘ a multimillion pound funding boost ’ in the next spending review to reverse years of harmful cuts , it states .
Almost one in five adults were drinking above the recommended weekly guidelines in June – around 8.5m people – up from just one in ten in February , while the number seeking help for opiate issues is at its highest level for five years , according to RCPsych ’ s analysis of data from PHE and NDTMS . People with alcohol use disorder are also more likely to develop serious complications if they become infected with COVID-19 , including acute respiratory distress syndrome , the royal college warns . A recent RCPsych report , Next steps for funding mental health care in England , also called for an extra £ 43m for children ’ s drug and alcohol services along with £ 30m to improve existing services .
‘ COVID-19 has shown just how stretched , under-resourced and ill-equipped addiction services are to treat the growing numbers of vulnerable people living with this complex illness ,’ said chair of the royal college ’ s addictions faculty , Prof Julia Sinclair . ‘ There are now only five NHS inpatient units in the country and no resource anywhere in my region to admit people who are alcohol dependent with co-existing mental illness . Drug-related deaths and alcohol-related hospital admissions
New alcohol strategy needed ‘ urgently ’ says commission
were already at all-time highs before COVID-19 . I fear that unless the government acts quickly we will see these numbers rise exponentially .’
‘ It is understandable that the government is focussing on the most immediate harms of the pandemic ,’ added executive director at Change Grow Live , Nic Adamson . ‘ However , it
‘ COVID-19 has shown just how stretched , underresourced and illequipped addiction services are ...'
PROF JULIA SINCLAIR
is now essential that the government acts to address this increase in higher-risk drinking . The stakes have never been higher . Unless we have the capacity to reach and support over 3m more people who are now higher risk , the long-term implications for public health will be disastrous .’ Report at www . rcpsych . ac . uk
A NEW UK-WIDE ALCOHOL STRATEGY is now ‘ required urgently ’, according to a report from the Commission on Alcohol Harm . It should be evidence-based and science-led , and include targeted measures to support families and protect children , including from alcohol-related violence , the commission states . The commission – which is made up of cross-party MPs and peers as well as health experts – also wants to see the strategy ‘ changing the conversation and challenging alcohol ’ s position in our culture ’, including addressing the stigma around harmful alcohol use .
Alcohol is ‘ inflicting long-lasting harm across all areas of society and family life ’, the commission states , with children living with an alcohol-dependent parent twice as likely to develop alcohol dependence themselves and three times as likely to consider suicide . ‘ Alcohol harm is a hidden health crisis that impacts us all ,’ said commission chair Baroness Finlay . ‘ For too long , the onus has been on individuals , with drinkers urged to “ drink responsibly ”. We need to finally acknowledge the true scale of the harm caused by alcohol , which goes far beyond individuals who drink , and put the responsibility squarely with the harmful product itself . By doing so we will help to do away with the stigma and shame that surrounds those who are harmed by alcohol , and often stops them from accessing the help that they need .’ It ' s everywhere – alcohol ’ s public face and private harm at ahauk . org / commission-on-alcohol-harm-report
‘ We need to ... put the responsibility squarely with the harmful product itself .'
THE AMOUNT OF RESEARCH FUNDED BY ALCOHOL COMPANIES or their affiliated organisations has increased by almost 60 per cent in just over a decade , according to research by the University of York . The industry is increasingly funding academic research into alcohol consumption , including studies that make claims about the health benefits of drinking , it says . Researchers found almost 13,500 studies that had been funded either directly or indirectly by the drinks industry , and add that this is likely to be the ‘ tip of the iceberg ’.
The study identified a ‘ worrying trend ’ said co-author Dr Su Golder . While there had been a decline in the industry conducting its own health research there had been an increase in its funding of studies ‘ by providing financial support to researchers or via alcohol-related organisations ’, she said . This allowed companies to exploit a ‘ transparency loophole ’ as many people ‘ assume these organisations are charities and don ’ t realise the connection to the industry ’. Many of the studies made claims ‘ about the protective cardiovascular effects of alcohol and suggest that substance abuse problems are down to individual choices rather than industry behaviours ’.
4 • DRINK AND DRUGS NEWS • OCTOBER 2020
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