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Alcohol harms should be part of Covid-19 recovery plans

Thursday May 21st, 2020

Experts have called for action to help tackle the damage from drinking excess alcohol during the lockdown period.

Writing in the latest edition of The BMJ, Sir Ian Gilmore, chair of Alcohol Health Alliance UK, and Baroness Ilora Finlay, chair of the Commission on Alcohol Harms, warn: “If we don’t prepare for emerging from the pandemic, we will see the toll of increased alcohol harm for a generation.”

They predict a further rise in alcoholic liver disease, which was already increasing before the Covid-19 crisis, and a similar increase in the need for alcohol treatment services.

“We cannot claim to be a nation recovering from Covid-19 if we do not adequately support the most vulnerable among us,” they write.

“We know that investing £1 in alcohol treatment services will save £3, as well as directly helping affected individuals, often the most vulnerable in society. This time, let’s be ready. Tackling alcohol harms is an integral part of the nation’s recovery.”

Earlier this year, the Alcohol Health Alliance UK started a Commission on Alcohol Harm, aimed at highlighting the damage to individuals, families and communities, with the evidence so far suggesting that those already struggling with alcohol dependence and those on the brink of dependence will be in particular need of urgent support.

Alcohol is also strongly associated with domestic violence, and an early feature in lockdown was a rise in calls to domestic violence charities, and Finlay and Gilmore say that research has found that that as many as 73% of perpetrators of domestic abuse have been drinking at the time of the assault.

“As in so many aspects of the coronavirus epidemic, it will be only in hindsight that we will be able to measure the impact of social isolation, job losses, and financial meltdown on the alcohol balance sheet,” they say.

The report will be published later this year and will call for evidence-based, population-level action on key drivers of harm, such as price, availability, and marketing, and for the implementation of innovative and cost-effective sobriety schemes to reduce alcohol-fuelled crime.

Finlay I, Gilmore M . Covid-19 and alcohol – a dangerous cocktail. BMJ 21 May 2020

Tags: Drug & Alcohol Abuse | Flu & Viruses | NHS | UK News

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