Data show that alcohol has been a factor in 89,265 emergency ambulance call-outs over four years (2016 -2019) in Scotland.

There were  14,385 cases of emergency ambulance call-outs in 2016 and 15,420 the following year. Since 2017, reporting methods changed to record alcohol as a factor in cases involving overdose, convulsions and drowning. Cases increased drastically since, to 31,009 in 2018 and 28,451 in 2019.

Liberal Democratic health spokesperson Alex Cole-Hamilton stressed the importance of reducing this burden in the face of the current COVID-19 pandemic.

…everyone needs to act responsibly to avoid unnecessarily adding to the workload of staff who have worked so hard, protect the capacity of the health service and secure the progress we’ve made in stamping out the virus,” said Mr Cole-Hamilton, as per, News STV.

Alex Cole-Hamilton, Spokesperson Health, Liberal Democrats

Reducing the alcohol burden is more important than ever considering that Scots are consuming more alcohol as an unhealthy coping mechanism for stress induced by the pandemic.

A survey commissioned by Alcohol Focus Scotland and Alcohol Change UK found 27% of respondents on average and 33% of heavy alcohol user respondents reported increased alcohol use during the pandemic and lockdown.

51% of respondents who consume more alcohol cited dealing with stress and anxiety as the reason for consuming more alcohol.

Nearly half of the respondents were concerned by their own increased alcohol consumption and about a fifth of the respondents were concerned by the increased alcohol consumption of a family member or friend.

Alison Douglas, Chief Executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland emphasized the importance of having support services at the ready for a possible increase in alcohol problems.

Alcohol services, which were already hard-pressed before this crisis, may experience even greater demand after it,” said Alison Douglas, as per health and care.

Alison Douglas, Chief Executive, Alcohol Focus Scotland

More Scottish alcohol use actively seek help

One good news is that over half of the survey respondents who have begun using more alcohol during COVID-19 said they had already taken steps to manage their alcohol use and nearly 60% said they planned to do so once lockdown restrictions relaxed more.

Charity Scottish Families Affected by Alcohol and Drugs (SFAAD) – who provide support for anyone concerned about someone else’s alcohol or other drug use – report a four fold increase in people calling to seek help for their own alcohol problems and a 56% increase in contact from family members concerned about others’ alcohol use.

Alcohol Focus Scotland warns that the momentum of efforts to reduce alcohol availability which was building from before the pandemic must be maintained. The pandemic and the tendency of Scots to consume alcohol to cope with the situation can undo the progress achieved through comprehensive alcohol policy solutions such as the Scottish minimum unit price (MUP). Therefore, the government is urged to maintain its focus on effective alcohol policy solutions to reduce the possible alcohol burden in the short term on healthcare and emergency services as well as the long-term burden of chronic disease and alcohol problems.


Sources

News STV: “Alcohol factors in 89,000 ambulance call-outs in four years

Health & Care: “Stress key factor in Scots lockdown drinking rise

The Times: “Lockdown anxiety has more Scottish drinkers looking for help