A broad coalition coordinated by the Alcohol Health Alliance and Chair of Drugs Alcohol & Justice All-Party Parliamentary Group Dan Carden MP, including parliamentarians, experts, and civil society and community groups, is calling on the UK government to conduct an Independent Review on Alcohol Harm to inform a new national Alcohol Strategy.
This was communicated in a letter sent to the new prime minister of the UK Mr. Rishi Sunak which was signed by over 70 individuals representing the citizens of the UK.
The Coalition highlights the harm caused by products and practices of the alcohol industry and the lack of a government strategy to tackle this burden since 2012.
In the UK,
- Alcohol is the leading risk factor for death, ill-health, and disability amongst 15-49-year-olds.
- Alcohol causes more working years of life lost than the ten most common cancers combined.
- The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated alcohol harm leading to alcohol deaths reaching an all-time high.
- Deprived communities are disproportionately affected by alcohol harm, despite consuming less.
- The estimated cost of alcohol harm to UK society is at least £27 billion every year.
- Less than half is offset by tax revenue from alcohol.
Previously, two modeling studies from England highlighted the need for urgent alcohol policy action by the UK government to prevent alcohol-caused ill-health, save lives and save money for the National Health Services (NHS). According to both reports, the increase in alcohol use, during the COVID-19 pandemic by those who use alcohol heavily, could lead to the alcohol burden increasing exponentially in the coming years.
The government of the UK has taken bold action to tackle the burden of illicit drugs, obesity, tobacco, and gambling-related harm to protect public health.
In 2019, the Government commissioned an independent review of drugs by Dame Carol Black. This review analyzed the problem and provided 32 recommendations. Most of these recommendations were adopted in the Government’s 10-Year Drug Strategy: From Harm to Hope.
In the UK, alcohol causes more deaths than other drugs. Yet the UK has not had an alcohol strategy since 2012. The coalition calls on the government to conduct a review on alcohol harm and recommend evidence-based high-impact policy solutions to tackle the problems faced by people and communities in Britain.
The World Health Organization recommends the SAFER package of evidence-based alcohol policy solutions. In this package, the three alcohol policy Best Buys have the highest impact on preventing and reducing alcohol harm at the lowest cost.
- Restricting the availability of alcohol products.
- Raising prices of alcohol through excise taxes or other pricing policies.
- Enforcing bans or comprehensive restrictions on alcohol advertising, sponsorship, and promotion.
British Army Faces Serious Alcohol Harms
The British Forces, including Army, Royal Navy, and Royal Air Force faces even higher alcohol harm than the general population. According to Army personnel, this is due to alcohol being used to cope with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and the pervasive alcohol norms within the Forces.
According to data revealed in the Mirror UK,
- Almost 10,000 troops – covering the Army, Royal Navy, and Royal Air Force – have been treated for alcohol use disorders in the past decade. About 800 of them were women.
- 1 in 10 serving personnel or around 14,000 use alcohol at high-risk levels typically exceeding 25 pints of lager weekly.
- More than 1,000 personnel were allowed to serve despite being dependent on alcohol.
- Wives of personnel serving in British Forces were using twice the amount of alcohol as other women.
- Alcohol harm was particularly high among those serving in the Army, with twice as many being treated for alcohol use disorder than those serving in the Navy or Air Force.
- About 10% of veterans – around 220,000 – are using alcohol at high-risk levels. This is far higher than the 6% of the population.
Princess of Wales gives personal support to people struggling with addictions
The Princess of Wales gave her personal support to those struggling with addictions in a video message for Addiction Awareness Week. She called on anyone struggling to get the help they need and to not let stigma be a barrier to getting the support they need.
The Princess is a patron of the Forward Trust charity, which together with seven other charities launched the “Taking Action on Addiction” campaign on October 30, 2022.
The campaign aims to increase awareness about addiction to reduce the stigma surrounding this serious mental health condition. Stigma is a major barrier against those with addiction asking for help. Reducing stigma can encourage them to engage with support services.
I know this was not a choice. Recovery is possible,” said The Princess of Wales, in her video message, posted on YouTube.The Princess of Wales
Earlier the new Prime Minister of the UK, Rishi Sunak, and his new government were warned that further cuts to public health budgets can further weaken alcohol and other drug support services and prevention efforts. Such spending cuts would disproportionately affect the most deprived communities.
As Movendi International reported earlier in the year, there have been funding cuts to mental health and addiction services in the UK. These cuts to funding are putting people suffering from addictions, their families, communities, and children in harm’s way.