The quiet crisis: alcohol deaths in England and Wales

Photo by BENCE BOROS on Unsplash

Alcohol is a major part of British culture. From a pint at the pub after work to a night out on the town with friends, alcohol is deeply ingrained in the social fabric of the UK. However, behind closed doors, a quiet crisis is unfolding, writes Forward Trust’s Sally Benton.

In 2022, the number of deaths related to alcohol in England and Wales reached an all-time high, including deaths caused by alcohol dependency.

This catastrophic public health crisis is not making headlines as it should be. Any other ‘all-time high’ published this spring would be leading news stories, commentaries and Parliamentary debate.

It can only be the stigma and shame of addiction that holds back a large-scale enquiry into why such devastating statistics continue to rise. These factors not only prevent people from seeking help but also perpetuate the lack of access devoted to recovery.

In 2022, the number of alcohol-related deaths in England and Wales rose to an all-time high. According to the Office for National Statistics, there were 7,423 alcohol-related deaths registered in England and Wales for the year. The vast majority of those deaths were due to alcohol dependency. This represents a significant increase from 2019, when there were 5,698 alcohol-related deaths in England and Wales.

The rise in alcohol-related deaths during the pandemic and post-pandemic period was not unexpected. Surveys conducted by Taking Action on Addiction during this time have shown an increase in drinking among the general population, with many people turning to alcohol as a way to cope with stress, anxiety, and other pandemic-related problems.

The latest survey found that not only did an estimated 2.4 million people who had been in recovery from an addiction before the pandemic experience some form of relapse, but an estimated 9 million people in the UK increased their intake of alcohol overall during the pandemic (source: YouGov poll commissioned by the Taking Action on Addiction campaign. More information here.)

All of these figures are deeply concerning, with long-term health and social implications.

Alcohol dependency, or addiction, is a complex issue. It not only affects the individual struggling with it but also has a ripple effect on families and future generations. The stigma and shame associated with addiction often prevent individuals from seeking help, as they fear being judged or ostracised, particularly from the professionals they may encounter on the journey to access treatment. This leads to a lack of access to the necessary support and care that is essential in order to address issues early, recover and, in turn, reduce the need for hospitalisations and deaths.

Families of those with addiction experience significant strain as they try to support their loved ones – often without specialist support, in isolation and in secret. The impact of addiction can linger for generations, with children of addicted parents, being more likely to develop addiction issues themselves. There is a systemic lack of support that is desperately needed if we are to address the UK’s addiction crisis and the intergenerational trauma that surround it.

It is imperative that the shame and stigma associated with alcohol addiction be removed. Addiction is not a choice, and those struggling with it need help and support, not judgment or shame. These devastating figures show that Government and health leaders need to increase access to and training on addiction for frontline primary care providers. This will ensure that more people can access the help, empathy, and care they need to overcome addiction.

The crisis is quietly happening behind closed doors.

It’s time to acknowledge it and take action. More resources, and continued research on effective treatments, are required to provide the necessary support for individuals and families affected by alcohol dependency. It’s time to address the underlying issues and provide effective prevention, treatment, and recovery measures.

The recent figures for alcohol-related deaths in England and Wales are alarming. The crisis is unfolding behind closed doors, hidden in secrets and shame, making it harder to keep it in the public eye. However, addiction is a public health crisis that requires urgent attention. Now is the time to give it the attention and intervention it deserves.

If you’re finding things tough right now, our Reach Out online chat service can help. Our friendly team is here to offer support and someone to talk to. The service is available between 9am and 3pm Monday-Friday (excluding Bank Holidays).

If you think you might need more structured support, please visit our website to find out what services we offer, or find out more about our residential rehabilitation centre Clouds House.

This blog was originally published by The Forward Trust. You can read the original post here.

DDN magazine is a free publication self-funded through advertising.

We are proud to work in partnership with many of the leading charities and treatment providers in the sector.

This content was created by The Forward Trust

We value your input. Please leave a comment, you do not need an account to do this but comments will be moderated before they are displayed...