Alcohol is to blame for more than 22,000 deaths a year in Britain - nearly three times higher than government estimates.
New evidence to be published this week by Alcohol Concern paints a stark picture of how alcohol abuse destroys the lives of thousands of Britons.
The charity will reveal that 60 people now die every day from drink. They warn that ministers are massively underestimating the problem by excluding nearly a third of deaths from official statistics. This includes cases where drink is an indirect factor, such as accidents and self-harm.
The charity's report, Wasted: Lives Lost to Alcohol, found that up to one in three young people who commit suicide are intoxicated prior to death, and that excessive drinking is the second most important cause of high blood pressure after obesity. It also says up to 5,000 cancer deaths annually are linked to alcohol consumption.
The charity is launching a national campaign to persuade the Government and health authorities to put more money into alcohol treatment services. They calculate that a £5 saving could be made for every £1 spent on treatment.
The Independent on Sunday revealed last month that excessive drinking among women is greater in England and Ireland than anywhere else in the world, with one in three aged between 17 and 30 classed as a heavy drinker.
The Office for National Statistics last week highlighted alcohol as a factor in just over 8,000 deaths a year, including liver disease, hepatitis and accidental poisoning. But experts say alcohol is increasingly a contributing cause in cancer deaths, strokes, driving accidents and violence.
Alcohol Concern said further deaths will be prevented only if money is invested in identifying who needs help and in treatment services.
"Alcohol-related deaths are eminently preventable, but the Government needs to invest more if the figures are to come down," said Don Shenker, the charity's director of policy.
Only one in 18 people on average gets the treatment they need for alcohol dependency, with many affected by a postcode lottery. Labour MP Lynda Waltho, chair of the All-Party Group on Alcohol Misuse, said that improvements had been made with alcohol treatment services but that they are still "relatively low priority".
She added: "This report is a salutary reminder of the high price Britain is paying for its neglect of this vital issue. Hopefully, it will encourage decision-makers to rethink their approach to the planning and delivery of alcohol treatment."
CASE STUDY: High-flying lawyer concealed the addiction that killed her at 39
A high-achieving glamorous lawyer, Leonora Kawecki did not fit the stereotype of an alcoholic.
But for years, she was secretly hiding a desperate addiction to drink, which caused her death from liver failure three years ago at the age of 39. Her sister Julia, 50, says she became hooked on alcohol in her late twenties. At the height of her addiction, Leonora was consuming up to three bottles of wine a day.
When she started hallucinating after a period of abstinence, Leonora visited her GP, who referred her to a liver specialist. But she started drinking again. "It was so frustrating: I couldn't do anything," says Julia, who set up the Leonora Trust to fund treatment services.Reuse content