One person in 13 is dependent on alcohol because Britain's drinking culture is being allowed to continue unchecked, a charity warns.
Addiction to alcohol is twice as common as addiction to illegal or prescription drugs, which affects one person in 26, according to a report from Alcohol Concern. But little more than £1m is spent each year on preventing and treating alcoholism, compared with £91m spent on combating drugs, the charity states.
The inbalance is exacerbated by the £227m a year that the drinks industry invests in advertising its products, the report states.
The Department of Health promised in February 1998 to produce a national alcohol strategy, but this has still not appeared, according to the charity.
Eric Appleby, director of the charity, says ministers are wrong to feel "nervous about attacking alcohol" because the public understands the dangers associated with its misuse. He warns that action is needed "sooner rather than later" if Britain's serious alcohol problems are not to "deteriorate even further".
The report, State of the Nation, states that deaths directly attributable to alcohol misuse rose sharply from 3,853 a year in 1994 to 5,508 in 1999. These included alcohol-related heart disease, liver cirrhosis and alcohol poisoning.
One in seven people killed on the roads, and one in 20 people injured, are involved in drink-drive accidents, it says.
The number of drink-drive accidents increased from 10,100 in 1998 to 11,780 in 2000.
Sixty per cent of employers reported problems because of employees who drank too much, while in 40 per cent of violent crimes, the perpetrators were under the influence of drink.
Mr Appleby said: "The sheer breadth and scale of the problems in terms of their impact on people's health, relationships and pockets, not to mention on public services, especially the NHS, reinforces the need for urgent, joined-up action at a national level."Reuse content