Prescriptions to treat alcoholism soar by almost 75% in last decade

Data also shows the number of alcohol-related hospital admissions has doubled

Drugs prescribed to treat alcoholism have soared by almost 75 per cent in nine years, latest figures show.

Nearly 180,000 prescriptions for drugs including Antabuse, which halts drinking by causing nausea and vomiting when alcohol is consumed, were issued last year, a 6 per cent increase on the previous year.

Hospital admissions for people with alcohol problems rose above 200,000 for the first time, a 41 per cent increases over the last decade.

Alan Perkins, chief executive of the Health and Social Care Information Centre which published the figures said they illustrated “the impact of alcohol misuse on hospitals in England.” 

Alcohol abuse varies round the country. There were more than twice as many admissions in the north west as in Eastern England. Six out of ten patients admitted nationally were men.

Doctors have argued that the best way to control problem drinking is to raise the price of alcohol to control its availability and restrict its marketing. In Scotland a law introducing a minimum price of 50 pence a unit of alcohol passed through Parliament last year, despite opposition from the alcohol industry. It has not yet been implemented.

David Cameron backed the measure in England but it was dropped from the Queen’s Speech this month amid a Cabinet split.

Recent figures showed deaths from liver disease had reached record levels after rising 25 per cent in a decade, associated in part with increased drinking. Men are disproportionately affected because they drink more alcohol.

Alcohol consumption rose sharply in the late 1990s and early 2000s but has since fallen. However, average consumption is still more than twice as high as in the 1960s.

A Department of Health spokesperson said:

"It's encouraging to see that more people are getting help for problems with alcohol. But these figures prove that alcohol is causing harm to the health of hundreds of thousands of people and we must continue to act. That is why we are already improving prevention by funding alcohol risk assessments at GPs and encouraging increased access to alcohol liaison nurses in hospitals.

"The alcohol industry has also pledged to take 1 billion units out of the market by 2015 and we have consulted on a range of options to tackle irresponsible practices and to strengthen local licensing powers.”