BINGE DRINKING is costing UK taxpayers £4.9 billion a year - with added A&E admissions, road accidents and extra police officers needed to deal with problems associated with alcohol use, a study has suggested.
Researchers from the universities of Bath and Essex estimated that binge drinking increases the average daily number of injury-related admissions to A&E by 8 per cent - the equivalent to 2,504 nationally per day.
The average number of road accidents each day go up by 17 per cent - equivalent to 82 additional accidents a day - while the average number of alcohol-related arrests increases by 45 per cent.
The problems associated with binge drinking also lead to the number of police officers on duty having to be increased by around 30 per cent, researchers said.
The combined cost was estimated to be £4.9 billion a year, but the true figure could be much as higher. The figure does not take the long-term costs of binge drinking into account, such as reduced productivity, lost employment and health problems, which can include high blood pressure and increased risk of cancer and early on-set dementia.
Policy recommendations such as including a 52 pence minimum unit price for alcohol and an increase in alcohol excise duty directly in line with alcohol strength should be considered to offset the costs, the study said.
Dr Jonathan James, of the University of Bath, said: “Much is known about the effects and costs of sustained heavy drinking in relation to increased risks of chronic diseases, the damage to social relationships and the increased burden placed on public services. However, little is known about the economic and social effects of binge drinking.
“We hope this calculation of the economic costs can act as a catalyst for policy makers in the UK to take targeted action that reduce the cost of binge drinking to society.”
Lucy Rocca, the founder of social network Soberista thinks the Government should act to tackle binge drinking. She gave up drinking in 2011 after struggling with alcohol dependency for 20 years.
Ms Rocca, 39, of Sheffield, told The Yorkshire Post: “As a country we are very much in denial about the harms of binge drinking. It’s such a ubiquitous pastime that stretched across every social group - it’s so normalised nobody questions it.”
The costs of binge drinking range from drink driving, to loss of productivity at work, and “more subtle” effects on family life, like losing a weekend to a hangover, she said.
She added: “There needs to be a shift in the cultural assumption that binge drinking is a laugh - ‘let’s crack open the wine and get a little squiffy’. It’s not funny or glamorous to get hammered, the implications on your own health and on society are huge.
“There needs to be policies in place, such as minimum pricing, to start to tackle it.”