Alcohol abuse warning as one in five men put their health at risk

One in five people in the Bradford district is at risk of harming their health through booze.

Misuse of alcohol in the area is costing the NHS an estimated 27m a year.

A study says around 92,000 adults are drinking at hazardous levels – in excess of the recommended limits – and 17,000 at harmful levels – more than double the recommended limits.

Despite the district having the lowest level of binge drinking in Yorkshire and the Humber, alcohol-attributable hospital admissions are significantly above the regional and national averages – and rising.

The findings of the latest Alcohol Needs Assessment for the Bradford district, which will be presented at a conference today, also revealed 14 and 15-year-olds who drank were most likely to have been given alcohol by parents or carers to drink with them at home.

Dr Andrew O'Shaughnessy, public health consultant with NHS Bradford and Airedale, said: "The number of patients with health problems caused by drinking too much is rising each year and this is draining money from the NHS.

"What is of particular concern is that we are now seeing younger people, in their 20s and 30s with liver disease caused by alcohol and also that there is an increase in harmful drinking amongst young women."

More than 100 health professionals including GPs, practice staff and voluntary sector representatives will attend today's conference in Bingley, where the findings of the NHS Bradford and Airedale study will be presented.

Dr O'Shaughnessy said: "We need to do everything that we can to make people aware of the dangers of drinking excessively because the signs and symptoms of alcohol-related illness often don't occur straight away by which stage serious damage can already have occurred.

"It seems to have become socially acceptable for adults to binge drink – from local lifestyle surveys we know that a fifth of the adults admit to binge drinking on at least a weekly basis. We also know that people have a tendency to under-report how much they drink and we could see an increase in this figure as the recession takes hold."

The study also highlights gaps in the availability of services, including where particular groups are not making sufficient use of available services.

It is estimated the misuse of alcohol is responsible for a large number of deaths, chronic ill-health, violent crime and anti-social behaviour in the Bradford district.

Hilary McMullan, planning manager for NHS Bradford and Airedale, said: "The high numbers of alcohol-related deaths amongst men and high rates of hospital admissions locally have been the focus of much of our partnership work around alcohol harm reduction. This needs assessment will help us to prioritise action and distribute services and resources to areas of highest need."

Public health chiefs are "deeply concerned" about the number of people drinking excessively, as this puts them at greater risk of having physical problems such as liver disease, high blood pressure and heart problems, or cancer.

In addition, psychological problems can develop such as high levels of anxiety and depression, sleeplessness and problems with their sex life; and social problems such as the breakdown of relationships with family and friends, poor performance at work and financial problems.

Nina Smith, Bradford Council's programme lead for alcohol, and chair of the Safer Communities Partnership's Alcohol Strategy Implementation Group, who is chairing the conference, said: "We need more alcohol treatment services as a result of the large number of people drinking at harmful levels. If we can reduce the level of harmful drinking amongst younger people, then the NHS will not need to spend so much money in the 2020s on treating both alcohol dependency and the diseases caused by excessive drinking."