County has 100,000 danger drinkers

NEARLY 100,000 adults in Suffolk are regularly drinking more than they should, a new survey has revealed.

Research published by the Suffolk Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust’s new substance misuse service shows that there are 97,161 people in the county who are regularly consuming excessive amounts of alcohol.

The figures, which relate to those aged 20 or above, show that there are 84,963 “hazardous” drinkers in the county and a further 12,198 “harmful” drinkers.

Hazardous drinkers are people who drink above recognised sensible levels but are not yet experiencing harm - those consuming between 22 and 50 units per week for males and 15 and 35 units per week for females.

Harmful drinkers are people drinking above recognised sensible levels and experiencing harm, such as an alcohol-related accident, acute alcohol poisoning, hypertension, cirrhosis.

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This is measured by the consumption of more than 50 units per week for males and 35 units per week for females.

Lee Harnden, associate director of Suffolk Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust’s substance misuse service, said people drinking excessively posed a risk to themselves and others.

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He said: “Our new alcohol service caters for people who may binge drink occasionally, through to sustained misuse and severe dependency.

“It’s a new service and feedback has already been positive, with clients saying how much they have benefited already. We’ve been working closely with other existing alcohol services in Suffolk and are pleased with the dove-tailed approach we are jointly taking.”

Mr Harnden added: “If we can help prevent people drinking excessively, then we also help prevent long-term medical, psychological and social harm to individuals and communities. People who drink excessively have a higher risk of harming themselves and other people as alcohol has a link to aggression, domestic violence, road accidents and long-term physical illness.”

The figures, released yesterday to mark the start of National Alcohol Awareness Week, also show that an estimated 25,600 people in Suffolk have an alcohol dependency.

Most of these are people with a “mild to moderate” dependency but more than 300 have what is termed as a “severe” dependency.

Simon Aalders, co-ordinator of the Suffolk Drug and Alcohol Action Team (DAAT), which commissions treatment services on behalf of a range of organisations such as the county council, district and borough councils, the police and PCTs, said there were “significant numbers of people” with alcohol problems.

He said: “I wouldn;t want to get too caught up in the figures, but it’s certainly in the tens-of-thousands, and that has a significant impact on themselves and puts a lot of pressure on services to provide enough treatment to cope with these demands.”

He said that although the figures showed a high number of residents dealing with alcohol problems, there were more people than ever before who were actively seeking help from the growing number of services, charities and health organisations.

The new NHS service covers the whole NHS Suffolk area with bases in Bury St Edmunds and Ipswich.

It is developing a new website aimed at all drinkers in Suffolk, complete with an alcohol tracker and information about how to reduce dependency on drink. The website is due to go online in time for Christmas.

Anyone who would like to receive help from the new alcohol service can contact their GP for a referral.

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