Alcohol 'costing Sheffield £200m a year'

Paramedics assist a drunk man in Sheffield city centre
Paramedics assist a drunk man in Sheffield city centre
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Alcohol is costing Sheffield over £200m per year - putting pressure on the local NHS, police, social services and businesses.

The figures have been revealed as part of Sheffield Council’s new alcohol strategy - which has highlighted Burngreave, Firth Park, Walkley and Southey as areas of the city with the highest levels of alcohol-related crime outside the city centre.

A drinker in Sheffield city centre

A drinker in Sheffield city centre

It is estimated around 130 people in Sheffield are dying each year due to alcohol abuse, with the vast majority of them being men.

The report stated: "Alcohol costs Sheffield as a city an estimated £205.4 million per annum, with £38m spent by the NHS, £67.8m spent by criminal justice agencies and licensing, £81.5m lost to the workplace/wider economy and £20.6m on services for children and families affected by alcohol misuse."

It said one in five people in the city drink at levels that increase their risk of developing an alcohol-related illness, with one in 14 at higher risk.

The report said one area of the city's new alcohol strategy to work with police and council licencing officials 'to explore options that will help reduce the availability of cheap high strength alcohol in parts of the city where alcohol-related crime and violence are the worst'.

Sheffield's alcohol issues have been highlighted in a new report

Sheffield's alcohol issues have been highlighted in a new report

It said: "In Sheffield the highest levels of alcohol related crime occur in Central Sheffield (646 incidents in 2013/14), Burngreave (129 incidents), Firth Park (124 incidents), Walkley (107 incidents) and Southey (105 incidents).

"By far the majority of alcohol related crime takes place in Central Sheffield – this is the area with the highest concentration of licensed premises, retailers selling alcohol, and offers the main leisure opportunities involving alcohol."

It said there has been success in harm reduction measures such as the introduction of plastic glasses by drinks venues in the city centre, with the number of glassing-related incidents halving in recent years.

The report stated that alcohol was listed as an 'aggravating factor' in over 700 domestic abuse incidents in 2013/14, with work now taking place with police to offer victims and/or perpetrators a follow-up phone call from alcohol services.

Sheffield's alcohol issues have been highlighted in a new report

Sheffield's alcohol issues have been highlighted in a new report

It said of the 130 deaths wholly down to alcohol misuse in Sheffield in 2012/13, 100 were men.

The report added: "The highest levels are among deprived populations; there is a specific focus in the community responses and vulnerable groups theme of the strategy on working to improve alcohol-related outcomes for males in deprived areas of the city."

Plans in the new strategy include screening more people for problems earlier on and encouraging more people to take up treatment.

Danny, a recovering alcoholic, has been affected by alcohol for 16 years.

He said: “I had a normal upbringing in Sheffield, was an average pupil at school and did an apprenticeship. I joined the Army when I was 20 years old. I finished my career in the Army 22 years later, and found the transition to civilian life very difficult, and that’s when my drinking started to get out of control.

“It wasn’t a problem as I saw it at first, it just started to increase. But by 2009 I was starting to drink 24/7 and my life was being run by alcohol.”

Danny joined Alcoholics Anonymous in 2009 and stayed sober for 18 months but relapsed following bereavements and was diagnosed with severe depression. He underwent further treatment including rehabilitation. He stayed sober for long periods before relapsing again.

He said: “I found it fairly easy to stop drinking but staying stopped was the problem, I became complacent and would use any excuse to start drinking again.

"I started to have bad dreams, lived in my shed for a week, wasn’t eating or sleeping properly, washing or shaving, and a couple of times I tried to kill myself. I couldn’t see another way out of the misery I was causing myself, my family and everyone round me. I’d lost my family, all credibility, everything really.

"I tried to detox by myself and started fitting, and while in hospital realised that if I relapsed again, I would die.”

He added: “There are a lot of people out there with addiction problems.

"I don’t want people to go through the same nightmare as I did if possible. You come out of the other end battered and bruised, but it is well worth the effort to get sober. I’m telling my story now, so that hopefully others will realise you can come through it, there is help out there. Use it.

“You’ve got to admit to yourself that you’ve got a problem and only you can do that. And if you are wondering if you’ve got a problem then you probably have. Get yourself help and go to a meeting. You’ll be welcomed with open arms.”

Danny has now been sober for more than 18 months. He participates in events organised by Sheffield Recovery Community, raising awareness of addiction problems and is willing to share his story to help others affected by alcohol.

Councillor Cate McDonald, Sheffield Council cabinet member for health and social care, said: "We have made it easier to access alcohol support services in Sheffield so that more people will use them. There’s also a strong recovery community and anyone affected by alcohol issues is welcome.

“Our plans for the next four years include identifying people affected by alcohol earlier on so treatment can be offered to stop problems from getting worse. We will also continue to work with other services and explore new ways to tackle the problems.

“Our aim is to reduce the harm caused by alcohol in Sheffield to keep more people safe and living well.”

*Anyone worried about their alcohol use who would like to talk about this can do so easily either by calling 0114 226 3000 to speak confidentially to someone from the city’s alcohol service, or drop into their premises between the hours of 9am and 5pm, Monday-Friday, at 44 Sidney Street (Matilda Street entrance), Sheffield, S1 4RH.