Alcohol problem ‘worse then ever’

Teen alcohol addiction (drunk teens with vodka bottle)
Teen alcohol addiction (drunk teens with vodka bottle)
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MORE than 10,000 drunken louts have been arrested for disorderly behaviour in South Yorkshire over the last three years, The Star has discovered.

With more than one in five adults in Sheffield regularly drinking to ‘hazardous’ levels – and even children as young as 11 being admitted to hospital for alcohol abuse – doctors say the overall problem in the city is worse than ever.

Today we expose the extent of booze culture in our city – and what health experts say needs to be done.

Police arrested 4,670 people in Sheffield on suspicion of drunk and disorderly behaviour between November 2008 and October 2011, 1,292 in Rotherham, 2,014 in Barnsley and 2,504 in Doncaster.

The numbers are published as part of The Star’s Your Right to Know campaign, which seeks to shine the spotlight on the hidden facts and figures that affect your everyday life.

A total of 10,480 people were arrested for drunk and disorderly behaviour over three years across the county.

Alcohol misuse is thought to cost the Sheffield NHS £12 million a year and the criminal justice system over £15m.

Police resources have to be deployed to deal with drunks, and an estimated 9,000 people are admitted to the city’s hospitals because of drink-related problems.

Sheffield’s Director of Public Health, Dr Jeremy Wight, told The Star heavy drinking is hitting Sheffield’s society, economy and public services.

“Alcohol and alcohol-related illness is clearly a public health problem for the city - and it is getting worse,” he said.

“It cuts right across society and it’s something we need to do something about.

“It is without any doubt becoming a big health problem, having an impact on social services, the police, the emergency services and employers.”

Sheffield Drug and Alcohol Action Team estimates 120,500 people in the city - more than one in five - drink to ‘hazardous’ levels, above the recommended 14 units a week for women and 21 for men.

They estimate 32,300 have health problems directly related to alcohol, 92,100 regularly binge drink, and 16,300 are dependant on alcohol.

Dr Olawale Lagundoye, consultant in addiction psychiatry and clinical director for Sheffield’s drug and alcohol services, said heavy drinking often leads to domestic violence and family breakdowns - taking a toll that is hidden from public view.

“We see people with a range of medical health problems related to drinking - depression, anxiety and other psychological and emotional problems,” he said.

Dr Wight puts the problem down to the ease of getting hold of booze - and called for stricter licensing laws and minimum pricing rules.

“Without any doubt the problem is increasing because of availability and price of alcohol,” he said.

“Price isn’t keeping up with income - and alcohol is very easy to get hold of.

“We are limited as to what we can do - it is up to David Cameron and George Osborne.”