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Addiction services not equipped to treat high risk drinking during pandemic

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Drinking is at a record high since the pandemic Drinking is at a record high since the pandemic

Nearly 8.5 million adults are drinking at high risk since the COVID-19 outbreak, while number of people addicted to opiates seeking help in April at highest level since 2015, research from the Royal College of Psychiatrists has found.

According to the new analysis of Public Health England’s latest data on the indirect effects of Covid-19 found that over 8.4 million people are now drinking at higher risk, up from just 4.8 million in February.

This surge in higher risk drinking comes at a time when more people addicted to opiates are seeking help from addiction services. Statistics from the National Drug Treatment Monitoring System (NDTMS) show 3459 new adult cases in April 2020, up 20% from 2947 in the same month last year - the highest numbers in April since 2015.

‘Addiction services have been starved of funding in recent years meaning many are not able to treat and care for the huge numbers of people who are drinking at high risk,’ said Dr Adrian James, President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists.

‘More lives will be needlessly lost to addiction unless the Government acts now and commits to substantial investment in public health, including adult addiction services, in the Spending Review. I urge the government to implement the recommendations in our report which would see mental health services expand to be the biggest in Europe, with a much-needed focus on tackling inequalities.’

The Royal College of Psychiatrists is calling for the Government to use the upcoming Comprehensive Spending Review to reverse the cuts and enable local authorities to work towards investing £374 million into adult services so they can cope with the increased need for treatment.

‘Covid-19 has shown just how stretched, under-resourced and ill-equipped addiction services are to treat the growing numbers of vulnerable people living with this complex illness,’ said Prof Julia Sinclair, Chair of the College’s Addictions Faculty.

‘There are now only 5 NHS inpatient units in the country and no resource anywhere in my region to admit people who are alcohol dependent with co-existing mental illness. Drug-related deaths and alcohol-related hospital admissions were already at all-time highs before Covid-19. I fear that unless the government acts quickly we will see these numbers rise exponentially.’

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