Almost one in four drinkers in Scotland drank alcohol during the Covid 19 pandemic at elevated or high risk levels, raising serious questions about the health of the population.
According to a survey by alcohol education group Drinkaware, more than two in five (43 percent) Scots who already consume alcohol at an elevated or high-risk level – more than 14 units per week – said they now drink more than they usually would.
The study raised concerns that many Scots are putting their health at risk if the growing epidemic of pandemic drinking is not reversed, with some at risk of severe and long-term health damage.
The study also showed that some groups are drinking more and exhibiting “worrying drinking patterns that could become entrenched.” including those on holiday and those with caring responsibilities and parents.
The Consultative Group is also calling for policymakers to identify as a public health issue the effects of increased alcohol use, saying it should be seen as an important factor in both obesity and mental health strategies.
Nearly 11,000 alcohol-related deaths were reported between 2010 and 2019.
About 23,751 people in Scotland were admitted with an alcohol-related diagnosis to a general acute hospital in 2018/19 – still four times the number in the early 1980s.
But official figures also show that in the last full year prior to the Covid 19 closures, the number of alcohol-related fatalities dropped by 10 percent, from 1,136 in 2018 to 1,020 in 2019.
This was the first major reduction since 2012 in the number of alcohol-related fatalities in Scotland.
It followed the implementation of minimum unit pricing in May 2018 by the Scottish government – an effort to minimize consumption and save lives.
In January, prior to the Covid 19 crisis, it emerged that the quantity of alcohol sold in Scottish stores decreased during the first year of minimum pricing, although sales increased south of the border.
The latest study found that 24% of Scotland’s drinkers consume high-risk alcohol – more than the 14 units per week recommendations recommended by the Chief Medical Officer (CMO).
A majority (56%) of those already drinking in a higher risk category – more than 35 women’s units per week and more than 50 men’s units per week – indicated consuming more than they usually would. And 39% of those who drank in the higher risk category drank more – between 14 and 35 units per week for women and 14 and 50 units per week for men.
Overall, since March, 13 percent of Scots reported consuming more alcohol than average, while 24 percent drank less.
Consumption of alcohol is a factor in 90,000 emergency room visits over four years.
The study found that since the closure steps started in March, more than one in three (38 percent) of laid-off staff and those facing layoffs have reported drinking more. That is two and a half times the 16 percent national average.
And nearly one in five Scots surveyed at the beginning of December think they should reduce their intake of alcohol.
Drinkaware encouraged all drinkers to comply with the CMO’s low-risk drinking recommendations of no more than 14 units per week to keep the risk of alcohol damage low.
A simple and very alarming picture is emerging here, said Annabelle Bonus, director of evidence and effect at Drinkaware. Some groups are more vulnerable than others to the risks of alcohol damage, and the pandemic has a direct impact on the consumption of alcohol by many people around the world.
The effect of excessive alcohol consumption can not be swept under the rug after a year of confusion that will sadly continue for longer. As a government, we now have to act.’
The message comes at a time when one charity has confirmed that 80% has increased the number of callers to its advice line on drug and alcohol abuse.
1,680 individuals called for support between March and November, up from 935 in the same time last year, Scottish Families Affected by Alcohol and Drugs said.
Families of people with drug issues accounted for 34 percent of the spike, while communications from people who use drugs themselves soared 244 percent – from 177 to 609.
This could be due to many not having access to other support facilities, the charity said.