NHS struggles as Covid lockdown drink causes deaths from liver disease rise 57% to unprecedented levels
- More than 5,200 people under the age of 75 lost their lives to the condition in 2020
- This was 20 percent more than the year before and the highest figure ever
- Half of those who develop the disease and continue to drink will die within five years
Deaths from alcohol-related liver disease reached record levels at the height of the Covid pandemic, NHS figures have revealed.
In 2020, more than 5,200 people under the age of 75 died from the condition – 20 percent more than the year before and the highest number since registration began.
Hospital admissions related to the disease also reached unprecedented levels that year, rising to 25,000 — a 57 percent increase since 2010.
While experts have blamed the excessive alcohol consumption on lockdowns, the problem has not abated and they are still seeing unusually high levels of alcohol-related illness.
Deaths from alcohol-related liver disease hit record levels at the height of the Covid pandemic, NHS figures have revealed (stock image)
“Many of the people who have started drinking excessively during the lockdown are still doing so,” said Professor Simon Taylor-Robinson, a liver expert at Imperial College London.
The liver helps filter toxins from the body and can regenerate even after contact with harmful chemicals, but long-term alcohol abuse can leave permanent scars – an irreversible condition known as cirrhosis.
Half of patients who develop the disease and continue to drink will die within five years.
UK Addiction Treatment (UKAT), which runs eight rehab clinics and published the analysis, is calling on the government to do more to tackle the crisis.
In 2020, more than 5,200 people under 75 lost their lives from the condition – 20 percent more than the year before and the highest number since registration began (stock image)
“The government needs to take stock of this country’s unhealthy relationship with alcohol,” said Nuno Albuquerque, head of treatment at UKAT.
‘We are putting unnecessary pressure on our NHS because as a country we cannot drink alcohol responsibly.’
The analysis of NHS data also showed that hospitals in the Yorkshire and Humber region saw the largest increase in patients with alcoholic liver disease in 2020. More than 3,300 people were admitted, compared to 2,700 in 2019.
DO YOU DRINK TOO MUCH ALCOHOL? THE 10 QUESTIONS THAT REVEAL YOUR RISK
A screening tool commonly used by medical professionals is the AUDIT (Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Tests). The 10-question test was developed in collaboration with the World Health Organization and is considered the gold standard for determining whether someone has problems with alcohol abuse.
The test is reproduced here with permission from the WHO.
To complete it, answer each question and write down the corresponding score.
0-7: You are within the responsible drinking range and have a low risk of alcohol-related problems.
More than 8: Mention harmful or dangerous drinking.
8-15: Average risk level. If you drink at your current level, you risk developing problems with your health and your life in general, such as work and relationships. Consider decreasing (see below for tips).
16-19: Higher risk of complications from alcohol. Cutting back on your own can be difficult at this level, as you may be dependent, so you may need professional help from your GP and/or a counselor.
20 years and older: Possible dependence. Your alcohol use is already causing problems and you could very well be dependent. You should definitely consider stopping gradually or at least reducing your drinking. You should seek professional help to determine your dependence and the safest way to quit alcohol.
Severe dependence may require medically assisted withdrawal or detox in a hospital or specialist clinic. This is due to the potential for severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms in the first 48 hours requiring specialist treatment.