Doctors working at Accident and Emergency wards across the country say many thousands of people will be endangering their lives over Christmas due to accidents and illnesses as a result of alcohol consumption.
Last year in 2011 more than 126,000 sixteen to thirty-four-year-olds ended up in hospital as a direct result of drinking over Christmas, and the volume of alcohol-related problems over the festive season has risen nearly 20% over the last five years.
Doctor Zul Mirza from the College of Emergency Medicine warns that the problem of alcohol and alcohol-related admissions – meaning any injury or illness caused by alcohol which requires medical attention – is costing the NHS £3 billion every year.
“That cost comes through occupying beds, medication and treatment – from broken bones and head injuries to long term things like liver and heart. We’re not saying you shouldn’t drink but alcohol can cause life-threatening problems.”
Dr Mirza agrees heartily with the government’s plan for a minimum price per unit of alcohol.
“There’s a combination of factors here. I think peer pressure plays a part and it’s also made worse by alcohol strength being much stronger now. Alcohol is also significantly more affordable today than it used to be fifteen or twenty years ago.”
Emma Weaver, 28, has been a paramedic for three years and works at an alcohol recovery centre run by the London Alcohol Service which is designed to look after drunk people in order to relieve pressures on hospitals, especially at busy times of the year.
“We deal with about twenty patients a night, so that’s 20 hospital beds freed up. Last night we went to ten patients and nine of them were young females who had overdone it on the drink.”
The NHS Information Centre has data which shows a 26% rise in the number of women admitted to hospital due to alcohol problems over 2011/12. One patient at the centre where Emma works, aged 27, said she is “very embarrassed” over her situation.
“I’m very embarrassed and I’m so grateful I was found,” she said. “The culture is to drink shots and go mental on cocktails. A&E is for medical emergencies and I’m glad I’ve been taken here rather than using up doctors’ and nurses’ time.”
Chris Berry, 18, says he went with his girlfriend to the Centre after calling an ambulance for her when she became very ill after being drunk.
“To go and drink alcohol doesn’t really earn a place in a hospital bed. It’s good that there is this help but we are buffering these people and maybe these people would learn if less help was available.”
Today’s culture of YOLO (short for “You Only Live Once”) and increasingly common accusations of a “nannying” government which removes the need for people to take responsibility for their own alcohol consumption are causing increasing problems both short and long term for UK drinkers.
Binge drinking can be just as dangerous as long term alcoholism so if you know someone who struggles to control their drinking – whether because of vulnerability to peer pressure or some nebulous psychological “need” they cannot quite define – give Rehab Recovery a call today on 08000 886 686 to speak to someone about immediately accessible private alcohol rehab, and make sure you have a Merry – but not too merry – Christmas in 2012.
Read the original news story on BBC Radio 1 Newsbeat.