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Royal College of Psychiatrists warn of alcohol services being overwhelmed

Posted by Martin Preston
on 29 Sep 2020

The Royal College of Psychiatrists have warned England’s addiction services will be overwhelmed with an additional 4 million individuals drinking more alcohol than they did prior to the Covid-19 lockdown.

England, along with the rest of the UK, has seen figures nearly double in the number of adults turning to drink to cope with the isolation and insecurity that coronavirus has brought to our lives 1

Experts from the college estimate that those who misuse alcohol in England (and are therefore in the higher risk group of drinking) has soared from 4.8 million in February to a shocking 8.4 million in June this year 1,3

drinking at home

Lockdowns true impact as UK faces alcohol crisis 

Analytics show that as lockdown progressed many people started to turn to alcohol or increase their normal usage of it. 

Not only will many more people now need help for an alcohol problem but the services currently available in the UK are a mere shadow of what they were ten years ago.

Drug and alcohol services across the UK have taken huge cuts to their budgets in recent years; some £162m over the last decade. 2

The staggering budget cuts have gravely impacted, not on the quality of treatment services available but also causing extremely low engagement levels from those who need the services most.

The UK needs to brace itself for an increase in alcohol related deaths

The biggest fear now, for those who either have an ongoing alcohol problem and those who have developed a new alcohol problem during lockdown, is that they won’t be able to access the life saving alcohol treatment they need. This will tragically and undoubtedly lead to an increase in alcohol related deaths.

With the government making landmark cuts to addiction service budgets, sadly they are not helping to break the stigma of addiction. They are still treating alcoholism and drug addiction as a lesser deserving of treatment illness.

Alcohol and drugs quite literally hijack the brain in those predisposed to developing addiction. 

Others, who are suffering with their mental health during lockdown, have turned to alcohol and prescription medications to self medicate anxiety and depression.

Opiate addicts will also suffer the brunt of reduced addiction services 

The National Drug Treatment Monitoring System has shown those seeking treatment for a new opiate addiction (including prescribed opiates) has risen by 20% in the past year 3

When it comes to drug related deaths, opiates are the number one killer due to being very easy to abuse and overdoses often being lethal.

Opiates, much like alcohol, are also extremely difficult and dangerous to stop where a dependence has occurred. More often than not, medical intervention is required to help the addicted person to safely stop drinking or taking opiates. 

With the huge increase in numbers of individuals drinking at high risk levels and those presenting with a new opiate addiction, The Royal College of Psychiatrists are very right in expressing concern. 

What is high risk drinking? 

High risk drinking or alcohol abuse is an alcohol misuse disorder that has the potential to lead to alcohol dependence and alcohol addiction. It carries numerous physical, social, emotional and mental health implications

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines high risk drinking is consuming more than 4 units of alcohol a day, or more than 14 units of alcohol per week in both men and women

From time to time, many individuals will exceed the 14 units per week guideline. On occasion, as long as not heavily exceeded and evenly spread over the week it is generally not a problem. The problem comes when an individual is frequently or regularly drinking above 4 units a day or 14 units per week. This is high risk drinking and could well mean the presence of an alcohol use disorder (AUD)

Royal College of Psychiatrists reports over 8 million drinking at high risk levels during coronavirus pandemic

As addiction treatment experts who have an in-depth and personal knowledge of drug and alcohol addiction, our gut feeling at Delamere is that the real number of individuals needing help for an alcohol problem will be much higher than statistics report.

The lockdown measures of COVID have led to isolation, job losses, furloughed employees and working from home. Hiding an alcohol problem has never been easier. 

It is only once the world returns to any kind of normality that we will see a truer picture of how COVID has changed the drinking habits of the general population. Our fear is, that the true picture will be much worse than the statistics currently report.

Private drug and alcohol treatment services also suffer the consequences of government cuts and Covid 

In the past ten years a third of all private drug and alcohol rehabs have been forced to close.

With COVID-19 lockdown placing limitations on the number of guests a rehab can treat at any one time, coupled with less people seeking medical help during lockdown unless coronavirus related, there is no doubt that more rehabs will have to close as a result of the financial impact. 

Thankfully, this is not the case for us here at Delamere’s addiction treatment and behavioural wellness facility. We have remained fully operational throughout lockdown whilst adhering to government guidelines to keep our guests safe from coronavirus.

We truly believe that we offer a uniquely bespoke service that is a cut above the rest. Delamere is a place of healing and transformation, we offer many services that other rehabs don’t.

If you have a drug or alcohol problem and want immediate, comprehensive and highly effective treatment, take a look at our site and the uniquely bespoke service we provide. Better still, pick up the phone and speak with one of our friendly addiction treatment experts today for free and confidential advice.


  1. Public health England
  2. BBC news – Drug and alcohol services cut by £162M in England
  3. Royal College of Psychiatrists – Addiction services not equipped to treat 8 million people drinking at high risk during pandemic

About the author: Martin Preston

Martin created Delamere in order to provide exemplary care in first class facilities. Find out more about Martin on our team page.

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