Millions of Brits have turned to booze to cope with the coronavirus pandemic, with the country facing a “looming addiction crisis”, according to a new report.
The Royal College of Psychiatrists said analysis of Public Health England data shows the amount of people finding them self high risk drinking has doubled to around 8.5 million since February.
Lockdown saw a multitude of issues meet head on, including financial troubles as well as worries about the virus itself.
As well as alcohol, thousands more sought help for painkiller dependence, figures show.
It comes as NHS Digital data for England showed 173,000 fewer patients were being admitted to hospital for major non-virus illnesses, including for crucial cancer treatments, in March and April – while Covid-19 was at its peak.
Professor Julia Sinclair, chair of the addictions faculty at RCPsych, told the Daily Mail drinking at higher levels “only makes people more likely to become alcohol dependent” and also develop other health issues down the line.
Psychiatrists now want a funding boost in Downing Street’s upcoming spending review.
Prof Sinclair added: “The looming addiction crisis cannot be tackled unless there is substantial investment from government.”
According to PHE figures, the problem is most apparent in the middle classes, with more than four in 10 consuming too much alcohol.
PHE monitoring shows adults consuming over 50 units a week rose by 33 percent in lockdown, while supermarket alcohol sales went up by 43 percent between mid-May and mid-June.
There are now fears if the trend continues even further stress will be put on the already overstretched health services.
And with the issue fuelled by people drinking at home, things could escalate further if there is a second wave and subsequent further lockdown.
Heavy drinkers as well as those using anti-anxiety medication are also more vulnerable to Covid, research suggests.
Meanwhile, statistics from the National Drug Treatment Monitoring System (NDTMS) show there were 3,459 new adult cases in April 2020 – up by a fifth on the same time last year (2,947) and the highest since 2015.
Royal College of Psychiatrists’ findings are supported by a King’s College London study published in May.