In England, the Royal College of Psychiatrists (RCP) is warning that addiction treatment services might become overwhelmed due to the number of new referrals. Like many places, the coronavirus has caused massive shutdowns and isolation among the population. There have also been layoffs. And there has been a huge uptick in alcohol abuse among a weary and isolated population.
When people feel desperate, or despair, they may turn to using alcohol or other substances. The RSP says that “soaring” alcohol use is a threat to public health.
Why the escalating alcohol use? For one thing, alcohol is one of the few addictions where you can abuse without stigma. It’s usually easy to get ahold of, too. In England, numbers have shown that in June, at least 8.4 million people self-reported abusing alcohol to some degree.
Addiction Services Meeting Multiple Needs
During the pandemic, the addiction services available to Uk residents have had an influx of people addicted to opioids. While it’s great that people are trying to get clean and sober, budget cuts have reduced services.
Both addiction to alcohol and addiction to opioids make a person more vulnerable to COVID-19 complications. Professor Julia Sinclair, chair of the Royal College of Psychiatrists addictions faculty, told the BBC that numbers of drinking and opioid-related hospitalizations had already begun to rise before the pandemic.
Alcohol-Related Public Health Disaster Is Looming
Drinking can cause many health problems and is one of the top causes of accidents, such as falls or car wrecks. People addicted to alcohol can face painful and challenging withdrawal symptoms. Some of these symptoms can be severe and life-threatening for long-term heavy drinkers.
“Covid-19 has shown just how stretched, under-resourced, and ill-equipped addiction services are to treat the growing numbers of vulnerable people living with this complex illness.” Miss Sinclair said.
“There are now only five NHS inpatient units in the country and no resource anywhere in my region to admit people who are alcohol dependent with co-existing mental illness.
More Resources Needed
Like the US, the UK is being starved of resources to meet these serious public health challenges. While the focus on COVID-19 is helpful, getting people off the street and into treatment is ideal. However, the people are still waiting for the funds to match up to the size of the problem.