Alcohol

Alcohol misuse and, particularly, the pattern and levels of alcohol consumption, have harmful consequences for individuals, their family and friends as well as wider society and the economy. You will find our resources to help you deliver alcohol related interventions with patients below.

Alcohol consumption and related harms are significant public health issues in Scotland.

  • On average 22 people died from illnesses wholly caused by alcohol every week.
  • People are being diagnosed with alcohol related diseases, such as liver cirrhosis, at a younger age.
  • 20.8 units of alcohol were sold per adult per week in 2015, 20% more than in England and Wales.
  • On average 96 hospital admissions a day were due to illnesses wholly caused by alcohol.
  • Although alcohol related mortality and morbidity have fallen, they remain high, and higher than England and Wales.
  • Alcohol misuse is estimated to cost the Scottish economy 3.56 billion per year in 2007, equivalent to £900 per adult.

Alcohol misuse is also a public health issue because it

  • has been shown to
    • cause death
    • cause cancer
    • cause fertility problems
    • affect the immune system
    • cause high blood pressure
    • damage the brain and nervous system
    • cause chronic liver disease and cirrhosis.
  • harms not only the excessive drinker, but often also harms the people around them
  • is commonly associated with a number of anti-social behaviour offences such as assault, vandalism and breach of the peace
  • is linked to
    • child neglect
    • serious crime
    • family breakdown
    • domestic violence.

You can read more data on alcohol use and misuse on the Scottish Public Health Observatory (ScotPHO) website (external).

Alcohol and health inequalities

The amount and the way a person drinks is influenced by a number of factors. This includes social conditions like where a person lives, whether they have a job and if so what it involves, childhood experiences and social networks. The availability of alcohol and how much it costs is also important.

Average weekly levels of self reported alcohol consumption tend to be higher in more affluent groups. However

  • levels of binge drinking are higher in less affluent groups
  • the heaviest drinkers are less likely to be fully represented in surveys
  • heavy drinkers in less affluent groups tend to consume more than heavy drinkers in other groups.

This means that alcohol-related harm is socially patterned with higher levels of alcohol-related harm in less affluent groups. Inequalities in alcohol-related harm have been falling in Scotland, but they remain wide. The latest figures show that

  • alcohol-related mortality rates for those living in the most deprived areas are almost eight times the rate for those in the least deprived areas
  • the rate of alcohol-related hospital admissions for those living in the most deprived areas are almost eight times the rate for those in the least deprived areas.

Alcohol – local and national action

Scotland’s alcohol strategy 'Changing Scotland's Relationship with Alcohol: a Framework for Action' (external website) includes a number of actions including

  • restrictions on the promotion of alcohol
  • a programme of Alcohol Brief Interventions (ABIs)
  • increased investment in specialist treatment services
  • a ban on multi-buy discounts in shops and supermarkets.

ABIs are short, evidence-based, structured, and non-confrontational conversations about alcohol consumption. Guidance for the delivery of ABIs is set out in ‘The Local Delivery Plan Standard: Alcohol Brief Interventions National Guidance 2015-16’. You may want to download the national guidance from NHSScotland’s website Scotland’s Health on the Web (external).

Our ABI and elearning resources are currently being updated to ensure they are consistent with the new UK Chief Medical Officers' Alcohol Guidelines. They will be available online and to order in hard copy soon.

It is the responsibility of Scotland's 30 Alcohol and Drug Partnerships to commission treatment services to meet the needs of their resident populations. This is done in line with the Framework for Local Partnerships on Alcohol and Drugs (external website), which clarifies the roles, responsibilities and accountability of all bodies involved in tackling alcohol and drugs problems.

A Community Licensing Toolkit (external download) has been produced by Alcohol Focus Scotland for anyone who would like to have a say on how alcohol impacts on their community.