Britain is facing a ‘looming addiction crisis’ with millions turning to alcohol to cope with the pandemic, a major report warns today.
The number of people drinking at ‘high risk’ levels has doubled to almost 8.5million since February, according to the Royal College of Psychiatrists.
Experts fear money worries, the stresses of juggling work and childcare and the emotional fallout from the virus has left many reaching for the bottle.
Thousands more sought help for addiction to painkillers during lockdown amid fears delays to NHS treatment could cause cases to rocket.
Doctors are worried excessive drinking during the pandemic will have a major toll on the health of the nation for years to come.
Professor Julia Sinclair, chair of the addictions faculty at RCPsych, said: ‘Drinking at high levels not only makes people more likely to become alcohol dependent, but many will develop other health problems including liver disease, stomach ulcers, pancreatitis and depression.
‘Drug-related deaths and alcohol-related hospital admissions were already at all-time highs before Covid-19.
‘The looming addiction crisis cannot be tackled unless there is substantial investment from government.’
The professional body, which represents over 18,000 psychiatrists in the UK, analysed the latest data from Public Health England (PHE) on the indirect effects of Covid-19.
In surveys of more than 10,000 people PHE found that more than 8.4million are now drinking at problem levels, up from 4.8million in February.
The problem is rife among the middle class where more than four in ten are now consuming too much alcohol, up from almost 28 per cent in February.