Someone in Scotland is hospitalised every 15 minutes because of alcohol, as high numbers of Scots are still unaware of the health risks associated with heavy drinking.
Experts are now urging adults to moderate their intake and learn more about the implications of the nation’s infamous love affair with booze.
More than one in three Scots are unaware that drinking alcohol increases the risk of developing cancer, while £3.6 billion is spent on dealing with alcohol-related harm in Scotland each year – £1 billion more than Scotland’s entire education budget.
Alcohol continues to be a major cause of illness, injury and premature death north of the border, with those living in poorest communities the hardest hit.
This year’s Alcohol Awareness Week, which began on Monday, aims to better inform Scots about safe levels of drinking and how it can have a positive impact on their wellbeing.
“We need to help people better understand these health risks,” Alison Douglas, chief executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland, told The Scotsman.
“Drinking too much, too often increases the risk of cancer, liver disease, cardiovascular disease and mental health problems.”
Douglas believes nutritional information and health warnings should be more prominently displayed on alcohol sold in shops to “help drinkers to make more informed choices”.
“There is more consumer information on a pint of milk than on a bottle of vodka,” she continued.
“It can be difficult to make the healthy choice when alcohol is cheap, readily available, and we’re encouraged to drink in every social situation.”
There were 1,150 alcohol-related deaths in 2015 in Scotland in which alcohol was the underlying cause of death.
The 45-59 age group has had the largest number of alcohol-related deaths in almost every year since 1979, while there have been roughly twice as many male deaths as female deaths in the same period.
Although alcohol-related deaths have declined in recent years, rates remain higher than they were in the early 1980s and higher than those in England and Wales.
Public health officials believe the way to curb the nation’s heavy drinking habit is by reiterating the devastating toll it can take on a person’s wellbeing.
Drinking alcohol is linked to an increased risk of several cancers – bowel, breast, liver, mouth and throat, oesophageal and stomach.
In the UK, around 21,000 cancer cases could be prevented each year if nobody drank alcohol. This includes 11,700 breast cancer cases, equivalent to one in five of the total number of this type of cancer.
After not smoking and being a healthy weight, not drinking alcohol is the most important thing people can do to reduce their cancer risk.
Despite this, one in four people in Scotland drink more than the Government’s recommended weekly limit.
Men and women are advised not to drink more than 14 units a week spread over three or more days and should have several drink-free days each week.