Drink deaths jump 350% in 20 years
THE extraordinary rise in Scotland's alcohol culture was exposed in new figures published yesterday, which showed a massive 350 per cent rise in drink- related deaths in the last 20 years.
In 1984, 597 Scots died from alcohol-related illnesses. By last year this had risen to 2,052: 1,515 men and 537 women.
Indeed, there are now nearly as many women dying from alcohol as there were Scots of both sexes dying from drink 20 years ago, despite the overall population actually declining slightly.
The Executive statistics also revealed a frightening level of serious drink problems among the under-18s.
In 2004, 1,113 children and teenagers were admitted to hospital with serious drink-related illnesses - and 213 of them were under 14. Some were treated for conditions normally only seen in those who have been heavy drinkers for many years.
Ten teenagers were treated for alcoholic gastritis, one for alcohol-induced chronic pancreatitis, 16 for alcoholism, and four (including three under the age of 14) for alcoholic liver disease.
Dr Guy Ratcliffe, medical director of the Medical Council on Alcohol, said alcoholic gastritis can cause bleeding in the stomach, leading young people to choke on their vomit.
Inflammation of the pancreas because of alcohol can cause the organ to go septic and parts of it to be removed. Alcoholic liver disease can eventually lead to liver failure and death.
Dr Ratcliffe said: "Any liver doctor will have some account of alcoholic liver disease in people aged 17, 18 or 19. The number of people with alcoholic liver disease is increasing and the mortality rate has also risen."
Yesterday's figures were the second set of statistics in the past week to reveal the effect of alcohol on the health of Scots.
Last week, it emerged that emergency hospital admissions for people suffering from high levels of intoxication had increased by 40 per cent for men and 30 per cent for women between 1996 and 2004.
These latest statistics are more detailed and show wide regional variations. The Western Isles recorded the worst figures, with 1.5 per cent of the population hospitalised in the last year for some sort of alcohol-related condition.
The best records were in Tayside and the Forth Valley, where less than 0.5 per cent of the population were hospitalised for alcohol-related problems last year.
Jack Law, of Alcohol Focus Scotland, described the figures as "shocking". They must act as a wake-up call to every one of us that the way we are drinking is causing massive and growing damage to health and to society," he said.
Lewis Macdonald, the deputy health minister, said the Executive had reformed the country's licensing system and it continued to publicise the dangers of alcohol misuse.
However, the minister insisted every person in Scotland had a responsibility to respect alcohol and drink sensibly.
"Scotland has a long-established culture of heavy drinking, which carries a significant financial and human cost," he said. "We all need to face up to the massive problems this causes."
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