SCOTS drinkers can exceed the maximum weekly recommended alcohol intake for less than £5, a leading health professional has warned.
NHS Highland’s director of public health Dr Hugo van Woerden claims the problem of alcohol abuse in the region was “extremely worrying” particularly with easy access to cheap booze.
And he adds that alcohol is now 60 per cent more affordable that it was 35 years ago.
He will next week produce his annual report to the authority’s board outlining his fears.
However, he claims to be taking a “balanced approach” to the subject of alcohol in the report.
Dr van Woerden says he recognises that alcohol consumption is a “normal part of a healthy society” and that there are positive associations between controlled alcohol intake and some conditions, such as cardiovascular disease.
But he highlighted the “significant burden of harm” associated with excessive alcohol intake.
In advance of presenting his report to the board, Dr van Woerden said that, while there were still some positive trends, the problem of alcohol abuse in Highland remained “extremely worrying”.
He points out that alcohol is now 60 per cent more affordable in the UK than it was in 1980, and that it’s possible in Scotland for people to exceed the maximum weekly recommended alcohol intake for less than £5.
Among other facts contained in the report are:
• Across the Highlands, 9.4 per cent of men and 7.2 per cent of women are classed as problem drinkers.
• There has been a rise in alcohol intake by women aged 16-24.
• Children as young as three can recognise the smell associated with alcoholic drinks.
In Scotland in 2010, 321 of the 409 alcohol-related deaths were women.
Dr van Woerden said: “We still have a major problem across NHS Highland in that 40 per cent of the population regularly drink more than the recommended limit.”
And his report will reveal: “Over the five-year period 2009 to 2013, there were on average 80 deaths per year from alcohol related conditions amongst the population of NHS Highland.”
In 2013/14, his report will also show, there were around six hospital stays per day among the population of NHS Highland’s area due to the affects of alcohol.
Dr van Woerden’s report will graphically make a number of recommendations and aspirations, such as several relating to prevention and recovery.
It will also cover alcohol as it relates to children and young people, and the role of the NHS and the public, private, voluntary and third sectors.
Dr van Woerden will also consider the role of industry and the business sector in a section which touches on the issue of minimum pricing.
The director also uses his report to “strongly recommend” the use of mobile phone apps that support peo-ple to develop and maintain healthy drinking habits.
It is recommended that men should drink no more than 21 units of alcohol per week, no more than four units in any one day, and have at least two alcohol-free days a week.
Women, meanwhile, are recommended that they should drink no more than 14 units of alcohol per week, no more than three units in any one day, and have at least two alcohol-free days a week.
Some superstrength ciders in two litre bottles can be bought for less than £5.