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The new report finds that there was a 24% increase in the number of dependent drinkers between 2000 and 2007, with the current figure now standing at 1.6 million dependent drinkers in England.
If each dependent drinker is not supported to cut down their drinking, the health, welfare and crime costs come to £2,300 per drinker per year, costing the NHS £2.7 billion and society as a whole up to £22 billion per year.
The rise in alcohol dependency was highlighted by the Psychiatric Morbidity Survey published last year. Alcohol Concern claim that Department of Health figures show that only 6% of dependent drinkers are able to access support to reduce their drinking, leaving a huge bill for the public sector.
The charity claims that although the numbers of dependent drinkers are now four times higher than that of dependent drug users – funding for alcohol treatment services has lagged so far behind that dependent drinkers are ten times less likely to receive treatment than drug users.
As a result, fewer than 1 in 13 dependent drinkers receive NHS or community treatment for their alcoholism.
The report, "Investing in Alcohol Treatment" states that government could save £1.7 billion by providing double the level of treatment support for dependent drinkers, as there is a five-fold saving on public sector costs when treating alcoholism, as health, welfare and crime costs are reduced.