Support charity in Grimsby says rise in alcohol problems is 'second pandemic'

10 million people in the UK drink at unhealthy levels Credit: PA

Support workers in Grimsby say the rise in people with alcohol problems over the last two years has become another "pandemic".

New statistics show almost eight million people in the UK were drinking at "increasing or higher risk" in the three months to the end of last October, up from around five million for the same period in 2019.

The NHS recommends drinking no more than 14 units of alcohol a week but the research from the government's Office for Health Improvement and Disparities has found the number drinking risky amounts has soared during the pandemic.

Creative Start CIC in Grimsby is run by people recovering from alcohol or drug addiction and uses art to help support those struggling.

It has seen a rise in people coming forward for help during the pandemic.

Lesley Ballard is one of them. She hit rock bottom in 2020. After long-standing problems with drug and alcohol boiled over after the start of the pandemic, for her meeting others who had experienced the same changed everything.

She said: "Waking up in a hospital, I knew. I had to make that choice: life or death? And I chose life.

"I've tried every other way. This way has worked and seventeen months later I'm still here and I'm really grateful for it."

Director of the charity Sam Delaney said: "The isolation and sitting at home has really caused a lot of problems and not just problems for the person that's doing it, the whole family."

James Atkinson's drinking at home last year led to a suicide attempt. He's now three months sober and channeling his energy into recovery through art with the charity.

He said: "I shouldn't be here to be honest. And I am here today and that's all because I've put that drink down."

Experts say there has been a polarisation of drinking problems during the pandemic, with some people who were drinking at lower levels cutting back on alcohol while risky drinkers have had more.

Annabelle Bonus from Drinkaware said: "We know that around 10 million people in the UK drink at risky levels. Which means they drink above the Chief Medical Officer's low risk guidelines of 14 units per week.

"And what we know is around a third of those drinkers are actually drinking more than they were before the pandemic, which is putting big strain on their physical and mental health.

"There's lots of help out there. There are lots of charities which do great work in local communities which can give you face-to-face support, there are helplines and if you visit our website we have a full list available there."