Alcohol-related hospital admissions could rise more than a third by 2015, a report says.
Admissions for alcohol misuse are likely to hit 1.5 million a year unless the government steps in to tackle the problem, according to research from Alcohol Concern.
The latest figures show the number of admissions in England due to alcohol misuse totalling 1.1 million in 2009-10, a 100 per cent rise since 2002-03.
“If the rise continues unchecked, by the end of the current Parliament a staggering 1.5 million people will be admitted to hospital every year as a result of drinking,” the report says.
In the past 60 years, the average alcohol intake per person per year has risen across the UK, from five litres in the 1950s to more than 11 litres in 2007.
Over 10 million adults in England now drink more than the recommended daily limit, with 2.6 million drinking more than twice that, according to researchers.
The report adds: “There has also been a dramatic rise in drinking among women, with heavy drinking increasing by almost a third in the decade prior to 2008.”
As well as health problems linked with alcohol, the report points to “damage” echoing throughout society, contributing to 1.2 million incidents of violent crime a year, 40 per cent of domestic violence cases and 6 per cent of all road casualties.
The report says the cost to the NHS in England will rise from £2.7bn a year to £3.7bn unless steps are taken to deal with alcohol abuse.
The £2.7bn figure is already roughly twice back in 2001.
The cost of alcohol to society as a whole is even greater, the report goes on, estimated to stand at £17bn to £22bn, with some reports more than doubling the estimates to £55bn.
Alcohol Concern is calling on the government to invest in alcohol health workers in hospitals, A&E units and GP practices.
This will save the NHS £3 for every £1 spent as well as cutting violent crime and alcohol-related deaths, it said.
Alcohol Concern chief executive Don Shenker said: “[The] government must make tackling alcohol misuse a priority for public health, leading to huge savings for the whole country.
“We need to encourage those who drink too much to realise it and get the help they need.
“As problem drinking costs the country so dear, a modest investment in supporting problem drinkers will lead to a three-fold saving, surely a necessity in an economic downturn.”
A spokesman for the Department of Health said: “The newly published strategy for public health sets out plans to ring-fence public health spending, devolve power and budgets to local communities, and work across areas from behavioural science to education to improve public health.
“We will also be publishing a new alcohol strategy to follow on from the Public Health White Paper in the summer.”