Alcohol problems hitting the UK economy hard, data suggests

Alcohol-related health problems now cost the UK economy more than £21 billion every year, with the NHS footing an annual bill of around £3.5 billion, new data shows.

The report, which was released this week by the Health and Social Care Information Centre, claims that the number of drugs dispensed to treat alcohol dependency reached 184,000 in 2013, marking a year-on-year increase of 3.1 per cent.

Just 103,000 prescription items were distributed in 2004, meaning the figure has risen by 78.9 per cent in the time since, pharmatimes.com reports.

Commenting on the report, Alcohol Concern chief executive Eric Appleby said: "More than half of those who drink do so at risky levels; this isn't just binge drinking youngsters but older, professional people who think nothing of drinking a few glasses of wine most nights.

"It's this regular drinking of a bit too much too often that stores up all sorts of health problems."

He went on to suggest that the government should introduce new measures with regard to unit pricing, saying that minimum costs would help to "save lives and cut crime across the whole population."

Legislation introduced last week will prevent alcohol from being sold for less than the cost of the duty combined with VAT in England and Wales; according to christian.org.uk, this would put the minimum cost of a 9.4 unit bottle of wine at £2.24.

Health experts have, however, suggested that this cost should be considerably higher. Only last year, the government went back on its plans to introduce a minimum unit cost of 45p, putting the same bottle of wine at £4.22.