Drinkware's statement in response to the publication of adult substance misuse treatment statistics for 2020 to 2021

Date Published

25th November 2021





Drinkaware’s Director of Evidence and Impact Annabelle Bonus said: “Today’s figures on treatment for substance misuse in England showed a 44% rise in the number of people being treated for alcohol only issues who died while in contact with treatment services in 2020 to 2021. Overall there was a 27% increase of deaths in substance misuse treatment compared to last year. 3,726 lives lost are 3,726 lives too many. That’s thousands of families who are having to cope with loss. It’s crucial that we do everything we can to drastically reduce this figure.

“The report acknowledged that there are a number of factors that will have contributed to the increase in the number of service users who died, including changes to alcohol and drug treatment, reduced access to other healthcare services, changes to lifestyle and social circumstances during lockdowns, and COVID-19 itself. Drinkaware’s own research* shows that, high risk drinkers were more likely than any other type of drinker to report drinking more, more often and in different situations than usual compared to before the pandemic. Drinkers reported that the pandemic, and particularly times of increased restrictions/lockdowns, caused periods of high stress, anxiety, isolation, and boredom, and that some turned to alcohol as a coping mechanism.

“There is a clear need for support however this need is simply not being met. There is an estimated four in five adults in need of specialist treatment for alcohol who were not receiving it. This shows that much more must be done to specifically target and support those people who drink harmful amounts of alcohol, to reduce health harms and preventable loss of life caused by drinking. This includes, for example, more consistent treatment options for people who need support for alcohol misuse. The Office for Health Improvement and Disparities and government must place alcohol harm reduction at the centre of public health priorities or we will continue to be faced with devastating consequences.”

*UK wide sample of 9,137 adults aged 18 to 85, consisting of 5,934 in England, 1,245 in Wales, 1,349 in Scotland and 609 in Northern Ireland. Fieldwork was undertaken between 11th June - 4th July 2021. The survey was carried out online. Data has been weighted to be representative of the UK adult (18-85) population according to age, gender, social grade and region. The sampling and weighting process is exactly consistent with that used in the 2017,2018, 2019 and 2020 Drinkaware Monitors.