Brain damage caused by drinking rises to new peak

Brain damage caused by drinking rose. Picture: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire
Brain damage caused by drinking rose. Picture: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

The number of people being admitted to hospital with brain damage caused by alcohol has hit a new high in Scotland, it has emerged. 

Nearly two people a day have to be examined by health professionals as a result of excessive drinking having an impact on memory, learning and other cognitive skills.

 The figures came to light following a parliamentary question by Conservative shadow health secretary Miles Briggs.

The Scottish Government figures showed there were 661 cases last year, an increase of 25 from 2015-16. The figures, which were broken down by health board area, showed that the most badly affected area was Greater Glasgow and Clyde where there were 230 cases last year.

NHS Lothian recorded the second-highest rate with 99, followed by NHS Lanarkshire with 84.

Scotland’s troubled relationship with alcohol has been a cause for concern for many years with the Scottish Government introducing minimum pricing in an attempt to tackle the problem. Alcohol is blamed for killing 22 Scots a week, with those in deprived areas considerably more likely to die than wealthier counterparts. In 2007 when the SNP came to power there were 590 instances of individuals requiring treatment for alcohol related brain damage. Prior to last year’s peak of 661, the highest level of brain damage cases was 653 recorded in 2010-11.

Mr Briggs said: “These are the latest figures which expose Scotland’s complex and deep-rooted relationship with alcohol. It’s worrying that these statistics continue to rise, and means more people are having their lives badly impacted by drinking too much alcohol.

“Scotland already has one of the worst records in Europe for alcohol consumption, and despite increased awareness, the problem only seems to be getting worse. The SNP government has finally managed to introduce minimum pricing, but it’s clear far more will be required if we are to make any meaningful difference.”

Alison Douglas, chief executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland, said: “Increases in preventable conditions like alcohol related brain damage are the devastating consequence of the high levels of alcohol consumption we have in Scotland, driven by widespread availability, low prices and heavy marketing of alcohol.

“Minimum unit pricing will save hundreds of lives, but everyone agrees it is not sufficient to turn the tide of alcohol harm. The upcoming alcohol strategy provides an opportunity for Scottish Government to take clear and decisive action to tackle the availability of alcohol and significantly reduce the amount of alcohol marketing in Scotland. Alongside these population-level measures it is also vital that there is investment in a wide range of accessible support services for those who need them.”