Figures from the annual Alcohol in England report published today by the NHS Information Centre for health and social care show a huge increase in the number of prescription drugs used to treat alcohol dependency over the last eight years.

167,800 items were dispensed last year, a rise of nearly five per cent on 2010 figures (160,200) and an increase of 63 per cent on 2003 (102,700), the first year of time series data included in the statistics. Ever-increasing prescriptions for alcohol dependency cost the health service £2.49 million in 2011.

The report also shows the number of alcohol-related hospital admissions continue to rise. In 2010/11 there were 198,900 admissions where the primary diagnosis was attributable to the consumption of alcohol, and 1,168,300 admissions based on primary and secondary diagnoses. This is an increase of 2.1% and 11% respectively on the 2009/10 figures.

A public consultation has been launched, led by the North West Public Health Observatory, on the methodology used to calculate hospital admissions numbers in the future, details of which can be found at

Katherine Brown, Director of Policy at IAS said:

“Data collection is a crucial tool in the battle to improve public health. Consulting on ways to improve data collection on alcohol hospital admissions will hopefully prove beneficial, however it is essential that statistics remain accurate and alcohol harms do not slip through the net and go unrecorded in future”.

Another major methodological change to the Alcohol in England report is the adjusted alcohol affordability index. Following on from recommendations made in an IAS report, affordability of alcohol is now calculated using revised Real Households’ Disposable Income data which tracks changes in real disposable income per capita as opposed to a total figure per household, as was previously used.

Using the revised methodology and the latest available data, alcohol was calculated as being 45% more affordable in 2011 than it was in 1980.

Other key findings of the Alcohol in England report include:

  • In 2010, 26% of men reported drinking more than 21 units in a typical week and 17% women reported drinking more than 14 units in a typical week.
  • In 2010, there were 6,669 deaths directly related to alcohol. This is a 1.3% increase on the 2009 figure (6,584) and a 22% increase on the 2001 figure (5,476). Of these alcohol related deaths, 64% (4,275) died from alcoholic liver disease.
  • In 2008 it was estimated that the cost of alcohol related harm to the NHS in England was £2.7 billion in 2006/07 prices.

The Alcohol in England report is an annual compilation of statistics on alcohol use in the UK. It forms part of a suite of statistical reports covering various aspects of health and social care including smoking, drug use and obesity, nutrition and physical activity.