The Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh (“the College”) has joined more than 30 other charities and medical bodies in Scotland to urge the First Minister and Scottish Government to adopt an emergency response to tackling Scotland’s alcohol deaths which are at their highest level since 2008. The organisations are calling for urgent action, with increased and sustained investment in alcohol services and recovery support, in combination with a renewed commitment to preventative policies like minimum price and alcohol marketing restrictions.

In 2021, 1,245 people lost their lives to alcohol-specific causes, the highest number since 2008 and a 22% increase in alcohol deaths in the last two years.

Commenting Professor Andrew Elder, President of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, said:  

The College is pleased to unite with more than 30 other key Scottish health charities and medical bodies to press the Scottish Government not only to recognise that the increasing number of alcohol deaths is a public health emergency but to respond accordingly- and decisively- through extra investment in services and new policies.

Additional investment in services- such as alcohol care teams in acute hospitals- and recovery support is vital if we are to reduce the number of alcohol deaths and prevent us returning to the dark days of around 30 years ago when alcohol deaths and alcohol harm soared.

We also need to build on bold policies like Minimum Unit Pricing- which evidence shows is saving lives- by supporting additional measures such as restricting alcohol marketing exposure. As we have argued before, there are proven links between exposure to alcohol marketing and the initiation of drinking- among children and young people especially- and of increasing alcohol consumption and binge drinking.

We urge the new First Minister to take on board the consensus across so many health organisations about this public health emergency and take urgent and decisive action to reverse current trends.

Dr Alastair MacGilchrist, Chair of expert alcohol medical group, Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems, said:

Our new First Minister and new Minister for Drugs and Alcohol Policy must now step up to the plate. Instead of warm words recognising the public health emergency with alcohol harms in Scotland, we now need to see action.

Clinicians see the impact of alcohol on patients day-in, day-out and rightly are calling the Scottish Government out on this and are demanding urgent action.


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