ALMOST every second adult in South Tyneside has a potential problem with alcohol, according to shock new figures.
Nearly 50,000 of the borough’s 118,000 adults are classed as regularly exceeding the recommended daily limit – two to three units for women and three to four units for men – making them harmful drinkers or dependent on alcohol.
The figures, in the South Tyneside Alcohol Strategy 2013-16 report, says 41,486 people are “hazardous and harmful” drinkers; 4,738 are “harmful” and 3,242 are “dependent”.
A third of children aged between 13 and 15 are said to have consumed an alcoholic drink the week before the survey was carried out.
Alcohol misuse is estimated to cost services in South Tyneside – including police and the National Health Service – £64.37m each year.
That works out at £822 per taxpayer.
The report has been published as part of a joint effort by organisations, including South Tyneside Council, Northumbria Police and North East alcohol office Balance, to attempt to tackle the problem and to set out future aims.
The strategy recommends a series of measures, include reducing the affordability and availability of alcohol and targeted measures to support those who are most at risk of harm
These including appropriate health, housing and social care professionals being trained to routinely provide advice to their clients, greater investment in specialist community-based alcohol services and every acute hospital having a specialist alcohol care team.
Coun Tracey Dixon, the council’s lead member for area management and community safety, welcomed the strategy which aims to “prevent, minimise and respond to harmful behaviours associated with alcohol misuse to people.”
She said: “We know that, nationally, more children and young people are consuming alcohol and those who start drinking at a younger age are frequently drinking greater quantities.
“The health risks posed by this degree of alcohol misuse are great and we know that they link to anti-social behaviour, violent offences, injuries and sexual health issues.
“Our challenge is to reduce the volume of alcohol being consumed and recognise that alcohol-related harm is not confined to a minority.”
In South Tyneside, more than a quarter of the adult population, 28 per cent, drink more units than the weekly recommended limit.
In addition to alcohol, there are also approximately 811 heroin and crack cocaine users, of which 55 per cent (447) are currently in treatment.
Balance estimated that there are approximately 3,242 adult dependant drinkers – meaning they would have some form of withdrawal symptoms if they ceased consuming alcohol.
Just over 600 people are currently getting treatment in South Tyneside, which contributes to the borough’s annual NHS costs of £17.68m.
The strategy aims to reduce the overall level of alcohol consumption in the borough, reducing alcohol-related illnesses, injuries and death and lower the incidence of alcohol-related disorder, anti-social behaviour, violence and crime.
Chief Inspector Brian Walker, from Northumbria Police’s South Tyneside area command, said: “The link between alcohol consumption and crime and anti-social behaviour is well documented.
“Figures show almost half of the incidents of violence in the South Shields area are associated with alcohol.
“We also know underage drinking is one of the public’s main concerns in the borough.
“Officers are involved in several initiatives to cut alcohol-related crime and disorder, working with partners and licensees.
“By working in partnership on this strategy, we aim to tackle alcohol misuse and issues associated with it.”
Coun Fay Cunningham, the council’s lead member for health and wellbeing, said: “We know that in South Tyneside more than a quarter of the adult population drink more units than the recommended weekly limit.
“We’re committed to tackling alcohol misuse and the devastating effects it has on our local communities through this multi-agency approach.”