Alcohol is wrecking children's lives

THE extent of alcohol problems in Norfolk were laid bare last night as health experts estimated that at least 13,000 children are living with a “dependent drinker”.

THE extent of alcohol problems in Norfolk were laid bare last night as health experts estimated that at least 13,000 children are living with a “dependent drinker”.

There are also more than 120,000 people who drink above the recommended government limit in the county on a regular basis, risking long-term damage to their liver, brain, heart and other vital organs.

The shocking figures came as it was revealed that alcohol liver cirrhosis cases in the UK have increased by 42pc in the past five years with almost 5,000 people suffering with the illness.

And now there are fears that the current economic climate, as well as round-the-clock access to cheap drinks, is causing even more people to turn to alcohol.

Daniel Harry, partnership liaison officer for Norfolk's Drug Alcohol and Action Team (DAAT), said an increasing number of people were risking their health by drinking too much and there was a massive knock-on effect for families, particularly children of all ages.

“Latest figures collated in Norfolk showed at least 13,000 children are living with a parent or sibling who is dependent on alcohol,” he said. “And this is going up, with an estimated 25,000 dependent drinkers in the county and more people using alcohol to blot out their problems.

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“This is classed as someone who drinks excessively and regularly just to function socially - a person who would become ill if they stopped because they are so dependent on alcohol. Norfolk is not out of line with national statistics, but we have to concentrate on what is happening here and try to do something about it.”

DAAT has regular communication with accident and emergency departments, GPs and the criminal justice system to see just how many people's lives are blighted by alcohol.

Department of Health guidelines say men should drink no more than three to four units of alcohol a day and women two to three units.

Mr Harry said: “It is time people stopped and looked at their relationship with alcohol. Many people will read this, but carry on drinking above the recommended limit - but this is what has to stop.”

Norman Lamb, North Norfolk MP and Lib Dem health spokesman, helped compile the latest national report from the Liberal Democrats which included a 17.2pc increase in alcohol-related liver disease, with up to 14,500 cases last year, and a 41pc increase in alcoholic hepatic failure, with up to 1,200 cases last year.

Mr Lamb said: “Such a dramatic increase in liver disease raises serious concerns about the enormous damage that alcohol misuse is doing to our health.

“My concerns in Norfolk are for families because drink really does cause chaos for children and it can ruin their lives. I think alcohol is a poor relation to drugs in many respects with a lack of funding to tackle it and really change attitudes.”

As reported last month, Greater Norfolk coroner William Armstrong issued a stern warning about alcohol abuse, saying that it was to blame for an increasing number of deaths in the county including alcohol poisoning, drink-driving and falls.

Mr Armstrong feels so strongly about the hazards of alcohol abuse that he is taking an active interest in how the county deals with the devastating effects of the drug and recently visited the city's night-time SOS bus to see how it operates and to give the initiative his support.

For help with alcohol problems, log on to or call the Matthew Project 0800 764754.