COMMENT: Alcohol is a deep-seated problem

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It is commonly said that the first and most vital step in tackling a problem is knowing you have a problem. Well, we, as a nation, know we have an alcohol problem, and we have known for some time.

While consumption in many countries (such as France, Italy and Spain) has fallen in recent decades, consumption in the United Kingdom has doubled since the 1950s (including an 11 per cent increase in Scotland since the mid-1990s).

Alcohol is a contributory factor in around 50 different causes of death, ranging from cancers and strokes to assaults and road deaths. Deaths caused by alcohol have doubled in recent decades, with Scotland having had one of the fastest-growing chronic liver disease and cirrhosis rates in the world.

Half of Scottish prisoners (including 75 per cent of young offenders) say they were drunk at the time of the offence.

Alcohol misuse is estimated to cost Scotland £3.6 billion each year – the equivalent of £900 for every adult in Scotland. This includes around £730m in crime costs. There were 1152 alcohol-related deaths in Scotland in 2014 and 35,059 alcohol-related hospital stays in 2014-15.

There can be no doubt that we are aware we have a problem and yet the steps taken to tackle it seem to be having little impact. Although it is only one set of statistics the increase in the amount of people under the influence of drink or drugs seeking ambulance assistance over the festive period in Edinburgh just reinforces the point.

There was a 21 per cent rise in ambulance crews attending to people under the influence of alcohol or drugs over Christmas.

We know it is a deep-seated problem, we know that Scotland has revelled in its reputation as hard drinkers.

It would seem we know a great deal, but not when it comes 
to doing something effective 
about it.