Belfast Telegraph

Alcohol-related deaths' record high

More people than ever before died of alcohol abuse in Northern Ireland last year.

There were 283 deaths and the toll has risen by around 50% over the last decade. People are dying up to 24 years early.

The largest number of deaths happened in those aged 45-54 and the most deprived were most likely to die.

British Liver Trust spokeswoman Sarah Matthews said: "There is a clear correlation between the growing tide of health harm and cheap, easily available alcohol."

Last year, there were also 84 drug-related deaths, where the cause of death was due to either legal or illegal drugs. This is a decrease on the 89 drug-related deaths registered in 2008. The number of drug-related deaths registered has doubled over the last decade. The largest number happened in those aged between 35 and 44.

There were significantly higher numbers of drug and alcohol-related deaths in areas of deprivation across Northern Ireland. People living in deprived communities are around four times more likely to die from alcohol-related disease such as liver failure as those who live in the least deprived areas.

Ms Matthews said alcohol was promoted on our favourite sports stars' kit, played a central role in the majority of soaps on TV and was piled high in our supermarkets and corner shops.

"Coupled with the fact it is sold at pocket money prices, where a bottle of Coke is more expensive than cider, it calls into question what message this sends out to people," she added. "While there is certainly not a one-hit wonder approach to reducing these deaths, there is a package of measures that can have an impact such as better information, a minimum price per unit, mandatory drinks labelling and an end to the retailers using alcohol to drive footfall into their stores."

Minimum pricing for alcohol in clubs and supermarkets should be introduced as soon as possible, Alex Attwood has said.

Buy one get one free, women drinking for nothing and all-you-can-drink offers could be curbed under fresh proposals from the Social Development Minister.

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