31 August 2006

Drink-related liver disease deaths rising - The Herald

by ALAN MacDERMID, the Herald

The death toll from drink-related liver disease in Scotland has risen by nearly 60% in eight years, the biggest increase of any alcohol-related disease during this period.

Figures released by the Scottish Parliament show a huge rise in alcohol-related deaths overall between 1998 and 2005, but the comparison has been distorted by the inclusion after 2004 of a number of fatal illnesses - including certain oesophageal cancers.

They were running at record levels in Lanarkshire, Lothian, Argyll and Clyde, and Fife health board areas.

In 1990 there were 657 alcohol-related deaths in Scotland. By 1997, the annual toll reached 1061. By 2000 the death toll stood at 1292, hitting a record 1525 in 2003 before dipping to 1478 the following year.

In 2005, the figure again increased and stood at 1513, according to statistics given to SNP MSP Stewart Stevenson in response to a parliamentary question.

Other figures showed heroin and morphine deaths have increased by 35% since 1999 and totalled 225 in 2004. In 1996 the total was just 84.

There were similar increases in deaths involving the drug ecstasy, which claimed nine lives in 1996 but 17 in 2004. Deaths involving amphetamines also went up, from five in 1996 to 10 in 2004.

Greater Glasgow was the area worst afflicted by drink-related deaths, with 376 last year. Lothian Health Board area had 221 drink-related deaths last year while the then Argyll and Clyde Health Board had 177, Lanarkshire 184 and Fife 76.

SNP Shadow Health Minister Shona Robison said: "The fact that so many people are dying from drink as well as drug-related deaths should come as a stark warning that we have a lot of work still to do to combat Scotland's drink and drugs problems."

Tory health spokeswoman Dr Nanette Milne said: "Society has clearly changed over the past two decades and we now see women drinking as much as men. Sadly, this would suggest that the executive's strategy to tackle alcohol abuse isn't making any real impact on the problem."

An executive spokesman said: "We are well aware of Scotland's problems with alcohol. That is why we have a range of work under way to try and tackle the causes and consequences of alcohol misuse."
Categories [Health and Community Care]
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Reproduced with permission from The Herald (Glasgow) © Newsquest (Herald & Times) Ltd

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