Shocking toll of drink in Ipswich

ONE in seven people in Ipswich are harming themselves by drinking too much booze, The Evening Star can reveal today.Shocking new figures show that across the town there are 15,359 regular drinkers whose habit is considered “harmful” or “hazardous” to their health.

ONE in seven people in Ipswich are harming themselves by drinking too much booze, The Evening Star can reveal today.

Shocking new figures show that across the town there are 15,359 regular drinkers whose habit is considered “harmful” or “hazardous” to their health.

And, in a worrying confirmation of the extent of the problems, experts say there are also a massive 2,389 alcoholics in the town.

Meanwhile it has emerged that booze-related problems such as crime, health issues and lost work hours cost Ipswich a staggering £40million a year.

The study, collated by Ipswich Borough Council, found that as a result of binge-drinking the town has higher levels of alcohol-related crime than the UK average.

Meanwhile around 40 people a week get so intoxicated they need hospital treatment.

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The council is looking to team up with partner agencies, such as police and health bodies, to find ways of tackling the issues in a long-term bid to address the problems.

Across the UK the cost of booze-related issues comes to a staggering £20billion a year which equates to a cost of £41.6million for a town with the population of Ipswich.

Tibbs Pinter, substance misuse officer at Ipswich Borough Council, said: “It is quite a dramatic figure and highlights why we need to look at it and take a methodical and strategic approach.

“We have never had a basis from which to work but this report gives us some evidence and figures which show the problem in relation to Ipswich and we want to do something about it.

“A lot of people drink and enjoy the amount they drink and it doesn't cause any health or community problems.

“We don't want to penalise that or come out as though it is not an economic asset.

“Pubs and clubs do a fantastic job in the town and in general are good at preventing alcohol-related disorder.

“But some figures show we do have a problem.”

The findings of the study coincide with councillors pushing ahead with plans for a booze ban throughout the entire borough of Ipswich in an attempt to combat street drinkers.

At a meeting of Ipswich Borough Council's executive committee last night it was agreed to put the idea out to public consultation.

If police, businesses, health organisations and the public agree with the concept of a ban it could come into place as early as this summer.

The council is looking at further short-term “fixes” that can be put in place to address issues around alcohol, but is also looking to put long-term plans in place to deal with underlying reasons for alcohol abuse among the town's population.

Earlier this week The Evening Star reported that admissions to hospital with an alcohol-related diagnosis have shot up by 58 per cent since 1997/98 across the whole of Suffolk.

In 2005/06 there were 974 admissions compared to 616 in 1997/98.

Alcohol in Ipswich - the stark facts:

n> A “harmful” drinker is a man drinking more than 50 units a week (25 pints of beer) or a woman drinking more than 35 units a week (six bottles of wine)

n> A “hazardous” drinker is a man drinking between 35 and 50 units a week or a woman drinking between 14 and 21 units a week.

n> An estimated 17pc of over 16s in Ipswich drink double the recommended daily maximum or more in a single binge session.

n> In a single four-month period between September and December 2005 a total of 599 emergency calls were made to the ambulance service in Ipswich due to intoxication - close to 40 a week.

n> Alcohol was the direct reason for 72 per cent of these calls with 13pc a result of drug use and 15pc a combination of both.

n> People in Ipswich who visit pubs and bars three or more times a week are twice as likely to be victims of violence compared to those who rarely visit pubs or bars.

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