STARTLING statistics show that alcohol related deaths in Mansfield and Ashfield are increasing to epidemic proportions, but this trend is just ‘the tip of the iceberg’ according to a King’s Mill doctor.
Consultant gastroenterologist, Dr Sharat Misra, who has worked at the hospital for six years, has seen a dramatic increase in the number of hospital admissions for alcohol related diseases.
He is calling for better education in schools and government intervention to change the cultural acceptance of alcohol in our society.
“It’s too easy to drink to excess because alcohol is so cheap and accessible for all,” states Dr Misra. “I believe changes need to be made for public health reasons regarding alcohol just like they have been made towards tobacco.
“The amount people buy should be limited as you can’t buy two bottles of paracetomol but you can buy case after case of beer. The number of lung cancer deaths has declined yet the number of people dying because of alcohol is increasing to explosive proportions. It is an epidemic.”
There is a north/south divide when it comes to the number of alcohol related deaths. Figures also show the rise is connected to deprivation.
Dr Misra confirmed this was a trend reflected in the Mansfield and Ashfield area. “Ashfield has the worst figures in the East Midlands and is the sixth worst nationally for women dying from alcohol related liver disease. .
“These figures though are just the tip of the iceberg as many people could be dying from alcohol related diseases but not accessing hospital services.”
Due to the nature of liver disease, symptoms don’t present themselves until it has become severe in the form of jaundice, fluid retention, abdominal pains or vomiting of blood. By this time it could be too late to reverse the damage. Very often it is only when the person develops complications that they seek help -which could be too late,” added Dr Misra. “If you think you drink too much the only way to check if you have any liver damage is through a blood test. If it comes back abnormal then you need to stop drinking to give your liver chance to recover.”
The drinking recommendations voiced by the Department of Health have changed over the years and has been open to misinterpretaion. Many people believe their health will be ok as long as they only drink the suggested safe amount over the week but this isn’t the case.
“Binge-drinking is a big problem as people think it’s ok to drink their weekly recommended amount in one night. It isn’t. Binge-drinking leads to problems and acts as a big hammer on the brain and liver.”
Liver disease is not the only problem associated with excessive alcohol consumption. Pancreatitis, brain damage, heart disease, hypertension, obesity and diabetes are also common and accounts for 35 per cent of all King’s Mill A & E admissions.
The increased number of alcohol related diseases and its effects has put resources and facilities at King’s Mill under stress. More admissions mean more beds are needed which demands an increase in staff levels and therefore costs. Today there are four patients in ITU due to alcohol related liver disease.
“More investment is needed in liver care services,” added Dr Misra. “We have an excellent alcohol liaison nursing network that we need to build upon to reach more people in our communities.
Dr Misra concluded: “People need to take responsibility for their own lives. The only way to dramatically reduce your chances of getting liver disease is to stop drinking. Say NO to alcohol.”