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The scale of alcohol-related harm

Our relationship with alcohol has been normalised in modern society. In 2016, 7% of adults regularly drank over the chief medical officers low risk guidelines (14 units for men and women), and 2.5 million reported drinking over 14 units on their heaviest drinking day.

Doctors see first-hand the harmful impact of alcohol. There is strong evidence of the harm caused by alcohol, and the effectiveness of a range of interventions, most recently highlighted by a Public Health England evidence review. A number of interventions are needed to tackle the harms caused by alcohol.


Reducing alcohol-related harm

The overarching objective of alcohol policy should be to reduce the total volume of alcohol across the population of the UK. A comprehensive approach is required, involving a range of measures.

Population measures are needed to tackle the main drivers of alcohol consumption – accessibility and availability – as well as to address key influences such as alcohol marketing. These measures should be complemented by more targeted actions, such as drink driving restrictions and measures to support heavy drinkers. 

Read our report on tackling alcohol related harm


Campaigning: a new alcohol strategy in England

Woman buying alcohol in shop, Pregnancy

The forthcoming alcohol strategy in England represents an important opportunity for the Government to commit to a comprehensive and effective range of policy measures to tackle alcohol-related harm.

We have produced a briefing which provides further information on the range of key policy responses needed.

Download our briefing

Read our recent letter to the Public Health Minister on the need for a new alcohol strategy, and our factsheet on alcohol treatment services in England.

Download our letter

Download our factsheet

The BMA has a long history of campaigning for measures to reduce the harmful impact of alcohol, including:

Minimum unit pricing (MUP)

Reducing the drink driving limit

Alcohol and pregnancy

We also campaign on a range of alcohol-related issues at a European level. Pending the UK’s formal departure from the EU (expected to take place in 2019), EU legislation currently supersedes UK law in a number of areas linked to alcohol related harm. For example, EU legislation determines how foodstuffs are labelled – including nutritional information – and advertising across Europe. Alcoholic drinks are currently exempt from this, however, the European Commission is working on a proposal which would include alcoholic beverages in the legislation.


Role of doctors

Healthcare professionals have an important role to play in the early identification of patients with an alcohol problem, and in delivering brief advice to help them reduce their consumption. All healthcare professionals should receive adequate training in prevention, early identification and brief alcohol interventions.

Doctors are in a unique position to advocate for the health needs of their patients. Our briefing sets out a range of measures for reducing the harm caused by alcohol. Doctors have a key role in providing an important medical perspective, advocating for action in their workplace, local area or by influencing national and international policy.


Further reading

Tackling alcohol-related harm

Alcohol and pregnancy: preventing and managing fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (2016 update)

Under the influence – the damaging effect of alcohol marketing on young people

Alcohol misuse: tackling the UK epidemic


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