Coronavirus sparks huge rise in numbers entering Essex alcohol rehab

More alcoholics than ever before have admitted themselves into a rehab in Essex during the four month peak of the coronavirus crisis.

Figures from the UK Addiction Treatment Group have revealed how between April 1 and August 1 of this year, a staggering 80 per cent of all admissions into UKAT’s Sanctuary Lodge facility in Halstead were for alcohol addiction.

In comparison, between the same period last year, Sanctuary Lodge admitted 209 clients into treatment, of which 134 – representing 64 per cent of the total – were for alcohol addiction.

In the same four months this year, the same rehab admitted fewer clients overall, yet the percentage of those admitted for alcohol rose to 80 per cent – 114 of the 143 total –  demonstrating the significant shift in people’s relationship with alcohol during the pandemic.

Sanctuary Lodge is a private provider with premises in Halstead that takes referrals from across the whole country, not just from Essex residents, and individuals fund their own treatment.

UKAT’s Group Head of Treatment, Nuno Albuquerque, said: “The coronavirus crisis has affected people in different ways. For some, a way of coping with the pandemic would have been to turn to alcohol, or to drink more alcohol than they did previously in order to feel calm about the unfolding and devastating situation happening across the world.

“But it’s important to remember that alcohol is a depressant and regular, heavy drinking interferes with chemicals in the brain that are key for good mental health. Feeling relaxed after a drink is short-lived, whereas over time, alcohol can have an impact on your mental health and can contribute to feelings of depression and anxiety and worse still, it actually makes stressful situations like the Covid-crisis harder to deal with.”

It has been widely reported that more and more people living in the UK consumed more alcohol during the crisis than they did before. Unfortunately, this also led to higher alcohol-related fatalities. Being in lockdown and being isolated can contribute to people developing unhealthy relationships with alcohol.

Mr Albuquerque added: “The last few months have forced people into isolation and to contemplate what is important to them. For some, drinking heavily was a way of suppressing feelings of worry, loneliness and fear, but for others, it was a time to reflect and to ask themselves if continuing to drink was the right thing for them.

“Thankfully, those people decided that enough was enough, and we’re seeing more and more people than ever before across Essex take that first brave step in investing in their health in order to protect their future, and asking for help with their alcohol addiction.”

An Essex County Council spokesperson said: “An increase in people seeking treatment for excessive alcohol consumption during the Covid-19 pandemic is something that has been seen across the country. It is reassuring that individuals are recognising they may have an issue with alcohol and actively seeking help.

“We would encourage anyone who may be struggling with alcohol consumption in Essex to find out more about the support available through Phoenix Futures by contacting 01376 316126 or emailing [email protected].”

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Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter