CHEAP booze and people turning to the bottle to cope with stress are being blamed for the worsening binge drinking problem in Chester.
Health leaders believe urgent action and new approaches are needed to tackle the problem after revealing almost 25 per cent of over 16s are now classed as binge drinkers.
Each year £136m is spent dealing with alcohol-related problems across West Cheshire , £416 for every man, woman and child.
Caryn Cox, director of public health for Cheshire West and Chester Council (CWaC), said: “To most people the phrase ‘binge drinking’ conjures up visions of irresponsible young people out in town centres. But our health services are seeing increasing numbers of older drinkers in their 40s and 50s with health problems caused by alcohol.
“There are also worrying trends of liver disease in younger age groups than previously, particularly for younger women.
“The widespread availability of cheap alcohol, drunk regularly for ‘relaxation’ as a stress buster or to help cope with the pressures of everyday life, is having an impact on our community’s health.”
CWaC has taken on responsibility for public health and combating binge drinking will be a key target as the authority recommisions £10m of services.
Currently 23.5 per cent of over 16s in West Cheshire, about 62,000 people, drink more than twice the recommended units of alcohol in one session and more people are drinking regularly in their own homes.
Drug and alcohol treatment services are among those that will be re-commissioned and the current service includes specialist clinics, outreach work and recovery groups.
Caryn Cox said: “The new service will have to address the changes in drinking patterns, affecting people right across the social spectrum who may never have thought of themselves as being in need of treatment for an alcohol problem.”
Drug and alcohol treatments are currently separate services but CWaC wants to combine the two and has launched a public consultation on the proposal.
Health professionals, service users, police and charities will all be involved in the 12-week consultation.
Other services involved in the wider review and commissioning programme include sexual health, obesity, mental health and smoking cessation.
Cllr Brenda Dowding, executive member for adult health and social care, said: “In re-commissioning services, we seek to significantly improve the outcomes for local people over and above the level of performance currently delivered.
“We’ll work to develop a multi skilled market that supports individuals in having access to a range of quality health services.”