SOARING numbers Harrogate residents are seeking treatment for alcoholism caused by drinking excessively at home to cope with increasing levels of stress, worrying new figures have revealed.
Yorkshire now has the highest proportion of population at “increased risk drinking” - people who regularly drink to excess at home - in the country, with the problem particulary severe in North Yorkshire where six of its eight local authority areas are in the bottom 25 of all 326 in England.
Harrogate is ranked second from bottom in the country.
Health experts say the worrying rise is being fuelled by a toxic combination of people working harder for increasingly longer hours in the wake of the recession and using alcohol as a pressure valve, alongside a growing cultural shift where it is increasingly common to drink to excess at home.
Now private detox clinics say there has been a marked increase in high-paid workers from across the region seeking help to battle alcoholism.
The latest NHS figures for Yorkshire show it is the second highest of all English regions for hazardous drinking, with nearly half of all men and 39 per cent of women reporting consuming more than Department of Health recommended daily units.
Managers and other professionals have reported they consume the most alcohol, putting them at serious risk of liver and heart disease in later life.
The Cygnet Hospital Harrogate, which offers private alcohol detox programmes for people across the region, says there has been a growing number of people contacting the clinic in need of help.
Ward manager Penny Tugman, 48, said: “It isn’t the traditional down and out drunkard walking in, we have very well-to-do people coming.
“We have had some very senior people working in professions like law and medecine and just did not realise - alcohol does not respect any level of society.
“There is certainly a link between high levels of stress and anxiety and the use of alcohol.
“When you drink you feel as if you are calming down but in actual fact the side effects create more anxiety - it becomes a vicious circle.
“Health practioners are recogising more and more that alcohol is a problem.
“We have seen many patients that are on anti-depressants, they have gone to their doctor to talk about stress at work or depression but have not even been asked about their drinking, since alcohol is socially acceptable.
“It can be so well hidden and people do not realise until it is a problem until it is too late.”
The direct cost to the NHS of treating alcohol related conditions is estimated at £2.7 billion a year.
To help combat the rise, NHS North Yorkshire and York has now launched a campaign targeting people who drink at home.
Rachel Johns, associate director of public health, said: “What we have seen is that recently there does seem to be a relationship between more well off areas having higher estimated alcohol consumption.
“Drinking to excess is dangerous, whoever you are and whatever your background.”