An authoritative new report, which claims alcohol is the most harmful drug in the UK, looks set to provide further impetus to health lobby efforts to reduce consumption and introduce measures such as minimum pricing.
The new study from the Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs, led by former Government adviser David Nutt and published in The Lancet, states that while the likes of heroin causes more harm to the individual, alcohol's impact on wider society is greatest.
Nutt and his colleagues claim that if drugs were classified on the basis of the harm they do, alcohol would be class A, alongside heroin and crack cocaine.
It is likely to reignite calls for the current drug classification system to be scrapped and open the door for a tougher approach to alcohol and licensing, at a time when many pubs are struggling with falling sales and ever increasing taxation.
The coalition is also currently reviewing the Licensing Act for England and Wales, which was introduced by the previous Labour administration and has been consistently criticised by Conservatives and Liberal Democrats alike, with claims that it has made the UK's binge drinking worse.
Don Shenker, chief executive of Alcohol Concern, said: "What this study and new classification shows is that successive governments have mistakenly focused attention on illicit drugs, whereas the pervading harms from alcohol should have given a far higher priority.
"Alcohol misuse has been exacerbated in recent years as government failed to accept the link between cheap prices, higher consumption and resultant harms to individuals and society."
"Government should now urgently ensure alcohol is made less affordable and invest in prevention and treatment services to deal with the rise in alcohol dependency that has occurred."
By Chris Druce
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