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by Louise Wilson
24 June 2021
People suffering from alcohol dependency cut back on other spending because of minimum pricing

Press Association

People suffering from alcohol dependency cut back on other spending because of minimum pricing

Minimum pricing for alcohol may be causing some people struggling with dependency to reduce daily spending elsewhere in order to afford alcohol, a new report has said.

Early findings of a study also found most people reported drinking the same amount of alcohol as before minimum unit pricing (MUP) was introduced.

However, it also concluded that on the whole there was little evidence of negative consequences of the policy, including no evidence of a shift towards using illicit substances.

The findings are contained in an interim report by the University of Sheffield on the impact of MUP on people who are dependent on alcohol and are accessing treatment services.

The policy was originally passed in 2012 but MUP was only introduced in 2018 owing to a lengthy legal battle.

It sets a minimum price of 50p per unit on alcohol sold in Scotland.

Earlier studies have concluded the policy was having a lasting impact, with alcohol sales in Scotland falling by almost eight per cent since it was introduced.

This latest study has found the proportion of people with alcohol dependence are now less likely to be consuming low-cost alcohol products.

Over 60 per cent of participants in the study has noticed prices changing in the months following implementation of MUP, with two-thirds of them describing alcohol as “much more” expensive.

One in five respondents reported they have reduced expenditure on other things in order to purchase alcohol.

And while alcohol consumption has not changed for two thirds of respondents, half said they has sought treatment for dependency and one in five said they had reduced the amount they were drinking since MUP was introduced.

Professor John Holmes, a professor of alcohol policy at Sheffield University who led the study, said: “These early findings support previous results from the evaluation of MUP in Scotland by showing that the policy has reduced the availability of cheap alcohol, which was often consumed by those at greatest risk of harm from their drinking.

“They also highlight the need for government and health authorities to think about how they can support people with alcohol dependence when alcohol prices increase sharply.”

The final report is expected in 2022.

Alcohol Focus Scotland, a charity seeking to reduce alcohol harm, has welcomed the findings of the study.

Deputy chief executive Laura Mahon said: “We need to seriously consider how to better support people with existing alcohol dependence to ensure that we can support them into recovery.

“This needs to include helping people cope with some of the underlying reasons why they developed an alcohol problem, but also some of the ongoing issues they face, for example insecure housing.

“Currently only a small proportion of people who need support are in receipt of services and this needs to change.”

Read the most recent article written by Louise Wilson - Scottish Government challenged over school rule ‘inconsistencies’

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