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The Royal College of Physicians has a long history of raising awareness of the health damage caused by alcohol and has played a crucial role in the debate surrounding government alcohol policy since its first comments on the gin epidemic in 1725.
There is clear evidence that excessive alcohol consumption has a significant impact on individuals' long-term health. Alcohol is a factor in more than 40 serious medical conditions, including liver disease and cancer, and one of the major preventable causes of death in the UK. Alcohol misuse also places a huge burden on the NHS, with the number of hospital admissions due to alcohol consumption rising rapidly in the last ten years.
To tackle this rise in alcohol misuse, the RCP advocates for a coordinated, comprehensive and evidence-based approach to alcohol policy to:
- reduce alcohol consumption across the population by addressing the price, availability and marketing of alcohol products, especially to young people
- support high quality health services to ensure the early identification and effective treatment of patients with alcohol-related health problems.
The RCP regularly provides expert input into key alcohol strategies and inquiries. Recently this has included submitting evidence to:
- the Home Office consultation on key initiatives from the 2012 Alcohol Strategy
- the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee inquiry on alcohol guidelines
- the House of Commons Health Committee inquiry on the alcohol strategy. Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, the RCP's special adviser on alcohol also gave evidence to the inquiry.
The RCP also produces key publications highlighting the evidence on alcohol-related health harms and effective prevention and treatment strategies. The latest working party report Alcohol and sex: a cocktail for poor sexual health highlights the link between alcohol and poor sexual health, particularly in the young.