Study Finds Emergency Services Paralyzed by Alcohol

Nov. 25, 2003
Emergency services workers, firefighters and police in the United Kingdom recently told researchers they are operating under the influence; the influence of alcohol misuse by the general public.

Like the U.S., where EMTs often respond to car accidents caused by alcohol misuse and police officers in urban and rural areas find many of their calls are related to alcohol or drug misuse, emergency respondents in the UK are tired of the toll alcohol abuse is taking on them.

Almost 80 percent of front-line emergency workers say they don't have the staff, training or other resources to deal with the massive impact of alcohol misuse, while almost 70 percent of police polled believe that alcohol-related incidents frequently divert them from tackling other crime.

As many as 90 percent of EMTs and emergency room technicians and doctors say either they or a coworker have been victims of physical or verbal abuse from drunken patients, while 92 percent of police have been attacked by drunks.

"We're little more than a glorified UN peace-keeping force," said one police officer of the mayhem caused by binge drinking on Friday or Saturday nights, or after special sporting events.

"This research illustrates just how poorly we have been managing alcohol misuse in England. Some people see [alcohol misuse] as just about personal choice, but there is another side to this story which we are hearing loud and clear - that our already overstretched emergency services are being left to deal with the fallout," said Eric Appleby, chief executive of Alcohol Concern, a group which urges and supports more responsible alcohol use.

The Alcohol Harm Reduction group, a public service organization, has published recommendations for a national strategy to combat alcohol misuse. Their measures include:

  • A three-fold increase in funding for alcohol treatment services
  • More widespread information about the dangers of alcohol misuse
  • Local alcohol strategies to be implemented to reduce alcohol-related harm within communities

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