Dying for a Drink Panorama


Dying for a Drink

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This is Victoria. She's 35 and has been drinking a bottle of brandy a

:00:36.:00:44.

day. It's not sore. It's tender. Matthew's 45. 20 pints a day left

:00:45.:00:48.

him needing a liver transplant. When Mr Richardson said, "Matthew

:00:48.:00:55.

you're dying", I cried my eyes out. And Brian's 32. He drank so much

:00:55.:01:00.

cheap cider, he ended up living in a cave. Grim place, isn't it?

:01:00.:01:04.

This just looked like a normal home to me when I was drinking.

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They're part of a new younger generation of problem drinkers.

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are seeing people as young as those in their 20s dying of alcoholic

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liver disease. Tonight Panorama gets rare access

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to a hospital that's seeing the impact of drink on every ward.

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Worse case scenario, it will kill you.

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And we ask, are the Government doing enough to stop us drinking

:01:29.:01:39.
:01:39.:01:58.

ourselves to death? Saw you awhile back, didn't I? I can't remember.

:01:58.:02:01.

Must get that done today. It's Friday morning at Liverpool's

:02:01.:02:09.

biggest hospital, the Royal. OK. Who do we have in here?

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Liver specialist Paul Richardson is on his ward round. One of his

:02:13.:02:22.

patients is worrying him. Is she still tearful? She is.

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Her name is Victoria White. Morning. Hi,.

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Victoria's only 35. She's got two children. But she's been drinking

:02:39.:02:43.

heavily since she was a teenager. And this is her today.

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Some people go their separate ways from alcohol. I didn't. I just

:02:46.:02:54.

carried on with it. You're just selfish through drink.

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As long as you're all right, you just don't care. You really don't

:02:57.:03:07.
:03:07.:03:10.

care. Don't get me wrong. The kids were clean and, you know, clothed

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and stuff like that, but that's besides the point. They need a

:03:13.:03:15.

mother, not a drunk. Her eyes are yellow because her

:03:15.:03:19.

liver's failing, and Victoria's been here before. She nearly died

:03:19.:03:22.

five years ago and was told to stop drinking.

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I was okay at first. I'd just have a couple and leave it, and then as

:03:28.:03:31.

the days went to weeks, I just started drinking again. And here I

:03:31.:03:41.
:03:41.:03:44.

am today. Just ruined by this substance that

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I pour into my body. And her mother Debbie has watched

:03:47.:03:52.

drink slowly take over her daughter's life.

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When she was about 16, she started lying, saying she hadn't had a

:03:55.:04:00.

drink, but, you know, you could smell it on her. You could tell.

:04:00.:04:03.

We'd start finding, like, cans of cider, bottles of vodka in her

:04:03.:04:09.

bedroom. She'd hide them under her bed. It wasn't like a few glasses

:04:09.:04:19.
:04:19.:04:21.

of lager. It was like bottles of vodka, bottles and bottles of cider.

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And all that vodka and cider has left Victoria very ill. The doctor

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has serious concerns. He decides to take Victoria's mum away for a chat.

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What Debbie hears now is every parent's nightmare. Off camera

:04:36.:04:46.
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she's told her daughter is getting I'd have expected to see

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improvement by this sort of stage of her hospital stay, and

:04:56.:05:02.

unfortunately, I've not seen the sort of progress that I'd like to.

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Alcoholic liver failure is what used to kill old men. Now it also

:05:08.:05:11.

kills young women. Paul Richardson says about two-thirds of his cases

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are alcohol-related, but it is the trend that is most disturbing.

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Cases of alcoholic liver disease in the under 30s have risen by half in

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the last ten years. Both locally and nationally, people

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who work in the field of hepatology have noticed an increase in

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alcoholic liver disease - and particularly alcoholic liver

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disease in a younger generation or a younger population, should I say.

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We are seeing people as young as those in their 20s dying of

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alcoholic liver disease, end-stage liver damage from alcohol. Now,

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that was just not seen 30 years ago. So how did it come to this - with

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alcoholic liver disease rising so dramatically and affecting younger

:05:53.:05:56.

and younger people? Experts say it's down to our national addiction

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- drink. It's everywhere. It's cheap, and

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millions of people are drinking too much. From happy hours to

:06:08.:06:14.

supermarket deals, alcohol is hurting the nation's health.

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It's costing the health service about �2.7 billion a year, and in

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fact about nine million people are affected by the harms that alcohol

:06:20.:06:30.
:06:30.:06:32.

causes. So it's a big problem. It's not just words and statistics.

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This is what we saw one Friday night in the Royal's A&E. We're in

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Liverpool, but this could be anywhere.

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He's been out tonight, and he's had at least half a bottle of vodka.

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He's been found sleeping on the floor, and his friends have gone

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home and left him. This young lady that's just come in

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was found lying in the street by police totally by herself. No-one

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with her, and she's been drinking a lot tonight - said at least a

:07:04.:07:13.
:07:14.:07:16.

bottle of vodka. It is only 1.00am, so you never

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know what's going to come in. The young in here have grown up in

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a new drinking culture - a generation that's only known cheap,

:07:22.:07:29.

readily available alcohol. What happened to you?

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Have you been drinking tonight? She's been out tonight. She's had

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quite a lot to drink, and she says a lot of vodka. And she's ended up

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in Sefton Park and doesn't know how she's got there. Have you been out

:07:42.:07:52.
:07:52.:07:53.

tonight? Basically, my brother Paul had a

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fall this evening after a few drinks. One too many.

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Hit the wrong kerb and went over. It can look comical, but the scale

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is terrifying. A quarter of the adult population drinks too much.

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It was my birthday. I had about four or five pints for my birthday.

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We've got the problem if we have a lot of people intoxicated by

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alcohol in the cubicles, we've got nowhere then to see patients that

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need to be assessed and things like that. It's very difficult to know

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why our culture has changed so radically, but all the

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international evidence suggests that the big drivers for the amount

:08:26.:08:28.

people drink, the amount populations drink, are the price,

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the availability and the marketing, and that's what we've been trying

:08:31.:08:37.

to push governments to - to look at their policies.

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But how much influence can politicians have on our national

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drink problem? Well, our Prime Minister has strong views on cheap

:08:43.:08:47.

alcohol and the consequences of drinking too much.

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And this is the stuff that you're talking about - Frosty Jacks. That

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is three litres, 5.28 pints, 7.5%. And what would that cost me?

:08:59.:09:05.

can get that for �1.99. �1.99. You drink that lot, �1.99. You'll be

:09:05.:09:08.

completely smashed. In opposition, the Conservatives

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were clear that price was an issue. Their manifesto said: Ban off-

:09:13.:09:20.

licences and supermarkets from selling alcohol below cost price.

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Before coming to power, the Conservatives set up a Health

:09:23.:09:28.

Commission to find a new way of dealing with public health problems.

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Invited onto the panel were those who make and sell alcohol sitting

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alongside health professionals. One of those invited was Simon Capewell,

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a professor of public health at Liverpool University. He joined

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because he thought everything was up for discussion. But he says

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that's not how it really worked out. Every time effective interventions

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were discussed - legislation, regulation, taxation, subsidies for

:09:51.:09:54.

healthy options - there was a polite nod, and then we moved on to

:09:54.:09:58.

the next item, and of course, when we got to drafting and finalising

:09:58.:10:01.

the report, all of these - the most effective interventions - were

:10:01.:10:11.
:10:11.:10:18.

notable by their absence. But in power, the coalition

:10:18.:10:20.

government clearly thought this more consensual approach was a good

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idea. They called in the drinks industry and the health lobby.

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So in theory, this would bring all of the interested parties together

:10:32.:10:35.

- the drinks industry and the health lobby with the Government

:10:35.:10:39.

listening and brokering a way forward. All sounds good.

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The companies that make and market alcohol were represented, as were

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the supermarkets. A number of health and pressure groups were

:10:46.:10:51.

there too. But once again the allegation is real change was not

:10:51.:10:53.

on the agenda. We put forward the suggestion that

:10:53.:10:56.

the supermarkets should not stack huge mountains of alcohol in the

:10:56.:11:01.

front of their stores. We put forward the suggestion that we

:11:01.:11:03.

should have health warnings on alcohol adverts, that supermarkets

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shouldn't advertise on the basis of price. All of these suggestions

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from the health organizations were met with complete stony silence.

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The health lobby also claim that the crucial issue of pricing was

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off limits. Every alcohol expert in the world looking at the issue, the

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World Health Organisation down, will tell you pricing and

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availability are two incredibly important planks. So being told

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that they were off the table was extremely worrying.

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They were so concerned by what they saw and heard that in March of this

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year many groups, including the British Medical Association,

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decided to withdraw from the consultation process. I think it's

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a tragedy. I think it's so sad because the goodwill of the health

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lobby is enormous. The health lobby stopped talking to you because they

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just felt you were way too close to the drinks industry. That's what

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they say. They wrote to you and told you that. I'm really sad

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actually that people stopped talking to us because it's never

:12:03.:12:10.

productive. We have to talk to people that we disagree with. But

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it's really important because actually when you look at public

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health and alcohol is a public health issue, what we need to do is

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to employ every tool in the box and everybody but everybody has got a

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part to play. Now, since coming to power the

:12:22.:12:25.

government has increased the tax on super-strength beer and has taken

:12:25.:12:30.

the first steps towards banning drinks being sold below cost. But

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the main policy document - the delayed Alcohol Strategy - is now

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expected by the end of the year. So right now the government's deciding

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:12:46.:12:55.

just how far it should go to tackle The problem comes with who it

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chooses to listen to. For many of those on the front line at the

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Royal any solution would need to be dramatic. They see a problem that's

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moved a long way from just Friday nights, even Tuesday lunch is

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dominated by booze. This is really common. They say at peak times, 70%

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of A&E presentations are alcohol- related in some way, whether it's

:13:19.:13:29.
:13:29.:13:30.

directly or indirectly. Kelly is 29. She's here with her younger brother.

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They're both drunk. He's being treated for a cut. We have had a

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drink and that we've had a few, two bottles of vodka and a crate of

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lager, but it was my birthday, and on Saturday we just carried on.

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Kelly's brother David gets back and explains the drunken game that led

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to his fall. I swung around a lamppost, hit the lamppost, but

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missed me foot and ended up on me chin. It was like a blood shower.

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We're still going for a pint, aren't we? Let's just go and get a

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pint and a packet of crisps. Overall, alcohol consumption is

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absolutely fall but in our hospitals, alcohol-related

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admissions continue to soar. Last area for the first time there were

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more than a million. Alcoholed a mightss have doubled in a decade.

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And every single case has a big ill pact on our Health Service. The

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average in-patient costs �400 a day, so this unit at the Royal is an

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attempt to reduce those admissions. You're still a little bit shaky.

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Lynne Owens runs a team that works across the hospital with the

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thousands that come here with alcohol problems.

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Most people would imagine that most of your work would take place in

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A&E, but in this hospital, which areas would you go to? There isn't

:15:02.:15:12.
:15:12.:15:14.

an area we wouldn't go to - our coronary care unit and heart

:15:14.:15:19.

assessment unit, alcohol plays a major role in sexually transmitted

:15:19.:15:25.

diseases, orthopaedics, lots of broken bones. Clearly,

:15:25.:15:28.

gastroenterology wards with all the gut and liver problems, so I don't

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think there's anywhere that we wouldn't go. We need some LFTs,

:15:33.:15:37.

full blood count, clotting screen, random glucose. At least nine

:15:37.:15:47.
:15:47.:15:48.

million of us are still damaging We must have a look at how we

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advertise and how appealing we make alcohol seem to young people. We

:15:52.:15:54.

must look at pricing. It's absolutely crucial that we look at

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how affordable alcohol is. that's the professional, what about

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the drinker? Brian Collins is only 32. He's been in here for three

:16:06.:16:13.

weeks with acute pancreatitis. He's about to go home. What were you

:16:13.:16:17.

drinking before you came in? Up to 11 litres of strong cider a day.

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day? Of 7.5 stuff. That's a huge amount of alcohol. That quantity of

:16:24.:16:28.

alcohol is taking its toll. Your pancreas, it's a chronic condition.

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You have it all the time, don't you? Alcohol sets it off, makes it

:16:34.:16:41.

what we call an acute condition. I don't know what the pain's like but

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it must be unimaginable. So all these health problems can all be

:16:45.:16:49.

traced back to the alcohol, can't they? So what you need to think

:16:49.:16:52.

about is how can you change things. Worst case scenario, it will kill

:16:52.:16:55.

you if you continue this. Have you been told this before? They said if

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I'd carried on I wouldn't have lived to see this Christmas. Brian

:16:58.:17:01.

was treated by Professor Robert Sutton, another senior clinician

:17:01.:17:05.

whose work is dominated by the impact of alcohol. In terms of

:17:05.:17:07.

those people who have acute pancreatitis, then approximately 35

:17:07.:17:10.

to 40% have alcohol as the principal cause; and of those

:17:10.:17:12.

patients who have chronic pancreatitis, then 60-70% of those

:17:12.:17:22.

patients have alcohol as the principal cause. So a very

:17:22.:17:25.

substantial number of our patients have alcohol at the root of their

:17:25.:17:35.
:17:35.:17:42.

How long were you here, then? two-and-a-half months. A few weeks

:17:42.:17:48.

after he'd been discharged, I caught up with Brian Collins. He

:17:48.:17:56.

wanted to show us where he used to stay when he was drinking. Where

:17:56.:18:02.

were you getting the money? I was going into town and begging. That

:18:02.:18:06.

was like your job? Yeah, it was embarrassing and stuff like that,

:18:06.:18:12.

it was really embarrassing in case you bumped into anyone but, the...

:18:12.:18:15.

The illness and the problem was that bad that I couldn't do nothing

:18:15.:18:19.

else. This is the place where I was actually staying. Here? Yeah, it

:18:19.:18:23.

feels a bit mad now, looking at it, it looks a lot cleaner. So this is

:18:23.:18:26.

where you stayed? Yeah. A cave. Yeah, that's where I was staying

:18:26.:18:36.

and that. Let's have a look. So what time would you get here, then?

:18:36.:18:40.

Just before dark or something, so I'd basically find it. I'd just get

:18:40.:18:44.

right in at the back over there or over there and that and then if I

:18:44.:18:47.

heard anyone coming round I'd get here. So where would you sleep?

:18:47.:18:51.

sleep there, or over there but if I heard anyone coming round the park,

:18:51.:18:54.

gangs, I'd get here so it was quicker to get out so you're not

:18:54.:18:58.

trapped in, if anyone came in and I didn't have no cover or nothing.

:18:58.:19:01.

What does it feel like being back in here now? It feels weird. I mean,

:19:02.:19:05.

I think to myself now how bad and knowing what you've got, do you

:19:05.:19:09.

know what I mean? And look at the state of it now. It is embarrassing,

:19:09.:19:12.

like. Now, Brian drank strong cider - the drink that got David Cameron

:19:12.:19:15.

so exercised before the election. �1.99. You drink that lot, �1.99.

:19:15.:19:17.

You'll be completely smashed. Despite his shock, David Cameron

:19:17.:19:20.

hasn't managed to increase the price of strong cider. Health

:19:20.:19:25.

experts says that's what has to change - price and availability.

:19:25.:19:28.

We're not trying to have alcohol banned, and we do know that

:19:28.:19:32.

changing culture takes a long time. What we need to do is use the

:19:32.:19:38.

levers we've got, and those are price, marketing, availability.

:19:38.:19:47.

that could mean more legislation This is where the lines are drawn

:19:47.:19:51.

on the battle of booze. The Government says the details of its

:19:51.:20:01.
:20:01.:20:02.

alcohol strategy aren't finalised, Voluntary codes can get a bad name

:20:02.:20:05.

when people then don't follow through. So ASDA, for instance, has

:20:06.:20:08.

said that they will take alcohol promotions out of the front of

:20:09.:20:12.

their shops. That's a good step and we need to monitor that, so

:20:12.:20:17.

anything voluntary must be monitored. The issue here is the

:20:17.:20:19.

irresponsible consumption - dangerous levels of consumption -

:20:19.:20:22.

of minority groups. That is why the industry invests millions of pounds

:20:22.:20:25.

in campaigns to try and change their behaviour. And why, hopefully,

:20:25.:20:28.

the conversations around this are going to deliver some change in

:20:28.:20:30.

other areas, including the introduction of more low alcohol

:20:30.:20:38.

But the health lobby say the Government is too quick to listen

:20:38.:20:41.

to those who sell and produce alcohol. Panorama has found

:20:41.:20:45.

evidence that seems to demonstrate a trend. The Government and

:20:45.:20:47.

Partners Alcohol Working Group might sound obscure, but their job

:20:47.:20:54.

is to advise on the coalition's alcohol strategy. There used to be

:20:54.:20:57.

just a couple of industry representatives around the table, a

:20:57.:21:06.

clear minority. By autumn of last year, that had changed. Of the 16-

:21:06.:21:08.

person group, the drinks industry has one, two, three, four, five,

:21:08.:21:14.

six, seven members. Nearly half of those who attend who are not civil

:21:14.:21:19.

servants. I can only imagine it's because this government believes

:21:19.:21:22.

that the drinks industry has a big role to play in shaping policy, in

:21:22.:21:25.

setting the agenda, and so they have extended the invitations to a

:21:25.:21:31.

larger set of people from the drinks industry. Nearly half of the

:21:31.:21:35.

people who sit on that are from the drinks industry. That seems to show

:21:35.:21:38.

a growing influence. I think we have a communications problem in

:21:38.:21:41.

Whitehall, because you know something that I have never heard

:21:41.:21:46.

of before. It's surprising she's never heard of the group. On it are

:21:46.:21:49.

senior civil servants from the Department of Health. Those who

:21:49.:21:55.

produce and sell alcohol certainly know about it. What you've got now

:21:55.:21:58.

is a bigger awareness amongst many of the larger companies, that it's

:21:58.:22:01.

important for them to be involved in these conversations, it's

:22:01.:22:04.

important for them to be seen to implement policies that are going

:22:04.:22:09.

to be tackling what is a very real problem. This might sound like a

:22:09.:22:12.

Whitehall debate, but this is about saving thousands of lives and

:22:12.:22:20.

billions of pounds - changing society's attitude to drink. Liver

:22:20.:22:28.

disease is now England's fifth So what happens when patients leave

:22:28.:22:33.

here? Hospital is a false environment. There's no booze in

:22:33.:22:40.

there. Outside, well, alcohol is a legal drug. We live in a drinking

:22:40.:22:43.

culture. There's temptation everywhere. So how do patients stay

:22:43.:22:53.
:22:53.:22:58.

This is Matthew. By 45 he'd drunk so much he needed a liver

:22:58.:23:05.

transplant. They're expensive - �60,000 each. One in six liver

:23:05.:23:14.

transplants in the UK is caused by alcohol. I was drinking maybe 15,

:23:14.:23:18.

20 pints a day, seven days a week, which wasn't doing me any good at

:23:18.:23:23.

all. Matthew was eventually referred to Dr Richardson at

:23:23.:23:30.

Liverpool's Royal Hospital. When Mr Richardson literally said to me,

:23:30.:23:33.

"Matthew, you're dying", it did sink in and I cried me eyes out,

:23:33.:23:42.

cos I realised I've got family, you know. I've got people that I know

:23:42.:23:46.

and I didn't want to die that early, I didn't want to die that early,

:23:46.:23:50.

I've got to do something and the only way to do it then was to stop,

:23:50.:24:00.
:24:00.:24:04.

Now he's had the operation, he faces a life without alcohol.

:24:04.:24:09.

didn't think I'd make it. I thought to myself, "No, I need a drink, I

:24:09.:24:12.

need a drink." And everywhere you look, telly and everything, there's

:24:12.:24:22.
:24:22.:24:25.

drink, people are drinking on the telly, they're drinking, you know?

:24:25.:24:30.

You're like, "Oh no, drink again, God, I want a pint." When I go on

:24:30.:24:33.

Friday, I'll have to see him about the shakes. I've got this in my

:24:33.:24:37.

mind, of the people I've got to really think of, is my wife, the

:24:37.:24:40.

person who gave me the liver, especially, my wife, the doctors

:24:40.:24:50.
:24:50.:24:55.

who've looked after me, my family Do you want one, Ben? Yeah go ahead,

:24:55.:24:59.

then, lad. Matthew's having to show real strength of character. Alcohol

:24:59.:25:06.

remains all around him. Sometimes he still goes back and drinks with

:25:06.:25:12.

his mates. He drinks an orange juice - they've not changed at all.

:25:12.:25:15.

To see him now from what he was before. Especially with his new

:25:15.:25:25.
:25:25.:25:28.

teeth. I really miss having a drink. And it is hard to do it. We still

:25:28.:25:32.

have the banter and that, you know? Yeah, as long as you're having a

:25:32.:25:35.

laugh. All that matters, isn't it? It's a social thing, isn't it? This

:25:35.:25:39.

is what we do, we all meet and have a laugh after a good day's work.

:25:39.:25:42.

can't, I can't help him. Cos there's no way I'm drinking orange

:25:42.:25:46.

juice with him. You know what I mean? But it's down to him. I don't

:25:46.:25:50.

come out as much as I used to. I feel if I come here, I get a bit

:25:51.:25:54.

tempted to have a drink but I've got to keep in the back of my mind

:25:55.:25:58.

what I've gone through and that. Here's to staying off it. Good luck

:25:58.:26:06.

to you. You'll do it. Across this city, across our country, we have a

:26:06.:26:12.

difficult relationship with alcohol. Most of us like a drink, but a

:26:12.:26:15.

large minority drink too much and the health service spends billions

:26:15.:26:25.
:26:25.:26:30.

Shall we start with ladies? Victoria? A week ago, Victoria

:26:30.:26:36.

White's life had been on the line, but she's improved. It's really

:26:36.:26:46.
:26:46.:26:53.

sore, doctor. Slowly. It's quite swollen. Are you saw anywhere? My

:26:53.:26:58.

hands might be a bit cold. I think there's been a lot of progress in

:26:58.:27:05.

the right direction. Certainly the level of jaundice has fallen

:27:05.:27:08.

considerably since when we last saw her, last Friday. She was very

:27:08.:27:12.

poorly indeed and I was very concerned about her outcome. It's

:27:12.:27:16.

been a tough week for her family. Horrendous. The thought of losing

:27:17.:27:24.

your child. This has been the worst. That she's ever been. We tend to

:27:24.:27:28.

have to help her when she comes out, we have to help her financially,

:27:28.:27:31.

morally, we have to help her physically, we have to look after

:27:31.:27:41.
:27:41.:27:43.

her. So, as the Government tries to help a nation give up its addiction,

:27:43.:27:46.

will it as health experts fear listen too closely to the drinks

:27:46.:27:53.

industry? We all need to do our bit. It's very sad, if the media just

:27:53.:27:55.

think there's a conspiracy. There's no conspiracy. We want to reduce

:27:55.:28:00.

the harm that is caused by alcohol. For Victoria, the harm caused by

:28:00.:28:06.

alcohol is obvious. She wants us to look at her life and learn the

:28:06.:28:12.

lessons. Young girls, young boys, their parents, before handing over

:28:12.:28:22.
:28:22.:28:25.

�6, �7, �8 pocket money of a Friday night... Just for people to look at

:28:25.:28:35.
:28:35.:28:40.

Victoria is 35 and critically ill after a decade of heavy drinking. Forty-five-year-old Matthew was so sick from his alcohol abuse he needed a new liver. Brian, at 32, drank so much that he ended up living in a cave. Panorama uncovers the impact alcohol is having on a new and younger generation of problem drinkers, and asks whether the government is doing enough to stop us drinking ourselves to death.


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