Alcohol consumption

Public Health Scotland study finds no evidence of change in alcohol consumption after minimum pricing

Scots suffering from the worst effects of alcoholism did not change their drinking habits once the minimum price was introduced, with some of the poorest reducing their food and energy intake so they could continue to buy drinks , according to a study.

On Tuesday, Public Health Scotland (PHS) published its final report on the impact of the minimum unit price (MUP) on those who drink harmful levels of alcohol.

The study found that there was no clear evidence of a change in use or severity of addiction due to MUP.

The policy – which placed a minimum cost of 50 pence per unit of alcohol – was introduced by the Scottish government in a bid to reduce the number of low-cost, high-alcohol drinks available in the country.

The results show that some economically vulnerable groups came under increased pressure on their finances in the face of rising prices, meaning they were spending more on alcohol.

This has led some with an alcohol addiction to cut costs elsewhere, such as food and utilities.

They were also found to have limited knowledge and understanding of the MUP and said they received little information or support prior to its introduction.

However, there was little evidence that those affected turned to illicit substance use, suffered acute withdrawal, or turned to crime.

The study was carried out by the University of Sheffield, the University of Newcastle (Australia) and Figure 8 Consultancy Services.

Professor John Holmes of the University of Sheffield, who led the research, said: “We know from previous studies that the MUP reduced alcohol sales, including among those who bought the most alcohol before politics.

“Our study shows that people with alcohol dependence reacted to MUP very differently.

“Some have cut back on other things, but others have switched to less strong drinks or simply bought less alcohol.

“It is important that alcohol treatment services and other organizations find ways to support those who are struggling financially, especially as inflation rises.”

Helen Chung Patterson, public health intelligence adviser at the PHS, said: ‘People who drink at harmful levels, and particularly those who are dependent on alcohol, are a diverse group with complex needs. who often experience multiple interacting health and social problems.

“So they are unlikely to respond to MUP in any simple or unique way. Many are likely to drink low-cost, high-strength alcohol affected by MUP and are most at risk of alcohol.

“This population therefore has the potential to benefit the most from the MUP, but may also continue to suffer harm.

“This research further expands our understanding and knowledge of this important population and how they responded to MUP across a wide range of areas. It is crucial to build the evidence base in this area as part of our overall assessment of the MUP. »