Nearly one in 20 people living in Kent are severely dependant on alcohol, according to a new in-depth report.
The document, produced for the joint health and wellbeing board, highlights there are 153,000 residents (4%) able to – according to the NHS definition – “tolerate very high levels of alcohol in amounts that would… kill some people”.
It also suggests 11% of the county’s population have a mild dependency, meaning it is hard to cut down consumption without help and support.
Public agencies have now vowed to work together in a bid to tackle bad drinking habits.
Medway Council’s health improvement manager Steve Chevis said: “There needs to be a whole-system approach that addresses the availability of alcohol, the normalisation of drinking, social impacts, and holistic treatment.
“That’s not just treatment for addiction, but for the whole person.
"That requires a system-wide approach to minimise duplication, have common messaging, and a simpler user journey when alcohol becomes problematic.”
Public health teams calculate that per 100,000 people in Thanet, 177.4 have to claim benefits as they are unable to work due to their alcohol addiction.
This compares to a rate of just 44 in Sevenoaks.
There is also a higher-than-average number of years of life lost in “economically deprived districts” such as Canterbury, Folkestone and Hythe, and Thanet every year because of booze.
The report also suggests alcohol-related traffic collision rates are “significantly higher” in Kent (not including Medway) compared to the South East and England averages.
Members of the board also spoke about the associated harms related to heavy drinking such as impulsivity, aggression, violence and neglect.
James Williams, director of public health at Medway Council, added: “It’s quite clear about the physical harm it does.
“But this report also shows the wellbeing impacts caused by domestic abuse and inter-related issues we often find from the violence created by binging and excessive alcohol drinking.
“This shows some of the things we might need to do, which is not simply about treating people just for alcohol-related harm.”
Alcohol consumption is said to cost the UK taxpayer £21 billion per year, attributed to crime (£11 billion), lost productivity (£7.3 billion) and NHS treatment (£3.5 billion).
Meanwhile, £15 million is allocated for alcohol and other drug treatment services provided by council-run public health teams in Kent and Medway.
Kent specialist treatment services can help those in serious risk of harm, and last year around 2,100 people were receiving help from specialist support services.
A range of formal and informal support is available, such as AA and Smart Recovery (peer support) in Kent and Al-anon for friends, family and carers of alcoholics.
KCC director of public health Andrew Scott-Clark warned many people simply are not aware of how much they are drinking.
He said: “The KCC ‘Know Your Score’ interactive online test -www.kent.gov.uk/knowyourscore - can help give some initial guidance by asking users a series of simple questions to help them gauge how much alcohol they are consuming and the effects it could have on their health, in both the short and long-term.
"Depending on their score, appropriate key messages and vital advice about where to find help are then delivered by different experts and health professionals.
“It may be that you discover you need further support to bring your drinking levels down.
"We commission a range of services and work closely with agencies from across health, community and voluntary sectors to get people the help and treatment they need.
"We encourage employers, organisations and health services to help us to spread the message about the recommended drinking levels so that people can get access to specialist support and treatment for those who need it.
"We also have lifestyle services in the community that can support people if they need further help to cut back. Services like One You Kent.”