Scottish Labour has pushed for an increase in funding for alcohol addiction services amid fears of a “ticking health time bomb”.
The party’s health spokeswoman Monica Lennon has called for investment in residential rehabilitation beds, saying these should be available to the general public and not just those who can afford it.
New Public Health Scotland statistics show 23,685 people in the year 2019-20 were admitted to hospital a total of 35,781 times.
The figures show 11,901 of those admitted – more than half – had been for the first time.
People from deprived backgrounds were found to be seven times more likely to be admitted for alcohol-related treatment than those who were better off, with 1,078.7 admissions per 100,000 compared to 155.
Despite the warning from Labour, the number of total admissions has fallen compared with the previous year.
In 2018-19, some 23,751 people were admitted to hospital a total of 38,370 times due to alcohol – 12,033 for the first time.
Ms Lennon said: “Alcohol misuse continues to be an enormous problem in Scotland, with lockdown seeing a rise in consumption levels across every social and economic background.
“I know from personal experience how difficult it is to see a loved one admitted to hospital repeatedly as a result of alcohol misuse.
“More needs to be done to prevent people falling into crisis in the first place.
“Alcohol misuse affects people from all backgrounds but people in our most deprived communities are too often pushed to the back of the queue and we are seeing massive health inequalities.”
Ms Lennon urged the Scottish Government to increase funding for addiction services across the country.
“That’s why I continue to lobby the Scottish Government to fund access to residential rehab – it shouldn’t just be an option for people from wealthier backgrounds,” she said.
“This is a ticking health time bomb and as we come out of lockdown we are likely to see a huge range of alcohol related illnesses that require urgent interventions.
“The Scottish Government must redouble efforts to properly resource community addiction services.”