ALCOHOL-related deaths in the region have more than tripled in the last two decades, latest figures have revealed.
Concern is now growing among health chiefs and organisations over the figures released by the Office for National Statistics.
The number of male deaths in the north east for alcohol-related deaths has increased by 160 per cent in the last two decades, while the number of female deaths has increased by 149 per cent – both well above the national increase of 94 per cent and 67 per cent, respectively.
In 1991, 111 men died from alcohol-related illnesses while 59 women lost their lives, but in 2010 those figures had risen to 314 for men and 155 for women – although the figures for women peaked at 175 in 2008.
The illnesses included chronic liver disease and cirrhosis, but the figures could be a lot higher as they do not cover death caused by drink-driving or violent attacks.
Professor Stephen Singleton, medical director at NHS North of England, said: “These figures are a major concern.
“Doctors and nurses across the region’s hospitals see the brutal effects of alcohol every single day when treating patients and our major worry is that people still do not realise the long term harm of alcohol abuse – which is devastating.
“The NHS is working hard, with partners like Balance, to change attitudes and behaviour towards alcohol consumption but people must start to take accountability for their own health and wellbeing and recognise the impact of regular excessive drinking.
“There are many ways the NHS can help ... and I would urge anyone concerned to contact their GP.
“For mums and dads across the north east, it is also vitally important they act as role models so that our younger generations understand the health risks of excessive alcohol consumption and grow up to be responsible drinkers.”
Recommended safe limits of alcohol are put at two to three units a day for women, and three to four units for men.
Campaigners are calling for more to be done to reduce the sales of cheap alcohol and make it less appealing to youngsters.
Colin Shevills, director of Balance, said: “This report is further proof that alcohol misuse ends lives and that more needs to be done.
“Once again our region tops the tables and we’ve seen an astonishing leap in alcohol-related deaths over the last two decades.
“People are dying because alcohol is way too cheap.
“They’re dying because alcohol is available on nearly every street corner at all hours of the day and night.
“We need to turn back the rising tide of alcohol-related deaths by introducing a range of measures which include greater restrictions on alcohol marketing and a minimum price per unit of alcohol.
“David Cameron has already signalled his interest in a minimum price. On behalf of the north east, and the rest of the UK, we would urge him to continue his investigations as a matter of priority.”
For help and advice on alcohol visit www.nhs.uk/LiveWell/Alcohol
Balance is calling on people to back its campaign to restrict alcohol marketing by signing a petition to government at www.balancenortheast.co.uk