Public health experts have warned that England is a land in the grip of a dangerous alcohol addiction, following the release of research that showed that 18.2% of adults binge drink over double the daily recommended limit at least once a week.
Research revealed that in the north-east and north-west parts of the country almost a quarter of all adults consume double the limit in one or more drinking bouts each week. This is equivalent to four pints of beer or eight spirit measures in one session for men and three pints of beer, three glasses of wine or six spirit measures for women. It was found that in the regions across eastern and southern England 16% of adults drink this amount or more, at least once a week.
TheCentre for Public Health at Liverpool, the North West Public Health Observatory and the John Moores University drew up the alcohol map.
In addition the research revealed that the north-east and north-west had the most hospital admissions, with about 1,100 men and 610 women admitted per 100,000 populations in 2004-05. This was less than 700 men and 400 women per 100,000 in the south-east.
Liverpool, Manchester and Middlesbrough had around 70% more admissions than the national average. Wokingham and West Berkshire had nearly 50% less.
Professor Mark Bellis, director of the Centre for Public Health, said: "These profiles illustrate the growing costs of cheap alcohol, a night-time economy almost exclusively packed with bars and clubs, and a failure to deliver a credible drinking message to both youths and adults."
Professor John Ashton, the north-west regional director of public health, laid the blame with the government for failing to act against the drinks industry.
He said, "Alcohol is racing ahead as one of the biggest threats to public health, not least in some of the most disadvantaged parts of the country. Fears of being accused of being part of the nanny state have intimidated governments from tackling head-on the manufacturers of cheap alcohol in the same way that they would if this was any other kind of drug."
It has been estimated that the average loss of life due to drinking across England was 10 months for men and five for women.
A Department of Health spokeswoman said, "We are working hard to raise awareness and ensure that treatment is available to those who need it. The first-ever national needs assessment concerning alcohol problems has just been completed and we are getting more people into treatment. We are working with the drinks industry, police and health professionals to increase awareness of the dangers of excessive drinking and make sensible drinking messages easier to understand."
David Davis, the shadow home secretary, said: "This alarming research shows why it was wrong of the government to unleash 24-hour drinking on all our towns and cities without a proper assessment of the consequences."