HUNDREDS of people are dying and thousands are being admitted to hospital in Bolton every year due to alcohol abuse. BRAD MARSHALL reports on the true cost of the town’s booze problems.

ALMOST three people a week are drinking themselves into an early grave in Bolton as a result of the area’s crippling alcohol dependency.

Shocking new statistics reveal the town is among the worst in the nation for alcohol related deaths and admissions to hospital.

More than 6,300 people in the town are being admitted to hospital each year for alcohol related conditions, piling pressure on already stretched NHS services.

The data, released by Public Health England, also showed that an average of two children each week were among those being admitted in the town.

Harm caused by alcohol is also having significant financial implications for the borough and the region, costing Greater Manchester £1.3 billion a year ­— equal to £500 for every resident.

And already this year it has cost an estimated £130 million to deal with the issue in the city region.

One Bolton resident, Jenny Garland, from Oldhams Estate, knows more than most about the toll alcohol can have after battling addiction for a decade.

After first drinking socially with friends, Jenny’s drinking spiralled out of control until she “couldn’t live without alcohol.”

Her drinking began to have devastating impacts on her physical and mental health, and her work and family life.

She said: “I knew it was a problem for a long time. I knew I was drinking too much and once I started I couldn’t stop.”

After several failed attempts to tackle her drinking in August 2016 she reached out for help.

Tragically, however, her ex partner, who also had issues with alcohol abuse, died just one day into his second spell in rehab last year.

Jenny is now two and half years sober and now works offering support to other people with alcohol and substance misuse problems and endeavours tirelessly to help people turn their lives around.

She is also calling for more awareness of addiction support services and is urging addicts not to be afraid to speak about it.

Jenny said: “It is all about getting the word out to people that there are things that you can try, however, I don’t think a lot of people want to admit their problems.

“There are some amazing places in Bolton and people need to put aside their pride and get help, because if I can do it anyone can do it.”

In a separate NHS report published last week it was revealed that all the areas within Greater Manchester have above average rates for hospital admissions due to alcohol.

The survey also found that in the North West approximately one in twenty adults aged over 16 drink more than 35 to 50 units of alcohol a week.

This shot up to approximately one in four adults in the region who drink more than 14 units of alcohol a week, compared to 21 per cent of adults nationally.

Alcohol factored in almost 67,000 hospital admissions in Greater Manchester in the year 2017/18, including 6,301 in Bolton.

And for more than 17,500 of these admissions, 1,819 of which were in Bolton, alcohol was the main reason for a person requiring treatment.

Further, hospital admissions in England due to alcohol have jumped by 15 per cent since 2007/08, to 337,870.

While deaths caused specifically by alcohol in 2017 reached 5,843 ­— six per cent higher than the previous year, and 16 per cent higher than in 2007 ­— with just under twice as many men dying as women.

Cancer is the most commonly diagnosed disease resulting from alcohol, responsible for almost a quarter of alcohol-related hospital admissions ­— higher than for liver disease, alcohol poisoning and accidental injuries.

It is estimated that alcohol causes cancer in 1,000 people in Greater Manchester each year, and persistent alcohol abuse has been found to increase risk of a number of cancers, including in the liver, bowel and mouth.

One person who deals with the effects of Bolton’s alcohol crisis and is on the front line in providing support to those affected is Reverend Ben Woodfield, who operates a weekly drop-in session and support programme for people with alcohol and substance misuse issues at the Oldhams Church.

The group, which has been in operation for around 12 months, promotes a 12 step recovery programme for those addicted to alcohol and other substances.

On an average week around a dozen people visit the group, Rev Woodfield says, a significant number of whom have issues with alcohol.

Rev Woodfield explained that for him the reason why alcohol abuse is so devastating is because of its accessibility and the physical and chemical changes it induces.

He said: “Drinking can be a nice and sociable thing to do but when mixed with a trauma or distressing things that are going on in your life it can very quickly become so destructive.

He added: “Dependency on alcohol just gets progressively worse. Employment can often be the first thing to go and that’s an engine room for destruction.

“You stop work so you are on your own a lot of the time, and if you have a family you can have your children taken off you, and it’s a cycle that just continues to get out of control.

“Then there’s the debt that comes from drinking alcohol every day. It’s crippling. It’s a destructive cycle to everything that is around an individual.

“It is also indescribable the consequences of alcohol dependency to mental health. It is a significant factor and just gets worse.”

Another of the key issues that Rev. Woodfield sees is that alcohol abuse can affect anyone from any background.

“I think it is also worth recognising that there are people who are functioning alcoholics,” he said. “Middle class people who live on nice estates, who seem to hold down their jobs.

“I don’t think people start out thinking they want to become an alcoholic. It’s a slow process that maybe catches you by surprise and maybe as simple as having that extra drink."

However Rev. Woodfield believes that support work in the community can go a long way in helping to solve the crisis and aiding alcoholics into sobriety.

He said: "We have found that by getting people out there in a real community that looks after each other we can break the back of this crisis and destructive behaviour.

"People in the medical profession and the council work hard, but I think there's a wealth of resources in the community that needs tapping into and supporting."

Support and advice to help overcome yours or a loved one’s alcohol addiction is available from:

- Bolton’s Achieve by telephone on 01204 483090

- Drinkline on 0300 123 1110

-Alcoholics Anonymous Great Britain on 0800 917 7650 or help@aamail.org

- Addaction at www.addaction.org.uk/

- Rehab4addiction on 0800 140 4690

- Al-Anon on 0207 4030888

- Alcohol Concern on 020 7928 7377

- NHS Choices at www.nhs.uk/live-well/alcohol-support/

- ADFAM on 020 7553 7640

- National Association for Children of Alcoholics on 0800 358 3456 or helpline@nacoa.org.uk