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'Alcoholism led me to live under bush'

From BBC - February 7, 2018

"I ended up living under a bush in a park in Brighton for five months. It was the nadir of 20 years of alcoholism. I'd become homeless, and I knew that something had to change otherwise I was going to drink myself to death. I decided that I had to go to rehab."

James Howard started drinking as a teenager. During his 20s, he was detained in hospital under the Mental Health Act on three separate occasions, suffering from alcoholic psychosis. When he was 33, he decided he needed treatment.

"I was on the waiting list for rehab for a year and I was clearly killing myself. But ultimately I just could not get a place. I got to the point where I did not see any hope at all of getting into rehab or any form of treatment."

Brighton council says that while it cannot comment on individual cases, "when people are assessed as needing residential rehabilitation, we make sure this service is offered to them as quickly as possible".

Publicly funded drug and alcohol detox and rehab programmes are offered by NHS units or other providers, such as charities, that help patients whose treatment is paid for by local authorities.

But since 2013 local authorities have cut overall funding for alcohol and drugs treatment by 300m. During the same period the number of people accessing publicly funded detox and rehab services for alcohol has almost halved, and almost half of the total of the approximately 80 units offering these services have closed, the BBC has discovered.

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The latest figure for alcohol-related deaths from the Office of National Statistics - 9,214 in 2016 - is the highest since records began, in 1994.

Public Health England estimates there are at least 595,000 dependent drinkers in need of treatment, but less than one in five receives it.

Frank also has had problems with alcohol since he was a teenager.

"I was never offered publicly funded residential rehab. I'd been run over by a car in a blackout from drinking. My friends thought I was dead. I was getting injured a lot. I have attempted to take my life a couple of times. My parents definitely thought I was going to die, and I did too."

Frank saw no option but to pay for a private rehab. But his parents had to use all their savings for their retirement to send him there. "They sacrificed their future to save the life of their son. It does fill me with a lot of guilt and shame."

The BBC has also obtained figures from most private rehabs, which show an average rise of over 100% in their private alcohol patients since 2013.

The number of private rehabs has risen by almost 70% since 2012.

Conservative MP Fiona Bruce, who chairs the All Party Parliamentary Group on Alcohol Harm, described these figures as "extremely concerning".

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