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Prescriptions for drugs to treat alcohol misuse at 167,000 in 2020/21

The number of prescriptions for drugs to treat alcohol misuse was 167,000 in 2020/21, according to newly published data from NHS Digital. 

The number of prescriptions for drugs to treat alcohol misuse was 167,000 in 2020/21, according to newly published data from NHS Digital.  

The number of prescriptions in England in 2020/21 was 167,000, which is 1% higher than 2019/20 (164,000) but 15% lower than 2014/15 (196,000), according to the Statistics on Alcohol, England 2021 report released today.  

The total net ingredient cost was £4.63 million1 for drugs prescribed for alcohol dependence in 2020/21, which is 2% higher than in 2019/20 and 33% higher than in 2014/15. 

The report also includes previously published data from other sources, including statistics around alcohol-related hospital admissions, published in October 20212.   

Drinking alcohol was the main reason for around 280,000 admissions to hospital in 2019/20, under the narrow definition3. The number of admissions is 2% higher than in 2018/194. There were almost 980,000 admissions in 2019/20, under the broad measure5, this is 4% higher than in 2018/19. 

Other data in the report includes:   

  • Prescriptions for drugs to treat alcohol dependence by region 
  • Alcohol affordability and expenditure. 

Read the full report   

Statistics on Alcohol, England 2021  

Notes for editors

  1. This is based on The Net Ingredient Cost (NIC), NIC is the basic cost of a drug as listed in the Drug Tariff or price lists; it does not include discounts, prescription charges or fees.

  2. Alcohol-related hospital admissions data was published in October 2021: Local Alcohol Profiles for England: short statistical commentary Estimates of the number of alcohol-related hospital admissions have been calculated by applying alcohol-attributable fractions (AAFs) to Hospital Episode Statistics data. An AAF is the proportion of a condition assessed to have been caused by alcohol. This methodology was revised and new AAFs have been applied to this latest time series. View the new methodology here.  

  3. Narrow measure – where the main reason for admission to hospital was attributable to alcohol. The narrow measure estimates the number of hospital admissions which are primarily due to alcohol consumption and provides the best indication of trends in alcohol-related hospital admissions. These are admissions where an alcohol-related disease, injury or condition was the primary reason for a hospital admission or an alcohol-related external cause was recorded in a secondary diagnosis field.  

  4. All alcohol-related hospital admissions presented in this report, including time series comparisons, are based on updated alcohol-attributable fractions (AAFs) which take account of more recent alcohol consumption rates and the latest evidence linking alcohol consumption to disease outcomes (Alcohol-attributable fractions for England: an update). Revised alcohol-related hospital admissions have been calculated with the time series starting at 2016/17 (LAPE alcohol-related admissions). Previous releases of alcohol-related hospital admissions are not comparable since they are based on the old AAFs. 

  5. Broad measure – where the primary reason for hospital admission or a secondary diagnosis was linked to alcohol. The broad measure gives an indication of the full impact of alcohol on hospital admissions and the burden placed on the NHS. 

  6. Data includes prescriptions prescribed by GPs, nurses, pharmacists and others in England and dispensed in the community in the UK. No information is available for those prescriptions written but not dispensed. 


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Last edited: 26 January 2022 11:53 am