Addiction services in England are not equipped to treat the soaring numbers of people drinking at high risk during the pandemic and must receive a multi-million-pound funding boost in the upcoming spending review, says the Royal College of Psychiatrists.

The College’s new analysis of Public Health England’s latest data on the indirect effects of COVID-19 found that over 8.4 million people are now drinking at higher risk, up from just 4.8 million in February.

But the deep cuts made to addiction services since 2013/14 mean the estimated 8.4 million higher risk drinkers, and the hundreds of additional people with an opiate addiction needing help, could miss out on life-saving treatment.

Professor Julia Sinclair, chair of the College’s Addictions Faculty, said: ‘COVID-19 has shown just how stretched, under-resourced and ill-equipped addiction services are to treat the growing numbers of vulnerable people living with this complex illness.’