Shock new figures have revealed thousands of north-east people have been admitted to hospital with alcohol-related illnesses
The statistics show drink has claimed more than 140 lives in the region – and that the problem is most acute in the fishing ports of Fraserburgh and Peterhead.
The information was collected by the Aberdeenshire Drug and Alcohol Partnership and will be presented to licensing board councillors later this week.
The figures – which cover large and small communities all over the area – reveal 6,258 people have been admitted to hospital – about a fifth of them from Fraserburgh and Peterhead.
Drink-related conditions have also caused 142 deaths across Aberdeenshire – 71 in the north of the local authority area, 44 in the central part and 27 in the south.
Four of the fatalities were as a result of accidental poisoning by alcohol, 78 were caused by liver disease and 56 were connected to mental and behavioural disorders caused by excess drinking.
The highest number of hospital admissions was in north Aberdeenshire – 2,906 – of which 719 were from Peterhead and a further 633 from Fraserburgh.
In central Aberdeenshire there were 2,071 alcohol-related admissions while south Aberdeenshire had 1,280 admissions.
There were 359 hospital admissions recorded in Inverurie, 317 in Stonehaven, 221 in Ellon, 204 in Banchory and 209 in Huntly.
There were 162 in Macduff, 160 in Banff, 168 in Turriff, 172 in Rosehearty and Strathbeg, 127 in the Cruden area, 111 in Aberchirder and Whitehills and 125 in Mearns north and Inverbervie.
The figures were recorded between 2008-15.
Angus McCurroch, service manager for Aberdeen-based Drug Action, said: “People might end up in hospital for various reasons.
“That could be anything from binge-drinking and they have fallen over on a Saturday night or people that might have severe organ damage as a result of drinking.
“But in recent years there has been a change in the way people use alcohol. And there is the availability of alcohol, getting it from the supermarket relatively cheaply.”
He said the organisation’s Community Alcohol Services Aberdeenshire (Casa) team was working to address alcohol addiction in the region.
He added: “There is lots of research that shows a collation between areas of deprivation and poverty and use of substances – whether that is alcohol or other drugs.”
Peterhead youth worker and creative director of local group Theatre Modo, Martin Danziger, said he was “not at all surprised” by the figures for the town and said drinking a culture remained “a huge problem” in the area.
He added: “While the culture remains like that it is not really surprising.”
But he said there were signs youngsters were now “drinking less and smoking less than the previous generation”.
Banff and Buchan SNP MP Eilidh Whiteford said there was “quite some distance to travel” to tackle alcohol-related problems in Aberdeenshire’s largest towns.
She said: “I don’t know why it is so high in these areas.
“I know the government has been working relatively hard and we have had some positive movement among young people and some real efforts to tackle alcohol-related crime.
“I think it is also important that we take these issues very seriously. It is important we highlight the damage this is doing and do everything we can to encourage people to drink sensibly.”
Fraserburgh councillor Brian Topping said: “It is obviously worrying. In Fraserburgh and Peterhead I think the figures are bigger because the population is bigger.
“There is nothing wrong with having a wee drink to relax and celebrate, but like a lot of things people go overboard and they take too much.”
Anyone seeking support can contact Drugs Action’s helpline on 01224 594700.