NEW figures have confirmed the enormous increase in alcohol-related liver disease in the region in the last four years.
According to official statistics, the number of potentially fatal cases of liver disease diagnosed in the North-East rose to 2,485 in 2012-13, an increase of 37 per cent since 2008-09.
In Yorkshire and Humberside the number of cases was even larger – 3,853 in 2012-13, an increase of 44 per cent compared with four years ago, making this region the area which has seen the biggest increase in liver disease cases since 2009.
The figures show that the NHS is now dealing with more than 100 extra cases a week, while the number of women binge-drinking has doubled since the 1990s.
Hospitals in the UK treated 33,520 people for alcoholic liver disease last year, compared to 27,619 in 2009, a rise of 21 per cent.
Experts are particularly worried that alcoholic liver disease is increasingly found in the under-30s, in people who binge-drank when they were younger.
Another worry is that increasing numbers of heavy drinkers are are female and women are physically less able to cope with large amounts of alcohol than men.
Andrew Lang, chief executive of the British Liver Trust, wants to see the Government divert more resources into helping detect liver disease early.
Last year a mobile scanning trailer sponsored by the BLT travelled around the UK, calling in on Middlesbrough.
Many of the Teesside shoppers who had their livers tested were advised to cut down on their drinking to avoid long-term damage while a significant minority were advised to make an appointment to see their GP.
Concern about heavy drinking in the region led to the setting up of Balance, the UK’s first alcohol office.
Balance, which is trying to encourage North-East people to moderate their drinking and move away from the heavy drinking culture associated with the region, has challenged drinkers to try to give up booze for the whole of January in the interests of their health.
Balance is pressing the Government to introduce a minimum unit price for alcohol in the hope that this will deter binge-drinking on cheap alcohol.
A graphic TV advertisement is currently being screened in the region highlighting that alcohol is in the same cancer-causing category as tobacco smoke and asbestos .
Alcohol is responsible for about 12,500 cases of cancer each year in the UK.