ALCOHOL may be taking its toll on North-East families during the pandemic as new figures show parents are twice as likely as non-parents to be drinking more heavily since it began.

Balance, the North-East alcohol office, has published the results of a survey of over 900 people during national Children of Alcoholics Week #COAWeek2021.

It comes as the NSPCC also released figures this week showing that concerns about alcohol and drugs misuse have soared since the start of the pandemic.

While health campaigners and charities have warned that many drinkers are drinking more since Covid began, especially those who were already drinking heavily, the independent survey by Balance is one of the first in depth studies to point to a worrying trend among people with children under 18 living at home.

Among those who drink alcohol, it found parents are around twice as likely (38 per cent) as non-parents (18 per cent) to be drinking more often since before the pandemic.

Parents (31 per cent) were also more likely to be drinking more units on a typical drinking day, compared to non-parents (17 per cent).

Among those who drink alcohol, it also found nearly half of parents (48%) are increasing or higher risk drinkers compared to 37% of non-parents.

Colin Shevills, director of Balance, said: “These are worrying figures which clearly show that families and parents with children at home are feeling the pressures of the pandemic.

"Parenting is stressful to begin with but add in home schooling, juggling work with childcare and worries about the pandemic and it is a perfect storm.

“We are seeing a pattern where many thousands in our region are now drinking in a way which could impact on health, impact on family and put them further down a road towards daily drinking and alcohol addiction.

“Clearly charities are very worried by the figures, which in some cases are impacting on children’s lives. It’s easy to say “that’s not me” – however we know that 1 in 20 parents are binge drinking nearly every day, which is not good for anyone’s own lives or their family.”

He added: “Alcohol is not the answer right now – while many are drinking more, others are cutting back.

"That is why we are encouraging people to think about their relationship with alcohol and find ways to cut down, take more drink free days and do whatever you can if alcohol is starting to take a hold.”

A separate survey by Balance released in November found that one in five drinkers say there have been more arguments and tension in their family during the pandemic because of alcohol.

The NSPCC has also reported that concerns about drug and alcohol use have soared since the start of the pandemic, with latest figures showing the monthly average number of contacts to the NSPCC helpline from people worried about parental substance misuse is 66 per cent higher since April 2020.

In the North East and Cumbria, the average monthly number of child welfare referrals about parental alcohol or substance misuse made by the NSPCC helpline rose by 120% - from an average of 31 per month between January and March 2020, to 69 per month between April 2020 and January 2021. In the last 10 months, there were a total of 687 referrals in the North East and Cumbria.

The NSPCC’s concerns are being backed by Adfam, a charity which provides support to families affected by drug, alcohol or gambling addiction.