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Alcohol addiction a major public health problem

The sad story of Sophie Ewings, a mother of two who died after a ten year struggle with alcoholism, is one that will strike a chord with many families.

The north Belfast woman was just 42 when she was found dead on the floor of her kitchen in north Belfast by her parents last Sunday.

It was a tragic end for someone who was just a young mother when she developed her addiction ten years ago and battled to overcome it over the past decade.

According to her daughter Erin, she had been in rehab about twenty times, twice a year, over the period of her addiction.

''She really, really just wanted to get better,'' said Erin, who described the dreadful downward spiral as her 'lovely', 'kind' and 'bubbly' mum lost everything, her job, family and home.

She bravely spoke about her mother's addiction this week in a bid to highlight the difficulties faced by families trying to access support services in Northern Ireland.

This, too, is an issue that will be very familiar to many people who have tried desperately to find the appropriate help for a loved one in the grip of addiction to drink or drugs, or struggling with mental illness.

How many times have we heard families criticise the lack of support available to someone in urgent need?

Erin Ewings said addiction services in the north are 'very limited and hard to access', with a year long wait to see a psychiatrist although she pointed out that the fact that someone was an alcoholic created further difficulties.

Ms Ewings also raised the issue of available rehabilitation facilities and the need for community support when someone leaves rehab.

Those currently working with addicts do their best to provide care to individuals but resources across the health sector are clearly under significant pressure.

However, we have to recognise the scale of the alcohol abuse problem in our society.

Figures released last month showed there were 303 deaths linked to alcohol in 2017, the highest on record.

This is a deeply disturbing toll, with the highest number of deaths in people aged between 45 and 54.

The statistics also show people living in the most deprived areas are four times more likely to die from alcohol than those in the least deprived areas.

The challenge is not only providing support for those in the grip of alcohol addiction but also addressing the wider concerns around this major public health issue.

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