The latest craze of social media drinking games could reverse the decline in alcohol related deaths in the UK, an expert has warned.
In 2012 there were 381 fewer deaths relating to alcohol abuse than in 2011, according to new figures from the Office for National Statistics.
But the rising popularity of Facebook drinking games including “NekNominate” could negate the improvement.
NekNominate involves players posting videos on Facebook of themselves drinking. Others then attempt to outperform these stunts by drinking more alcohol or in more dangerous situations.
Earlier this year 20-year-old rugby player Bradley Eames was found dead four days after he posted a video of himself drinking two pints of gin.
Other deaths linked to the craze include a 19-year-old who jumped into a river part way through a challenge and a 29-year-old Cardiff resident who died after drinking a pint of vodka.
ONS researcher Olugbenga Olatunde said: “It is possible in the future we will get a lot more of these deaths because of games like NekNominate.
“We are also seeing deaths from liver disease increase and we are seeing it appearing in younger people, which suggest they are starting to drink from a younger age and are drinking stronger alcohol.”
In England and Wales, 63 per cent or 4,425 of all alcohol-related deaths in 2012 were caused by alcoholic liver disease.
The number of deaths caused by alcoholic liver disease has also risen by 18 per cent over the past decade.
The human body cannot store alcohol and so it treats it as a potential poison, which is detoxified in the liver.
This makes the organ particularly vulnerable to the harmful effects of alcohol.
Chief executive of Alcohol Concern, Eric Appleby, said “we’re one of the few European countries where liver disease is on the increase”.
He said we have to “challenge the idea that being drunk is an essential part of having a good time”.
Calling for “tougher action from the Government”, he asked for minimum unit pricing to be introduced.
Earlier this year, plans to introduce a ban on selling cheap alcohol were announced by the Home Office.
From 6 April, supermarkets in England and Wales will be prohibited from selling alcohol below-cost – which is defined as duty plus VAT.
But critics including Alcohol Concern say the ban will be impossible to implement.