Colin Shevills, from Balance, said the pandemic had highlighted the "unhealthy relationship" society had with drink.

The organisation, funded by seven local councils, was set up in 2009 tasked with changing attitudes around alcohol.

Mr Shevills said the 18-24 age group was "less likely" to be drinking at "risky levels" than the middle aged.

"In fact they are as likely to be non-drinkers as they are risky drinkers," he said.

"Young people drinking less is a real phenomenon.

"All of that is really positive and it needs to be protected."

Mr Shevills referred to Office for National Statistics data, which showed in the first nine months of 2020 that alcohol-specific deaths rose by 15% in the north-east of England, at a time when treatment services were "struggling" to help clients.

"I worry that we have a real tsunami of harm coming down the line," he said.

He told BBC Radio Newcastle that while alcohol consumption during the pandemic had been "worrying", others reacted differently.

"We have seen some people cut out drink altogether, some reduce their drinking but they tended to be the people who were 'the worried well', those who were already drinking at low-risk levels.

"We have seen in the North East about one in five higher risk drinkers increasing their consumption and that is a real worry."