Alcohol diseases on the rise in young

Chronic alcohol-related conditions, such as liver disease, are on the increase in Ireland, particularly among younger people, doctors have warned.


Wed 24/04/2013 by Deborah Condon

According to the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland (RCPI), there has been a ’dramatic increase’ in alcohol-related liver disease among young people in recent years.

The rate of hospital discharge for alcohol liver disease jumped by almost 250% among 15-34 year olds between 1995 and 2007. Among 35-49 year olds, it increased by 224%.

Between 2004 and 2008, alcohol caused almost twice as many deaths in Ireland as all other drugs combined. And alcohol accounts for around 5% of all newly diagnosed cases of cancer and cancer deaths – this equates to 900 new cases and 500 deaths per year.

In response to this, the RCPI Policy Group on Alcohol has issued its first policy statement, Reducing Alcohol Health Harm in Ireland, which makes a number of recommendations aimed at reducing the high levels of alcohol-related harm here. These include:

-The introduction of minimum pricing to prevent the sale of cheap alcohol. Such a move will not affect the price of alcohol in pubs. Instead it will target off-licenses ’where the cheapest alcohol is sold’
-The availability of alcohol should be reduced. For example, the number of alcohol outlets should be reduced and the sale of alcohol to minors should not be tolerated
-The culture of excessive alcohol consumption must be looked at. For example, alcohol sponsorship of sports events and organisations should end.

“Alcohol sponsorship in sport should no longer be the norm. Alcohol is a drug, and as such can no longer be perceived as a normal component of sporting activity. We are of the view that alcohol sponsorship of sports events and organisations should be phased out,” the group explained.

It acknowledged that this is a controversial recommendation, as ’many arguments for continued alcohol sponsorship point to the potential financial gap which sporting organisations would suffer if alcohol sponsorship was no longer allowed’.

“This argument does not allow for the fact that there may be other (non-alcohol-related) sponsors who would be interested in the marketing opportunity that this gap would create. Although drinks companies who sponsor sporting events deny that alcohol sponsorship serves to increase alcohol consumption, the evidence is that it does,” the group insisted.

It pointed to an analysis of 13 studies involving 38,000 young people, which ’led the authors to conclude that alcohol advertising and promotion increases the likelihood that adolescents will start to use alcohol, and to drink more if they are already using alcohol’.

According to consultant gastroenterologist, Prof Frank Murray, who is chairperson of the policy group, these recommendations have been drawn up ’in response to the increasing levels of alcohol-related illness and death seen by the medical profession in Ireland’.

The statement was welcomed by Alcohol Action Ireland (AAI), the national charity for alcohol-related issues.

“The huge increases in the rate of young Irish people suffering and dying from chronic alcohol-related conditions outlined in the statement from the RCPI are shocking, but unfortunately they are not surprising given our high levels and dangerous patterns of alcohol consumption,” commented Conor Cullen of AAI.

The charity called on the government to deal with this issue urgently and ’to prevent future generations of young Irish people suffering from the same high levels of alcohol-related harm as those who have gone before them’.