Dangers of demon drink outlined

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From The Irish Times

CONOR POPE, Consumer Affairs Correspondent

The failure of successive governments to develop a coherent policy to deal with the problem of excessive alcohol consumption in the Republic has had a  “devastating ” impact on society in general and family life in particular, a leading public health specialist said today.

Delivering the annual Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) Doolin Lecture Dr Declan Bedford said Ireland was a nation of binge-drinkers with a  “dangerous ambivalence towards alcohol ” and he called for restrictions on points of sale and price controls to be introduced.

He told delegates at the Royal College of Surgeons that the Republic had more places where alcohol was sold than shops to buy fruit, vegetables or milk and he described the statistics around alcohol consumption as  “staggering ”.

Among the most startling figures he highlighted was one which said that every seven hours someone dies from an alcohol related illness. He also pointed out that Irish people are the biggest binge drinkers in Europe while only 30 per cent of adults on a normal drinking occasion can confine themselves to two drinks or less.

Dr Bedford highlighted a European-wide study which found that half of our 15-16 year-olds have consumed alcohol while a quarter have been drunk at some stage in the past month.and he said alcohol needed to be less available and more strictly controlled  “to protect our children ”.

He said the  “impact on family life in terms of the effect on relationships, disruption to home and work life might not be easily calculated, but we do know that alcohol is a factor in half of the suicides in Ireland while a quarter of deaths of young men are the result of alcohol. ”

He stressed the burdens the abuse of alcohol imposed on the health service.  “Anybody working in emergency departments can testify to the number of alcohol related cases, many of them violent, who turn up on weekend nights and studies have estimated that one in every eight people attending at a Emergency Department unit is there as a result of alcohol. ”

He called for a  “national strategy that should include minimum pricing in Ireland to control the sales of alcohol at discount prices in supermarkets and other off licences.