Liver disease deaths in young people reveal crisis — Government needs to act now

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Drunk teen

Alcoholic liver disease deaths are on the rise among young drinkers, new figures show.

A new study by the Health Research Board shows that alcoholic liver disease deaths made up almost one in six of the 4,321 alcohol-related deaths in the five year period from 2004 – 2008.

Almost one third of the deaths from medical causes in the 25 to 34 year age group was the result of alcoholic liver disease, the Alcohol-related deaths and deaths among people who were alcohol dependent in Ireland 2004-2008 study found.

It comes after another recent study revealed that the rate of hospital discharges for alcoholic liver disease in the 15-34 year age group increased by 247% between 1995 and 2007 in Ireland. This period coincided with record levels of alcohol consumption.

Alcohol Action Ireland, the national charity for alcohol-related issues, said the figures should act as a wake-up call to the health crisis being caused by our high drinking rates.

Alcohol Action Ireland Director Fiona Ryan said: “These figures are alarming: alcoholic liver disease is an early warning sign of overall levels of alcohol problems in a population. The fact that the disease is being reported in people at such a young age points to serious alcohol problems occurring even earlier in a person’s life. We know that age of first drinking has dropped from 16 to 14 over a ten year period.

“These figures should generate a sense of crisis. What ought to compound the crisis is that the majority of deaths in the Health Research Board report are of people who had a history of alcohol dependency. It does not include the deaths of people with a history of harmful alcohol use, for example, a history of binge drinking. Therefore the numbers represented in this report are the minimum number of alcohol-related deaths.

“Considering over half of us drink at levels classed as harmful, levels that are already causing damage, then it becomes obvious that we are only at the start of recognising the full extent of a crisis which is growing and starting even earlier.

“We are not powerless in the face of this crisis – the question is does the Government have the courage to act and put in place actions which we know could reduce alcohol consumption and potentially save lives: minimum pricing, reduced availability, reduced marketing/ advertising and introduction of accessible brief intervention/ advice programmes.”

View the full HRB report here: Alcohol-related deaths and deaths among people who were alcohol dependent in Ireland 2004-2008