Study finds ‘shocking’ level of alcohol-related harm

  • Post category:News

Discharge rates for alcoholic liver disease increased by 247 per cent for 15-34 year-olds between 1995 and 2007

From The Irish Times

Paul Cullen, Health Correspondent

The Government needs to act immediately to counter the “shocking” level of harm caused by alcohol by introducing minimum pricing and curbing sports sponsorship by drinks companies, according to a leading group of doctors.

Members of the Royal College of Physicians alcohol policy group said they are particularly alarmed at a dramatic rise in chronic drink-related conditions among younger people.

Discharge rates for alcoholic liver disease increased by 247 per cent for 15-34 year-olds, and by 224 per cent for 35-49 year-olds, between 1995 and 2007, they point out.

As a response the group wants the Government to introduce measures proposed by an advisory committee over a year ago. The implementation of these proposals has been delayed by disagreements between ministers over the recommendation to restrict the sponsorship of sports and cultural events by alcohol companies.

In its policy statement, the RCPI group says alcohol sponsorship in sport should no longer be the norm. “Alcohol is a drug, and can no longer be perceived as a normal component of sporting activity. Alcohol sponsorship of sports events and organisations should be phased out.”

With sports organisations claiming they will suffer if this proposal is followed through, the group acknowledges the recommendation is controversial.

It says however that there may be other sponsors interested in the marketing opportunity created by the gap in sponsorship.

Prof Joe Barry of the TCD’s department of public health medicine said he was disappointed the sporting organisations had swallowed the alcohol industry’s line on sponsorship “hook, line and sinker”.

The idea that they could only get funding from drinks companies because no-one else had money “just can’t be true”.

He called on the Government to prioritise public health over commercial interests and to adopt a similar approach to reducing alcohol consumption as it had to cutting road traffic deaths.

According to Prof Aiden McCormack of the Irish Society of Gastroenterology, it isn’t just heavy drinkers who are exposed to the harm caused by alcohol.

People who drink at lower levels may also be at risk if they have other underlying conditions such as being overweight or having hepatitis or hemochromatosis.