Letter to the Editor: Awareness key to curb excessive drinking

Letter to the Editor: Awareness key to curb excessive drinking

The 2018 Health Research Board report on alcohol treatment published this week presents both cause for concern and an urgent opportunity for change (Major increase in number of people who have already developed severe drinking problem when they seek help, figures show, November 19).

The figures show that those in treatment report drinking significantly more on a typical day than should be consumed per week for low-risk drinking. This echoes the complacent and complicit attitudes towards alcohol misuse borne out of the Drinkaware Index study, with 10% of Irish drinkers reporting consumption of 7-9 standard drinks on a typical drinking occasion and a further 9% having 10+ standard drinks.

Why people drink is typically to cope or to conform (Drinkaware Index 2019) but at just 2%, awareness of what a “standard drink” is and what the low-risk guidelines are, is significantly and critically low. Without this information, how can we expect people to know what constitutes misuse or be aware that they might be drinking at a level that is causing harm. It stands to reason then, that many people may not feel a need to change their drinking habits.

Despite this, at Drinkaware we remain convinced that there is an appetite and an opportunity to redress this norm. This is evident from the 231,949 people who have used our online Drinks Calculator (www.drinkaware.ie) this year to date to understand their drinking and how it relates to the low-risk weekly guidelines. That’s a 145% increase compared to 2018. And just this week the HSE reported the importance of alcohol self-assessment, so this is an encouraging trend.

The significance of this vast increase in people taking proactive steps to understand their drinking and improve their health and wellbeing, is reflective of the mindful drinking movement increasingly seen among health-conscious adults in Ireland. Herein lies the opportunity.

The opportunity exists to increase awareness, to educate and to change potentially harmful drinking habits. This EU Awareness on Alcohol Related Harm Week it’s important to highlight harm and also opportunity, and to recognise that no societal issue can be solved in isolation.

Collective and accumulative efforts deliver positive change, which includes co-operation across communities, civil society, government and health stakeholders.

Sheena Horgan

CEO, Drinkaware

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