Families reveal physical and financial impact of alcohol

THE physical and financial cost of Ireland’s relationship with alcohol was spelled out when a survey showed that one in 11 people had reported that they or a family member had been assaulted by someone under the influence of alcohol in the past year.

The finding was part of a survey of more than 1,000 people conducted on behalf of Alcohol Action Ireland, which at a conference renewed calls for measures such as minimum pricing of alcohol and limits on the number of off-licences.

The survey also found that 45% of people had actively sought to avoid people or places where drinkers were known to gather, while 12% said they had been verbally abused by someone who was drunk. A similar percentage had been in a serious argument because of someone else’s drinking.

The survey found that young people, males and those living in urban areas were more likely to be affected by problem drinking, and that 55% of people were in favour of minimum pricing of alcohol being introduced.

It found that people were not always likely to complain to gardaí about problem drinking. Just 20% who said they had been threatened in the past year, or 13% of those who had been verbally abused, said they reported it to gardaí.

Just 25% of people who said they had been kept awake at night by people who had been drinking had complained to gardaí.

Three in 10 people experienced damage to property, either in their neighbourhood or close to work. On average those affected had to clean up broken glass and other signs of damage 13.5 times a year. In some cases, people had to clean up such rubbish once a week at an average per capita cost of €17.34 — a cost to society estimated at €92.6 million.

Fiona Ryan, Alcohol Action Ireland director, said minimum pricing was needed to address the situation where women can reach their maximum low-risk weekly drinking limit by spending €7, with the cost to men just €10.

Norah Gibbons, director of advocacy at Barnardos, said “cheap alcohol is costing our society very dearly”, while Dr Ann Hope of Trinity College Dublin said an individual’s frequency of consuming alcohol was directly related to the likelihood of becoming involved in a fight. Sean Byrne, economics lecturer at Dublin Institute of Technology, said the cost to the exchequer of responding to and dealing with the consequences of alcohol could be €1.6 billion per year.

Speaking at the conference, organised by Alcohol Action Ireland to highlight the survey results, Minister of State Roisin Shortall said other issues to be faced included “in your face” alcohol advertising on social media websites while the human cost could be as high as €3.7bn a year.

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