“We need to sever the link between alcohol and sports for once and for all,” said Ray Walley, president of the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO). “As a country, we can’t continue to be indifferent to the damage being done by young people by the scourge of alcohol.”
The IMO has published a position paper on addiction and dependency that addresses a wide range of issues, including prevention and treatment issues.
Dr Walley said the document, which also calls for the introduction of a minimum unit price for alcohol, should have cross-party support in the Dáil.
“IMO doctors are calling for sensible and workable measures to loosen the grip that substance abuse and addiction had on large tracts of society,” said Dr Walley.
IMO member and consultant psychiatrist Matthew Sadlier said everyone in Ireland knew somebody affected by alcohol or drugs.
“If we had a policy that actually treated the root cause, that would be incredibly effective,” he said.
Dr Sadlier said there were 67 deaths every month due to alcohol dependency.
“There would be a massive campaign to find a cure for a form of cancer responsible for that number of deaths,” he said.
According to the Health Research Board, almost 7% of the adult population are clinically alcohol-dependent, but just over 2% consider themselves heavy drinkers.
Dr Walley said a strategy was needed for the development of treatment and rehabilitation services for alcohol and drug dependency.
The doctors’ organisation wants the alcohol and gambling industry to fund the treatment and rehabilitation of those who have become dependent on their products.
The IMO has also urged the Government to restore all resources to State agencies charged with seizing and intercepting drug shipments to reduce the amount and availability of illegal drugs.
It wants stiff penalties to be introduced to deter the importation and sale of illegal drugs into Ireland and mandatory life sentence imposed on those found guilty of major drug trafficking.
Also at the launch was Eileen Fitzgerald, better known as Sr Consilio, who founded Cuan Mhuire, a charitable drug, alcohol, and gambling rehabilitation organisation 50 years ago.
Sr Consilio said she had seen how all areas of addiction had worsened over the years.
“Some people are misguided about pleasure,” said Sr Consilio. “They think pleasure will make them happy, but joy is lasting happiness. There is also the sorrow of remembered pleasure.”
The Sister of Mercy said she had seen people outside her house in Gardiner St, Dublin, shooting up heroin.
“I can’t bear to watch them,” she said. “It could be me who was lying on the street if I was not lucky enough to have honest-to-God, down-to-earth parents.”
On the issue of free GP care for under-sixes, Dr Walley, said he believed that most GPs would register for the scheme over time.
He also said parents whose family doctor was on the list should ask their GP what their plans were.