‘12 Pubs’ tradition puts lives at risk, warns liver expert

A liver specialist who has witnessed exponential growth in the number of females presenting with life-threatening liver disease has called for an end to the ‘12 Pubs of Christmas’ tradition.
‘12 Pubs’ tradition puts lives at risk, warns liver expert

Órla Crosbie, consultant hepatologist at Cork University Hospital (CUH), said the extended pub crawl, involving a dozen drinks, was “one of the worst inventions” ever, putting participants at risk medically and socially.

“Drinking 12 drinks in one night, for any person, is way beyond what is medically and socially safe.

“From a medical viewpoint, you risk loss of consciousness and falls, and it can cause short-term heart abnormalities and pancreatitis, which is a nasty inflammation of the liver.

“Then you have the risk of unprotected intercourse, particularly in younger age groups,” she said.

From a social perspective, drink often led to heightened aggression and a concomitant increase in assaults, public order offences and domestic abuse.

Dr Crosbie said the age profile of patients being treated for life-threatening liver disease was reducing all the time.

Last week she treated a 29-year-old female and a 31-year-old male. Her youngest patient in 2015 was 26.

“By the time they present to me, they have significant liver damage and unfortunately, we have seen a number of deaths,” Dr Crosbie said.

Equally worrying was the growing number of women presenting with cirrhosis — severe irreversible scarring of the liver which can be held in check through abstinence.

“About 20 years ago, when I was in St Vincent’s in Dublin, it was unusual to get women. The average patient was male, in his 50s. Now, I am seeing a huge increase in females. Looking at my own figures for 2015, of 238 patients I treated with a diagnosis of cirrhosis, 38% [90] were female.”

Dr Crosbie, a member of the Policy Group on Alcohol at the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland, said that she was calling on the public to support the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill 2015, particularly the proposed minimum unit pricing.

The separation of alcohol in a supermarket from the rest of the products was another key proposal she said.

Dr Crosbie was critical of the inclusion of wine in meal deals.

“I think it’s unethical. What nutritionist ever said it was a worthwhile part of a meal deal? You’d be horrified if cigarettes were included,” she said.

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