Doctors have launched a scathing attack on an annual event that promotes Guinness, claiming alcohol-related illnesses in Ireland have reached “epidemic” proportions.
As Arthur’s Day approaches, the Royal College of Physicians Ireland (RCPI) has organised a public talk aimed at highlighting the dark side of alcohol.
Liver disease specialist Dr Stephen Stewart, who will speak at the event tomorrow, said he has treated patients as young as their 30s with end-stage liver disease who were unaware they had a drinking problem.
“We have a progressively worsening relationship with alcohol in Ireland, which manifests itself in the increasing numbers of young people dying from alcohol-related illnesses,” Dr Stewart said.
The doctor, who serves as director of the Liver Disease Centre in the Mater Hospital, said deaths relating to cirrhosis of the liver have doubled between 1994 and 2008, and that hospital admissions for alcoholic liver disease almost doubled between 1995 and 2007.
“Alcohol is more affordable than ever. Alcohol is more acceptable than ever. Alcohol is more available than ever,” he said.
“We need measures to address this epidemic. Where does Arthur’s Day fit into all of this?”
Chair of the RCPI’s policy group on alcohol Professor Frank Murray will open the public meeting.
He said with alcohol consumption and binge drinking at such high rates, the nation does not need “another reason to drink”.
Child and adolescent psychiatrist Dr Bobby Smyth, who will also address the event, warned young people who drink feel more depressed and more anxious while women who open bottles of wine to “de-stress” after a hard work day do more harm than good.
“This strategy for coping with the slings and arrows of life is counterproductive and is not a good model to set for children,” he said.
Arthur’s Day is an annual event organised by Diageo to celebrate the anniversary of the Guinness brewing company.
More than 500 music events featuring over 1,000 different acts will be held across the country on Thursday.
The RCPI meeting – called Join the National Conversation on Alcohol: Who’s calling the shots – will take place at 6pm on Monday at the college’s headquarters on Kildare Street, Dublin.