Sobering facts must be addressed - Alcohol abuse

IRELAND’S unhealthy love affair with alcohol is well documented. While nobody likes being lectured about their lifestyle, two alarming reports published in today’s and yesterday’s Irish Examiner demand that people sit up and heed some alarming facts of life — and death.

Sobering facts must be addressed - Alcohol abuse

These reports show clearly that instead of getting to grips with the nation’s booze crisis, Irish society is at risk of slipping rapidly down the slippery slope of alcoholism, a disease that wreaks havoc on the lives of its victims and destroys relationships with loved ones throughout the extended family.

Today’s report from the Rutland addiction centre reveals eight out of 10 people admitted for treatment there had alcohol-related addiction problems. The frightening thing is that, according to the centre’s chief executive Maebh Leahy, 93% of women who presented at the centre last year had an alcohol problem. What is worrying about this is the proportion of women being treated for problems associated with alcohol addiction has climbed from 73% in 2006.

Taken together with yesterday’s report from UCC focusing on the influence parents have on their children’s drinking habits, the almost total dominance of alcohol addiction among women treated at the Dublin centre is scary given their pivotal role in the life of every family. In a troubling finding, the UCC report on alcohol consumption among parents and adolescents in the Mallow and Kanturk areas of North Cork, effectively established a strong link between the liberal attitudes of parents to alcohol and their children’s drinking. This has obvious implications for Irish teenagers who rank among Europe’s worst binge drinkers.

According to Ms Leahy, alcohol addiction is still the number one issue for the Rutland centre, with 41 the average age of those seeking treatment.

Observing that “there’s been a lot of media attention around women and drinking and the way that patterns have changed and behaviours have changed”, she added the centre could see that being “borne out”. Another problem she referred to is the growing addiction of men in their 20s and 30s to gambling, adding it was “quite concerning” to see a rise in the numbers from the 18-24 age group seeking treatment for addiction, up from zero five years ago to 11% last year.

The fact that social activity in this country is focused around drinking, either in the pub or at home, explains why this problem has escalated to the point that the cost to the State of picking up the health tab for over drinking has been estimated by the HSE at nearly €4bn.

Its repercussion on the nation’s health can also be seen in hospitals up and down the country where patients are literally dying from over drinking. Yet, apart from uttering platitudes, successive government have failed to grasp this costly nettle which besides damaging health causes crime, injury, and death.

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