Ireland’s ‘normal’ drinking is far from the international norm
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Apropos the current alcohol debate, I recently had the pleasure of the company of a young man from Co Kildare on a flight from New Zealand, who expressed his shock on observing the different drinking trends of ex-pats working in New Zealand.
For the first time he had noticed how extreme Irish drinking norms are in comparison to his fellow workers from virtually every other country. What he had grown up to see as normal in Ireland was seen as extremely heavy drinking by international standards in New Zealand. It was not until he went to New Zealand that he first realised how ‘out of order’ our ‘normal’ drinking is in Ireland.
I had the interesting experience of speaking on one of Cork’s radio stations about 10 years ago on the topic of teenage drinking. I suggested at the time that as we were mimicking the US in other cultural matters we should also adopt their legal drinking age of 21.
To my amazement in the following weeks I was confronted by a number of well-educated, middle-class parents who were furious that I might interfere with their little darlings being allowed to drink with them in pubs and restaurants.
The problem for Ireland is that alcohol abuse is costing this state €3.7 billion per year (according to the Royal College of Physicians), and yet all the media seems to be concerned about is the €40 million that might be lost to rugby and soccer should sponsorship be curtailed.
The current price of alcohol is such that a child can currently get drunk on its pocket money, so we need urgently to stop below-cost selling of alcohol, to raise the legal drinking age, and to reduce off licence trading hours if we are to avoid a major predictable medical disaster 10-15 years hence. While the AA and the many rehabilitation centres are doing wonderful work in treating alcoholism, I have been personally very impressed by the work of Dr Olivier Ameisen (French cardiologist), who’s book ‘The End of My Addiction’ explains the therapeutic use of Baclofen in removing the alcoholics craving. I have personally used this therapeutic model in approximately 35 patients, all of whom have remained ‘dry’ over the past three Christmases.
Should any of your readers be interested in discussing this with me, I would be happy to hear from them.
Dr Seán Dunphy,
Cork Road Medical Clinic, Carrigaline, Cork.
Irish Healthcare Awards: Student alcohol deaths moved UCC team to take a stand
Having to attend the funerals of several students who died as a direct result of the misuse of alcohol impelled staff at UCC’s Student Health Department to take a radical stand against alcohol-related harm.
The College, which won the overall prize at this year’s Irish Healthcare Awards for its comprehensive Alcohol Action Plan, brought both the Best Public Health Initiative and An Duais Mhór trophies back to Cork following the gala event in Dublin last week (November 7).
The UCC scheme is aimed at reducing levels of alcohol-related harm among students, 45 per cent of whom have reported binge-drinking more than once a week.
With 20 specific actions, the plan has seen the introduction of an online brief intervention tool for all incoming first years, training for front line college staff, alcohol information sessions and awareness events on campus, peer-support leaders to encourage alcohol education, and most recently the provision of alcohol-free accommodation on campus.
“The adverse consequences of the misuse of alcohol among our students are very real, all too common, and occasionally have been very serious, up to and including devastating injury and death,” commented Head of UCC’s Student Health Department Dr Michael Byrne, who received the award.
A special Lifetime Achievement Award was also presented to retired Skibbereen GP Dr Michael Boland.
The event at the Shelbourne Hotel — hosted by IMT — was attended by 390 people representing the country’s leading public and private hospitals, medical training bodies, universities, patient organisations, the pharmaceutical industry, health insurers and community organisations.
The Mater Public and Private achieved a clean sweep in the Best Hospital category — a first in the Award’s 12-year history — with the Mater Private topping the 16-strong list with its comprehensive hand-hygiene compliance programme.
Galway and Roscommon University Hospitals Group took home two trophies, with Crumlin, the Rotunda, Saint John of God Hospital, and St Finbarr’s Hospital, Cork all among the category winners.
“These awards are now indisputably recognised as the most sought-after in Irish medicine,” commented IMT’s Publisher David Kelly. “The standard of entries has not only been maintained over the past 12 years, but has consistently improved, with the number of entries this year setting another record.”