Local doctors spell out the real costs 
of cheap drink

Nine Donegal doctors have joined forces with a hospital consultant to protest the availability of cheap drink in Donegal.

Nine Donegal doctors have joined forces with a hospital consultant to protest the availability of cheap drink in Donegal.

The doctors -- Eamon Stack, Philip Murray, Majella Grealish, Fiona Quinn, Michael Shanley, Maria Doherty, John Garvey and Mary Quinn -- are all based at the Bayview Family Practice in Ballyshannon, while Dr Keiran Cunningham is a consultant in emergency medicine at Sligo Regional Hospital.

They told the Donegal Democrat/Donegal People’s Press of their concerns at the current trend of offering drink at substantially discounted prices, whether in shops, pubs or nightclubs. They are adamant that the time has come for Ireland to reconsider its views on drink.

“Our attitude to alcohol in Ireland needs to fundamentally shift,” the doctors said in their statement.

“This has been achieved with smoking but now it is time to tackle the alcohol issue.”

The doctors said the real costs to our society are staggering, and young people are likely to be the ones paying the highest price.

“Collectively as a community, we need to act responsibly; most particularly those involved in the distribution, promotion and sale of alcohol,” the doctors said.

“We as General Practitioners deal with the consequences of cheap, readily available alcohol on a regular basis.

“Young people are particularly vulnerable: figures from the Department of Health state that one in four deaths of young men aged 15-34 is alcohol related.”

The doctors pointed out that, according to the European School Survey Report, Irish children report being drunk more often than most other European countries -- 26 per cent in the last month compared to 18 per cent across Europe.

“Most worryingly,” they add, “girls far exceed boys.

“Starting to drink at an early age is a strong predictor of future problem drinking, and the link between alcohol and suicide in young people is well established,” the doctors emphasised.

The financial implications of all this are huge, they stressed.

“In an era of austerity, perhaps we would do well to realise that treating alcohol-related injuries and disease cost our health care system €1.2 billion per year and accounts for 8.5 per cent of the health care budget.

“That is before we factor in the costs of alcohol-related crime, vandalism, absenteeism and road carnage.

“Overall, alcohol-related problems cost each Irish tax payer €3,318 per annum.”

Dr Cunningham said the effects of excess alcohol consumption are plain to see in hospital emergency departments. “From a local perspective, the emergency department at Sligo Regional Hospital sees patients every day with injuries, drink-fuelled assaults or falls. We also regularly see patients with mental health problems exacerbated by alcohol. This is worst on public holidays.”

The doctors welcomed the Taoiseach’s recent denouncement of a supermarket cheap drink promotion. “We can all lend our support to those people trying to make a difference,” their statement concluded.