Saturday, 2 March 2013

A 'love affair with alcohol'

Every day I receive copies of newspaper cuttings relating to the work of the Department for Social Development and I was struck by the content of the five cuttings I received yesterday.  One was from the Belfast Telegraph and was about benefit fraud and another in The Guardian was about the welfare reform changes in Great Britain.  However three of the five were about the abuse of alcohol.

Recently in an airport I noticed a group of young women heading off for a hen party and wearing tee-shirts with the slogan 'On it till I vomit'.  They probably thought of it as just a joke but it does say something about the love affair that many people have with alcohol.  So back to the three newspaper articles.

A report in the Belfast Telegraph noted the discrepancy between the amount of alcohol sold in Britain and the amount actually consumed.  It seems that the amount of alcohol sold is twice that reported by people when they are asked about their own consumption.  This means that, on average, people are consuming twice as much as they acknowledge or admit.

The second article was in the Daily Mirror and was about a grant of £250,000 to help young people make better choices over drink and drugs.  The article carried the headline 'Joby's pal's crusade to tackle alcohol deaths' and thsi was a reference to the young man who drowned last year in Belfast after consuming a large amount of cheap alcohol in a nightclub in the Odyssey.

The third article was from The Guardian and was entitled 'Doctor's: urgent action on alcohol needed.'  It reported that British doctors want graphic warnings on alcoholic drinks so that people are aware of the dangers of excessive consumption.

The current culture of excessive alcohol consumption is having a serious effect on the health and well-being of many people and needs to be addressed.  Education and legislation both have a role to play if we are to develop a more responsible attitude to alcohol in Northern Ireland and indeed across the British Isles.

We cannot afford to ignore the warnings from doctors and other experts about the health problems and social problems associated with increased alcohol consumption.  They are the people who see at first hand the damage caused by binge drinking and by regular excessive drinking and those problems are occurring in younger folk more than ever.  It is not about being a spoil sport, it is about highlighting the physical harm caused by alcohol abuse, harm that is in many cases irreversible.

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