Home > Wasted - The years waiting for an alcohol policy.

Murphy, JFA (2012) Wasted - The years waiting for an alcohol policy. Irish Medical Journal, 105, (10),

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This was the 48th Doolin lecture, the first being Bob O’Connell in 1964. This year’s lecturer Declan Bedford has devoted his entire professional life to the welfare of the public. The IMO president Paul McKeown in his introduction described him as quiet, unobtrusive and very effective. Dr. Bedford’s contribution to road traffic accident mortality will be one of his great legacies. Since 2005, following the introduction of random breath testing, the number of RTA deaths have halved from 400 to 200 per year.

Throughout his lecture Bedford portrayed the close and complex relationship between Irish society and alcohol. Alcohol is part of our image both nationally and internationally. Some of the most abiding images of US presidential visits to Ireland are of drinking pints in Irish pubs. There is Arthur’s day and jump into Ireland. Alcohol is intertwined with our great sporting occasions and achievements. The famous Ireland vs England rugby match at Croke Park was set against the backdrop of intensive Guinness advertising. All Ireland final day has a strong association with the drinks industry.

We know that excessive alcohol ingestion is bad for us both as individuals and as a society. However our political leaders have been unwilling to tackle the multiple adverse consequences of drink excess. Bedford describes 3 drinking patterns-moderate, harmful and hazardous. Twenty per cent of adults are non-drinkers. Alcohol overindulgence causes 60 medical conditions, social harm, sub-optimal work performance and crime. He provides multiple examples of the downside of alcohol. One adult dies every 7 hours from the harmful effects of alcohol. There is the role of alcohol in suicides. Approximately 2000 acute hospital beds are occupied by patients with alcohol-related disorders. There is an association with oral, upper gastro-intestinal cancers and a wide spectrum of liver disorders. In 1995 the cost was €326 million, today the cost is calculated at €3.7 billion.

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