Home > We can no longer afford to accept our harmful relationship with alcohol as the norm, says Alcohol Action Ireland.

[Alcohol Action Ireland] We can no longer afford to accept our harmful relationship with alcohol as the norm, says Alcohol Action Ireland. (23 Jun 2014)

Alcohol Action Ireland, the national charity for alcohol-related issues, has said that, as a nation, we are in collective denial about our alcohol problem.

Speaking following the release of Alcohol Consumption in Ireland 2013: Analysis of a National Alcohol Diary Survey, Suzanne Costello, CEO of Alcohol Action Ireland, said that we need to face up to our harmful drinking if we are to reduce alcohol-related harm and improve health, safety and wellbeing for all.

"The Health Research Board's comprehensive survey confirms the excessive amount of alcohol we consume in Ireland and particularly the harmful pattern in which we consume it, with binge drinking hugely prevalent, especially among the young.

"As it is not only the volume of alcohol consumed, but also the pattern of drinking over time that affects the risks of harm, a large amount of Irish people are putting themselves at risk of health harms due to their binge drinking. More than half of adult drinkers in Ireland are drinking in a harmful manner. To put that into perspective, that's over 1.3 million people," said Ms Costello.

"However, what this survey also shows is the extent to which this situation – and the huge harms that our society suffers as a result - has become normalised. One in five people who defined themselves as 'light drinkers who do not binge drink' and half of those who defined themselves 'moderate drinkers who do not binge drink' were actually binge drinking on a typical drinking occasion.

"This is not surprising when you consider that 75% of alcohol consumed by survey participants was consumed as part of a binge drinking session, but it also reflects the fact that, as a nation, we are in collective denial about the extent of our alcohol problem. This report reveals we underestimate what we drink by about 60%, but in line with that we also greatly underestimate the harm that is caused by our drinking," said Ms Costello.

"30% of people interviewed for the HRB say that they experienced some form of harm as a result of their own drinking, but importantly we know that alcohol harm not only affects the individual drinker, but also affects others around them, including family members, friends, co-workers and the wider community. However, like our harmful drinking, we seem willing to accept this harm to others, including children, as the norm.

"Normalisation of harmful drinking patterns and that fall-out from it in our society has been fuelled by the widespread availability of cheap alcohol, which is then very heavily promoted, with young people a particular focus for these powerful and sophisticated advertising and marketing campaigns.

"If we are to effectively tackle this culture of harmful binge drinking then we need to tackle the key areas of alcohol pricing, marketing and availability, beginning with the swift implementation of the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill, which will replace the existing systems of alcohol industry self-regulation, which have proven to be wholly ineffective with regard to public health, particularly the protection of children and the vulnerable," said Ms Costello.

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