Drinks industry says no to link with drugs plan
A Government plan to include alcohol in a new national drugs strategy has angered the drinks industry
AN Irish government plan to include alcohol in its national drugs strategy is being opposed by the drinks industry.
John Curran, a junior minister in the Department of Community and Rural Affairs, wants to replace the national drugs strategy, which ran from 2001 to 2008, with one that deals with drugs and alcohol.
The Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland (ABF) said addressing legal alcohol consumption and illegal drug use together could be counter-productive. But Curran has defended the idea.
“The new policy would acknowledge it’s substance misuse and addiction that we are more concerned about, rather than the specific product,” he said. “We are aware young people who start drinking at, say, 12 are three or four times more likely to have an addiction problem than somebody who doesn’t start until 16 or 17.”
Curran said during a two-month consultation process, medical experts, community groups, addiction treatment staff and children’s rights lobbyists had all urged the government to develop a joint drugs and alcohol strategy.
If approved by cabinet, the new strategy would also seek to improve the range of rehabilitation services, particularly outside cities. The detail would be developed by a working group of officials and outside experts.
The government spends about ¤200m a year tackling drugs through various community projects and addiction treatment centres, but also in funding for healthcare, garda and customs operations.
Rosemary Garth, director of the ABF, said: “It is the abuse of alcohol that causes difficulties but it is the [mere] use of drugs that is a problem. They are different issues.” She was a member of a health department working group which considered a combined strategy earlier this year but did not reach a consensus.
An RTE documentary tonight will claim that the Irish nation’s drinking has increased since the 1980s. When the Party is Over will claim the number of alcoholics in the country will reach 300,000 soon unless the trend is reversed. It will also reveal that up to one in four visits to A&E departments is alcohol-related.
Mark Hamilton, the presenter, states that between 1993 and 2003 alcohol consumption leapt by 40%, with many Irish people becoming binge drinkers. Such is the extent of abuse that Professor John Crowe, director of the Centre for Liver Disease at Mater hospital, expects its transplant unit to be busier soon. “The numbers of patients coming through who will require transplants is going to swamp us very soon,” he said. “We’re seeing younger people.”
Experts put the blame for a rise in liver failure, suicides and other alcohol-related diseases on what most in the country regard as social drinking.
Conor Farren, a psychiatrist at St Patrick’s hospital, said: “There are about 200,000 people with alcohol dependence in this country; my estimate is the figure will go up to 300,000.”
# Times Online
# December 14, 2008