Sunday 24 September 2017

Our dangerous affair with alcohol

Eilish O'Regan Health Correspondent

MORE than 80pc of Irish people know somebody who is being damaged by alcohol, according to a worrying new study.

Nearly one in three say they are concerned about the drinking habits of someone close to them -- but there is a huge reluctance to confront them about the problem.

Just one in 10 confessed they had the courage to advise a family member or friend that they need to control their drinking.

Alastair Campbell, the formidable former press secretary to ex-British prime minister Tony Blair, yesterday launched the study from the Reduce Your Alcohol Use campaign.

Mr Campbell opened up about his own battle with alcoholism and depression as he got behind the campaign.

The former spindoctor and journalist revealed: "In the past, I lived in a constant state of anxiety, abusing alcohol and trying to hide it from friends and family.

"Then one day I woke up in BMI Hospital in Glasgow, unaware of how I had gotten there. It took me a long time . . . before I could admit that I had a drinking problem.

"Alcohol dependence is a powerful and all-consuming disease that absolutely impacts your health, both physical and mental," he added.

Harmful

He suffered his breakdown in the 1980s when he was working as a journalist but had overcome it by 1994 when he became spokesman for the then-Labour opposition leader Tony Blair. He became press chief in 1997 when a new government was formed.

His message to anyone battling the same demons was to "look for help and support or visit their GP for advice".

More than 1.2 million people in Ireland said they had seen the effects of harmful drinking either personally or among family and friends, according to the national survey on attitudes to drink.

Two in five know at least one person close to them who drinks every day, the survey findings from the pharmaceutical company Lundbeck found.

Dr Garrett McGovern, a GP specialising in substance misuse, said: "Alastair's story demonstrates that alcohol dependence is often hidden.

"Seemingly successful and in control people, are privately destroying themselves and their families. These problems will eventually become public and have an impact on wider society.

"Over a quarter of all injuries presenting in A&E are alcohol related and every night 2,000 acute hospital beds in Ireland are occupied by drinkers," he said.

Irish Independent

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