Monday 10 December 2018

Dr Ciara Kelly: "We really need to realise that alcohol is a drug

Dr Ciara Kelly
Dr Ciara Kelly

Ciara Kelly

Last weekend there were calls from gardai and emergency first responders in west Cork for parents to act more responsibly, after it was reported that multiple teenagers were highly intoxicated at an underage disco where the emergency services had to be called repeatedly.

A local councillor said he was sure people donating money to the emergency response service, never expected it to be used as a babysitting service for drunk teens, when the first responders tweeted that all the cases they saw on Saturday night, were between the ages of 15 and 17.

The gardai stressed that there was very good organisation on the part of those running the teen event - including having a doctor, a nurse and a sick room on site (since when did we accept this was what was required at a junior disco?) and there were no drugs involved.

But I take exception to the no drugs involved bit. Because we really need to recognise that alcohol IS a drug. And every time we try and differentiate it from other drugs - that's more about the social acceptability of alcohol than about there being any real difference between it and other intoxicating substances.

Maybe you actually believe it's better that your kid is collapsed and vomiting on the ground from alcohol than from other things, but to be honest, a collapsed kid is a collapsed kid.

And the only reason people split hairs over what they've taken is because we WANT to continue with our collective denial about alcohol being dangerous.

We want to keep alcohol in a special category in our heads as being different to other drugs because that way we don't have to do anything about it. And the truth is this, we are so wedded to alcohol here that even when it's harming us - even when it's harming our kids, we really don't want to do anything about it.

So our kids -our beloved kids, - now become the next generation of collateral damage in our drink culture.

Because if we really wanted to sort out their drinking, to be honest, we'd probably have to sort out our drinking first - and we simply aren't willing to do that.

We want our kids to do what we say - when in actual fact they do what we do. So us telling them not to drink to excess, rings hollow when they've seen us adults getting drunk at christenings, Communions, Confirmations, BBQs and holidays since the day they were born.

The emergency teams last weekend said it wasn't unusual to not even be able to contact the parents of the drunk teens in Cork - and Cork is the rule not the exception - because the parents were out drinking or 'socialising' as we prefer to call it, themselves.

I talked about this during the week on the radio and got the predictable "sure we all did it" response from lots. And it's true we did. And we still do. And now our kids do, too. And if we don't change our relationship with drink - their kids will as well.

And we'll continue in our collective denial of the fallout - the three dying per day from alcohol abuse. The billions it costs our economy. One in every 12 euro spent on health in this country is spent on alcohol-related illness. One in 12. And maybe the bigger issue - the lives not lost but destroyed. The families fractured by drink. The husbands, wives and children beaten. The chronic depression that never shifts. The car crashes. And the suicides.

So many young men in Ireland take their own lives. We wring our hands but refuse to acknowledge the massive role alcohol plays in their deaths - while we drown our sorrows with a drink at their wake.

Personally I'd like more for our kids than just accepting this. More than resigning ourselves to another generation of young Irish getting pissed as a rite of passage. Getting pissed as a right.

The drinks industry plays a role in this but we are allowing big alcohol to come for our kids without even putting up a fight.

Maybe kids collapsed from drink isn't actually any better than kids collapsing from drugs.

Maybe they're one and the same thing. And if you're happy enough with that and your own pissed history - maybe keep them at home so at least they collapse somewhere safe.

Last week it was Cork. Next week it'll be somewhere else.

Do you really think we're doing enough?

@ciarakellydoc

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