Dr Ciara Kelly: Sheer stupidity and dangers of the 12-pub Christmas binge
'In the first pub of Christmas my true love gave to me…" If these words don't mean much to you then perhaps you've missed out on one of our newer Christmas traditions - The 12 pubs of Christmas. This phenomenon which has been around for about a decade, is where a bunch of friends dressed in Christmas jumpers, fairy lights and other mad attire head out around 12 pubs in an elongated pub crawl and attempt to drink a pint in each of them - adhering to various 'rules' to add a bit of spice and to try and hold people's attention as they become twisted drunk.
The Royal College of Physicians approached us at the Sunday Independent and asked that we might consider covering it. They were careful to say they didn't want to be bah humbug in any way but just wanted us to advise people on drinking water, designating a driver, that kind of thing, and what with the alcohol bill going through the Dail and all the problems we have nationally with alcohol especially at this time of year - it might be good to do a piece where we gave a few tips to reduce harm.
Well here's the tip. Drinking 24 units of alcohol (12 pints) in one night is total bloody stupidity. And only in Ireland would a body of doctors think they needed to say that nicely. Because in Ireland that's the case. So dear do we hold alcohol to our collective bosoms that anyone who dares to criticise it or our rampant drink culture, is immediately considered a killjoy or just a pain in the ass.
Even medics can't say overdosing on alcohol is bad for you without someone screeching 'Nanny State!' Our national pastime - drinking - is a sacred cow never to be called into question. Sure we're only having a few drinks and a bit of craic - what's your problem? The majority of the people who do The 12 Pubs are young men. And those who are still standing by the end of it will have an incredible hangover the next day. Many will vomit. They will feel shaky, nauseated and have a banging headache from the dehydration. All will experience that acute unease - the queasy fear that you get after too much booze. Their mood will be lowered for five or six days after the alcohol overdose, so they will feel anxious, down or often depressed to a greater or lesser extent.
But you never hear those things mentioned. No! We like to focus mainly on Santa jumpers and the like. We never really like to look at the stats that show our alarmingly high rates of young male suicide. Or the fact that suicide and excessive drinking are directly related. Or the fact that young Irish men drink more than almost anyone else in the world. Or the fact that 40pc of young Irish men who kill themselves have been drinking at the time.
And when I read the rules of the 12 pubs that include things like; you're not allowed put down your glass or you're not allowed spend longer than 30 minutes in any one pub - just to make sure you get really, really shitfaced (always followed up of course by a tokenistic - Drink responsibly people and the go to drinkaware.ie rubbish). I despair. If that's bah humbug so be it. We have a huge problem here with booze and this is the worst time of the year for it.
The 12 pubs is a way of packaging a binge as a good time, when the reality is that 24 units of alcohol will leave you stocious drunk and feeling crap for days. Thirty or more families will lose a loved one to suicide this month. At least 12 of them will have been drinking when they die. Not much craic there. Nollaig Shona Daoibh.
Sunday Indo Living