Wednesday 26 September 2018

Ireland has a cultural problem with drink, says addiction expert

Dr Colin O’Gara, head of addiction studies at St John of God Hospital, Dublin
Dr Colin O’Gara, head of addiction studies at St John of God Hospital, Dublin
Nicola Anderson

Nicola Anderson

Amid tranquil and sweeping gardens with relaxing massages, a spot of yoga, Pilates and even a little pitch and putt on offer, it could be an indulgent 28-day spa break.

But there is a far more vital purpose to this place, which is the St John of God hospital in Stillorgan - a last refuge for those struggling with addiction, typically with alcohol.

Dr Colin O'Gara, head of addiction studies at the hospital, stressed that modern rehab takes a more holistic approach and is not painful.

But despite the yoga and massages, the Corkman doesn't pull any punches.

Alcohol withdrawal is a dangerous process and if not done correctly with the appropriate medication, can result in a one in five mortality rate.

There is also a lot of sadness in the lives of those who come seeking treatment for alcohol addiction.

"This is absolutely horrific," he stated.

"There is no point beating around the bush about that one."

He revealed that there is no such thing as a 'typical' patient seeking treatment for alcohol addiction.

Alcoholics come in all ages from 18 to 80, across all social groups, men and women, rich and poor.

It is an addiction often combined with another, such as gambling.

Of those who seek treatment, a third will rebuild their lives, a third will relapse and a third will have a "very difficult ongoing course ahead of them".

It is an addiction that can be "just around the corner for anyone", he pointed out, adding that he sees patients who have never had a problem with drinking until it was triggered by a crisis in their lives .

"Retirement is a huge period of risk," he warned.

Figures from Alcohol Action Ireland show that 54pc of 18-75-year-old drinkers were classified as harmful drinkers, which equates to 1.35 million harmful drinkers in Ireland.

"Ireland has a cultural problem with drink and gambling and we always did," said Dr O'Gara.

Irish Independent

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