Sunday 18 February 2018

GPs insist less is more in battle to curb drink abuse

Dr John Gillman pictured with a glass showing the correct measure for alcohol. Picture Frank McGrath
Dr John Gillman pictured with a glass showing the correct measure for alcohol. Picture Frank McGrath

Eilish O'Regan, Health Correspondent

GPs are calling time on " problem pourers" who are overly generous when serving themselves an alcoholic drink or two at home.

The doctors will in future be armed with a special plastic glass in their surgeries which is marked to show the patient the accurate measure of a standard unit of wine or spirits.

The idea to issue the glasses came from the Irish College of General Practitioners (ICGP), the professional body for family doctors. It follows increasing evidence that home drinkers are knocking back more alcohol than they realise.

Research has shown that home barmen and women who pour wine can give themselves their recommended daily allowance in just one glass.

They rarely use a measure at home and can end up getting carried away with potentially serious consequences for their health over time.

Dr Margaret O'Riordan, ICGP medical director, said: "We want to encourage patients to talk about how much they drink and to bring the conversation about alcohol from a subjective to a more accurate one in the general practice setting."

A video providing guidance for doctors urges them to ask the patient how much they would normally pour into a glass at home.

"One standard drink contains 10g of pure alcohol, which is the estimated amount of alcohol the average adult can process in an hour," said Dr O' Riordan.

The GP could then talk to the patient about their drinking habits and give advice about opting for smaller glasses to avoid over-pouring.

"A simple tool like the standard drinks measure will assist GPs in tackling the subject of alcohol abuse with their patients in a sensitive but realistic way," she added. It is also being backed up by an e-learning programme for the doctors on how to tackle this thorny public health issue.

The doctors' body said that 11,740 bed days were used up by patients undergoing alcohol detoxification in 2012 at an average cost of €1,000 a day.

"Alcohol can have tragic consequences, as we have seen in the last week, in the emergence of dangerous drinking games on social media.

"With average alcohol consumption now over 145pc higher than it was in the 1960s we cannot be complacent about the problem being confined to the young, or those with known alcohol problem," Dr O' Riordan said.

Irish Independent

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