Doctors in Northern Ireland have called for action to combat alcohol misuse during this year’s Alcohol Awareness Week. In the face of alcohol’s huge costs to society and the health service, the BMA is advocating tough measures to reduce the consequences of alcohol abuse.

Excess drinking costs the health service in Northern Ireland an estimated £160m per year, as well as £82m for social services. Costs to society more widely are estimated at £679.8m, and alcohol abuse also results in 140,000 sick days and around 266 lives lost in Northern Ireland each year.

The BMA is calling for restricted licensing hours, a ban on alcohol advertising and the introduction of minimum pricing per unit of alcohol.

Dr Vinod Tohani, chairman of the BMA’s Public Health committee in Northern Ireland said: “The figures are truly shocking and entirely preventable. Doctors are increasingly saddened and frustrated at seeing increasing illness due to alcohol misuse in all age groups.

“People need to be supported to make positive choices to reduce their drinking and we would call on the minister to ensure that there is adequate funding in place for addiction programmes.”

BMA chairman Paul Darragh, an associate specialist doctor in general medicine, said: “International research shows that much of the increased harm to health in times of recession is mediated through an increased consumption of alcohol.

“As doctors we see the harmful effects of alcohol ranging from accidents injury and violence caused by acute intoxication through to liver failure, psychosis and death.”

Derry GP Tom Black commented: “Alcohol is too cheap, too available and as a society we need to take the bull by the horns and introduce minimum pricing to reduce consumption. The alternative is more physical, psychological and social damage particularly among young people.”

Author's Bio: 

Roy Rowlands writes for National Health Executive an essential guide to health service managers offering a wide view of healthcare news, views and opinions