Action urged over alcohol abuse

A total of 266 people die from alcohol abuse in Northern Ireland every year, according to the British Medical Association NI.

Alcohol abuse claims 266 lives in Northern Ireland every year, doctors have warned.

With the estimated cost of alcohol misuse across society in the region standing at almost £700 million, the British Medical Association NI (BMA) has called for action on the problem.

At the start of alcohol awareness week 2011, the BMA has urged restricted licensing hours, a ban on alcohol advertising and a minimum price per unit.

The association said the health service bill for treating alcohol-related harm in Northern Ireland is £160 million a year and £80 million for social services.

Around 140,000 sick days a year could also be attributed to alcohol misuse, it added.

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 added: “The time could not be more opportune to tackle alcohol related harm. 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”.

Alcohol awareness week runs until Sunday November 20.