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Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Our booze culture

The Western Mail has reported today that the number of people admitted to hospital with alcohol-related conditions has risen by 30% in five years.

These figures are unsettling. The population is drinking more and our society is awash with pro-alcohol messaging, marketing and behaviour.

Over the festive period, the admissions to A&E for alcohol misuse will put a huge strain on NHS resources. Intoxicated patients are dealt with by a variety of medical staff and even security guards if they are violent and abusive. Added to this are the costs of tests and treatment, and if the patient is then sent to a hospital bed on a ward, the costs mount up even further.

Supermarkets offering cut price deals and drinks promotions in pubs and clubs exacerbate the problem as people indulge over this period. All these promotional activities serve to normalise alcohol as an essential part of every day life. It is no surprise that young people are drawn to alcohol - when it is cheaper than bottled water, we have to worry about what message we are sending our children.

Alcohol misuse causes family breakdowns, is a major factor in domestic violence, is often related to crime and disorderly behaviour and it kills. It is related to over 60 medical conditions including heart and liver disease, diabetes, strokes and mental health problems. The public should be made aware of the serious risks associated with drinking, so that they can make informed decisions about how much alcohol they are consuming.

Alcohol can be an enjoyable part of social and cultural life especially over Christmas. But the growing booze culture is creating serious problems for the future. Sometimes people may not even be aware that they are drinking too much – it is easy to do. It is important to keep track of how much you are drinking. We would like to see people enjoying alcohol sensibly without over doing it.

Are you a healthcare professional who has dealt with patients who have been admitted due to alcohol misuse? Share your experiences with us.

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