The Irish government plans to put alcohol abuse alongside drug abuse. However, the drinks industry has concerns about the policy.
Alcohol is a “gateway drug” to illicit drugs such as ecstasy and heroin, and measures to tackle it in the forthcoming National Substance Misuse Strategy will “have to be radical”, according to a member of the steering committee.
The steering committee on substance misuse is due to report in coming weeks and the National Substance Misuse Strategy will be published “before the end of the year.
One plan is to introduce a minimum price for alcohol to stop below-cost selling, to reduce the number of outlets where it is available, to reduce alcohol industry sponsorship of sports and music events and to really strengthen enforcement of the laws against sales to underage customers.
Katherine D’Arcy, acting director of the Alcohol and Beverage Federation of Ireland, said her members did not accept that drugs and alcohol should be treated in the same way.
“Alcohol when enjoyed in moderation is not a health risk, unlike illicit drugs. It is far too complex an issue to say using alcohol leads to taking drugs. There are many more issues.”
The federation is on the steering committee and had “co-operated fully with it”, but she did not comment on possible recommendations.
McCabe said there was probably “no other country, even in northern Europe, where drink, and getting drunk, is seen as so integral to everything – christenings, funerals, retirements, engagements, sports events, concerts, a night out”.
“Drinking alcohol is very much part of our culture,” said McCabe.
“We need to break that. We all know its cost to society, to the economy, the health services, to mental health services.”
Let’s hope McCabe and his Irish brethren are successful in their efforts to curb alcohol consumption.