Ireland ranks high among European countries for consumption of alcohol. In 2003 it had the second highest per capita liter consumption in the world. The Irish are now drinking more than they ever did; twice as much as they were consuming back in the 1960s. This has led to an increase in alcoholism and alcohol related deaths.
The Rutland Centre estimates that one in ten people in Ireland are dealing with alcoholism. Alcohol has become the third most common reason for why people are admitted to psychiatric wards. It is estimated that every seven hours somebody in Ireland dies because of alcohol abuse. Every day there are 2,000 hospital beds taken up by people who are there because of alcohol. The statistics for alcohol abuse are particularly worrying that on average five other people will be impacted when one individual develops alcoholism.
Traditionally Irish people have a lenient attitude towards alcohol use. One in five adults never touch alcoholic drinks, but pub culture is considered to be an important part of life for many people. The Irish are not alone in their love of bars. A similar situation exists in England and Scotland. These drinking establishments have traditionally been a place where communities come together.
There are a number of suggestions for why excessive alcohol intake continues to be a problem in Ireland including:
* Alcohol is now more available in Ireland than it ever was. It is now possible to buy alcohol at almost any time of the day or night; either in a shop, a bar or a club.
* The cost of alcoholic drinks is falling as the superstores slash prices in an attempt to keep up with competitors. Cheap imports mean that even those on a limited income can afford to buy plenty of alcoholic beverages.
* Since the smoking ban was introduced in 2004 there has been an increase in the number of people drinking at home. People can afford to buy more alcohol when they are buying from shops and not from bars.
* Marketing of alcoholic drinks in Ireland tends to be aggressive. Many media campaigns associate drinking with glamour or with the traditional Irish heritage. In the past such advertisements have been accused of glorifying binge drinking.
* The bars continue to be an attractive place for people to congregate. It is a place to meet friends and begin romantic relationships.
Binge drinking is a problem in Ireland. It refers to the tendency to consume a large amount of alcohol during a short period of time. The aim is to become inebriated rather than just drinking to be sociable. Many Irish people will work hard from Monday to Friday, but they then drink too much over the weekend. Binge drinking is considered particularly harmful because:
* When people drink too much in a short period of time they are at risk of developing alcohol poisoning. This can be a life threatening event.
* People who drink in this way are more likely to become involved in accidents. In Ireland 1.2 billion euro is spent each year by the government treating injuries that people obtained while under the influence.
* Those individuals who binge drink have a higher incidence of suicide. People often take their own life on the spur of the moment when their ability to think rationally is impaired.
* This type of drinking can easily lead to poor health. It is not necessary for the individual to engage in this behavior for too long before they develop alcoholic liver disease, brain damage, or other organ problems.
* This style of drinking often leads to alcoholism.
Underage drinking is common in Ireland. There seems to be a high degree of tolerance for this behavior. Research conducted by the Health Service Executive in 2009 found that 20 percent of adults thought underage drinking was acceptable behavior. Another study found that 28 percent of underage girls admitted to being drunk within the last month; the figure was 24 percent for boys. This is worrying because the younger people are when they begin drinking the more likely they will be to develop alcohol problems.
There are a number of available options for people in Ireland who are trying to escape alcohol addiction including:
* Rehabs and treatment facilities. Some of these treatments are influenced by the twelve step program while others use other approaches such as cognitive behavioral therapy.
* Support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous.
* Counseling sessions with therapists who are trained to deal with addiction.
* Outpatient clinics around the country offer sensible drinking education. There are also programs for people trying to escape alcoholism.
* There are a limited number of beds available in hospitals around the country for people who need medical supervision while coming off alcohol.
* There is a growing trend for Irish people to go abroad in search of treatment for their alcoholism. This is due to the availability of rehabs in exotic locations which might be more conducive to recovery. There are also free addiction treatment options available such as Thamkrabok temple in Thailand.
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