Reducing Alcohol Health Harm in Ireland: RCPI Policy Group on Alcohol launches first policy statement

In response to a dramatic increase in Alcoholic Liver Disease among young Irish people, the RCPI Policy Group on Alcohol has issued evidence-based recommendations aimed at reducing the shocking levels of alcohol-related health harm in Ireland.

Reducing Alcohol Health Harm in Ireland, the Group’s first policy statement, was published today, 23 April 2013 and can be downloaded here.

Members of the RCPI Policy Group on Alcohol, all of whom are experienced medical professionals working in a variety of disciplines, are particularly concerned at a dramatic increase in severe alcohol-related health harm in younger people in Ireland.

Studies show that in Ireland:

  • Chronic alcohol-related conditions are becoming increasingly common among younger age groups
  • The rate of discharges for Alcoholic Liver Disease increased by 247% for 15-34 year olds, and by 224% for 35-49 year olds between 1995 and 2007
  • An estimated 4.4% of deaths between 2000 and 2004 were caused by alcohol - This figure includes deaths from chronic alcohol-related conditions such as alcoholic liver disease and liver cancer, and accidental and non-accidental deaths while under the influence of alcohol.
  • Approximately 5% of newly diagnosed cancers and cancer deaths are attributable to alcohol i.e. around 900 cases and 500 deaths each year
  • Alcohol-related disorders accounted for 1 in 10 first admissions to Irish psychiatric hospitals in 2011
  • In 2008, there were 88 deaths directly attributable to alcohol every month
  • Between 2004 and 2008, alcohol caused nearly twice as many deaths as all other drugs combined

In response to this crisis, the RCPI Policy Group on Alcohol is calling for the introduction of minimum pricing to prevent the sale of cheap alcohol, and measures to reduce the availability of alcohol, such as stricter control of low cost sales promotions and discounts.

The Group has also recommended measures to change the culture of excessive alcohol consumption in Ireland, stating, “Alcohol sponsorship in sport should no longer be the norm. Alcohol is a drug, and as such can no longer be perceived as a normal component of sporting activity. We are of the view that alcohol sponsorship of sports events and organisations should be phased out.”

Acknowledging that this is a controversial recommendation, the RCPI Policy Group on Alcohol adds, “Many arguments for continued alcohol sponsorship point to the potential financial gap which sporting organisations would suffer if alcohol sponsorship was no longer allowed. This argument does not allow for the fact that there may be other (non-alcohol-related) sponsors who would be interested in the marketing opportunity that this gap would create. Although drinks companies who sponsor sporting events deny that alcohol sponsorship serves to increase alcohol consumption, the evidence is that it does. An analysis of 13 longitudinal studies involving 38,000 young people led the authors to conclude that alcohol advertising and promotion increases the likelihood that adolescents will start to use alcohol, and to drink more if they are already using alcohol.”

Professor Frank Murray, Chair of the RCPI Policy Group on Alcohol and Consultant Gastroenterologist in Beaumont Hospital, said, “In response to the increasing levels of alcohol-related illness and death seen by the medical profession in Ireland, we are recommending minimum unit pricing, reduction in outlets and phasing out alcohol sponsorship of sporting events. International evidence supports these strategies as effective ways to reduce alcohol health harm.”

Download Reducing Alcohol Health Harm in Ireland (PDF)

Media Queries can be directed to

Kate Healy, Communications Manager
Royal College of Physicians of Ireland
Phone 01 8639 698, 085 872 2109

Aoife Ní Mhaitiú, Communications Executive
Royal College of Physicians of Ireland
Phone 01 8639 770, 085 850 0080

About the RCPI Policy Group on Alcohol

The Royal College of Physicians of Ireland established the RCPI Policy Group on Alcohol in 2012 to address the health and social burden of alcohol in Ireland.

The policy group brings together medical experts from a wide range of organisations, including the Irish College of General Practitioners, the National Cancer Control Programme, the College of Psychiatry of Ireland, the Institute of Orthopaedic Surgery, the Irish Society of Gastroenterology, and the Irish Association for Emergency Medicine.

This multi-disciplinary group is addressing the unacceptably high levels of alcohol health harm in Ireland by proposing practical solutions backed up by a robust, international evidence base. The group’s recommendations are focused on reducing the harm caused by alcohol to health and society.