Cork GP urges young people to cut back on 'frightening' level of alcohol consumption

By Denise O’Donoghue

A Cork GP said he is seeing more young people presenting in his surgery due to the impact of binge drinking.

Dr Colin Gleeson, who is based in Castletownbere, said younger people are coming into his surgery due to drinking too much alcohol, with people getting sick from the level of drink they have consumed.

"Unfortunately things haven't changed. They certainly haven't gotten any better," he told C103's Cork Today Show.

"The real problem I see with binge drinking is people don't see it as a problem because they don't have cravings so it doesn't come up on the radar as real problem drinking."

Many of these cases happen at weekends, he said, with many people being referred to hospital A&Es.

"We very frequently send patients to hospital after a weekend particularly or over the weekend. We find a lot of the injuries and accidents, most of them are alcohol-related. Young people feel that nothing can faze them and it's not a wake-up call, unfortunately.

"Talk to anyone in A&E and they'll tell you at least half the accidents that come in there are alcohol-related. Certainly, over the weekend eight out of ten accidents are related to alcohol. That speaks for itself.

"We see it all the time. Mondays we'll see the accidents, we'll see the injuries, the fractures. We'll see the morning after pill, we'll see the STIs. A lot of that is alcohol-related behaviour and binge drinking is really serious for young people.

"They don't realise it affects their mood and their judgement, it actually affects their brains and brain cells don't recover. If you start damaging your brain cells between the age of 18 and 25 there is no recovery. Liver cells recover but brain cells don't. I think they just don't see the problems."

Dr Gleeson said more young women are also coming in for the morning-after pill after having sex while drunk. In addition, he is seeing more young men in the surgery with sexually transmitted diseases.

"They don't even know who they had sex with. It's pretty frightening. You have the unwanted sex, you have the drugs. We've had several suicides in this period in the past year here, frighteningly quite a few young people. Certainly, some of them are related to alcohol as well. Depression, suicide, not making the grades in school, relationships going a bit off, a lot of slightly paranoid behaviour, a lot of those are made worse by alcohol and by their pattern of binge drinking."

Dr Gleeson said the situation is getting worse and warned against 'pre-drinking' and taking shots.

"I think the real problem is young people now, a lot of them drink before going out. There's no control in that, swallowing down shots before heading off out for the night when they've already consumed an awful lot of drink."

Dr Gleeson said more awareness is needed at the level of binge drinking and the availability of drink in this country. He called for the sale of alcohol in shops and supermarkets to be restricted.

"I think alcohol is too readily available. You have offers for six-packs and cheap wine, cans of cider. For €10 or €15 you can overdo your weekly allowance of alcohol. Even these alcopops, I know they're a low level of alcohol but alcopops for sale at a petrol station? You're still selling alcohol at a petrol station."

"It's just so cheap and easily available. You should not be selling alcohol in supermarkets Buying cans of beer and vodka and wine so cheaply is madness."

Dr Gleeson has urged young people who plan to celebrate their Leaving Certificate results tomorrow to be careful about their alcohol consumption.

"There will be a lot of [young people celebrating their Leaving Cert results] out tomorrow night and they just drink so much. These are really loading up drinks, 'prinks' they call it, having the drinks before going out and the amount they drink. It's all shots.

"It's a really serious issue for young people, this high-volume binge-drinking over a short period of time. Your body cannot cope with that. You can't cope with it mentally, you can't cope with it physically, you can't cope with it emotionally. It affects their behaviour, their judgement is altered. They might even take other drugs when there's a bit of alcohol onboard."

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