Ireland has a drinking problem, and it’s nothing to do with RAG Week or ‘neknominations’. Both are simply symptoms of the problem.
According to Alcohol Action Ireland, over half of all Irish drinkers have a harmful pattern of drinking, that’s four in ten women and seven in ten men who drink.
Irish adults binge drink (have five drinks or more in one sitting) more than adults in any other European country, with 44 per cent of drinkers binge drinking on a regular basis. And the highest proportion of binge drinkers is in the 18-29 age group. Young people are also more likely to exceed the weekly low-risk limit for alcohol consumption.
The annual drinking spree that is RAG Week and the recent neknominations craze throw into sharp focus Ireland’s binge drinking problem, but it’s hardly hidden on St Patrick’s Day or Arthur’s Day, or any Saturday night in any town. And it’s nothing to be proud of; late night service industry workers, medical personnel and gardaí can tell vomit-covered, blood-soaked tales that would turn your stomach.
It’s horrifyingly easy for someone to lose their life while doing something as utterly pointless as participating in a neknomination, or drinking all day during RAG Week; by drowning after jumping into a river, or simply slipping away after choking on their own vomit.
Because as Alcohol Action Ireland points out, young people consuming large volumes of alcohol in a short space of time are putting themselves in immediate danger; binge drinking increases poor decision-making, accidents and the other forms of risky behaviour.
How many times do we have to have hear about a young man being seriously injured or worse in a Saturday night fight, whether in Ireland or overseas, before we realise that something is very, very wrong here? It shouldn’t be a normal part of Irish life.
And when it comes to RAG Week, most Galwegians express one of two views; ‘We were never that bad’ or ‘We were young once too’. Most would agree they don’t want to spoil anyone’s fun, but seeing 18-year-old girls sitting on pavements because they are unable to stand, or boys squaring up to strangers over imagined slights, you would have to agree it’s not fun any more.
Alcohol Action Ireland says it’s vital that we legislate comprehensively for the promotion and advertisement of alcohol, as proposed in the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill, and move away from the current system which sees young people continuously exposed to damaging alcohol marketing that presents positive, risk-free images of alcohol and its use.
When combined with the easy availability of cheap drink, the charity believes that this marketing has a powerful and sophisticated influence on young people’s drinking behaviour and expectations, increasing the likelihood that they will start to use alcohol at an earlier age and to drink more if they are already using alcohol.
No-one’s out to spoil the fun, but something has to be done before more young people die.