Alcohol abuses us and still we continue to drink
On the Sunday of the All-Ireland Football Final I was on a quiet train. It's a lovely experience to travel surrounded by empty seats. But of course not profitable for Iarnród Éireann.
The emptiness and loveliness suddenly changed. Two stations on from where I boarded, the train filled with hens and stags. Before the train left the station someone was handing out bottles of cider. My heart sank. Sitting and standing near me were two groups, one hen and one stag. They had been at separate events.
Both groups quickly engaged with each other and admitted that they had been drinking heavily the previous night. They were all lovely people, maybe just one or two dodgy jokes or comments but nothing too lewd. Okay, hens and stags knew of the f-word but again, it was only mentioned on a few occasions. The empties mounted up and the hens kindly accepted the offer of cider from the stags. They all got off the train before I did. Some were heading straight to the pub to watch the All-Ireland. One man guaranteed me that he would not be sober by nightfall. It's doubtful he was sober at lunchtime.
Then when it came to my station and I got off the train I spotted a big notice in a prominent place informing passengers that it was forbidden to drink alcohol on certain trains. I later saw that Iarnród Éireann have a notice on their timetables about the prohibition of alcohol consumption on some of their services.
A few days before my rail journey a national daily newspaper ran an editorial about the increase in wine sales in Ireland since 2013. It pointed out how 'well' the industry is doing. Last year nine million cases of wine were sold in the country. A standard case of wine has 12 bottles, so we drank our way through 108 million bottles of wine. Wine consumption works out at 28 per cent of the alcohol sold in the State.
In 2015 the Health Research Board did a survey of drinking patterns in the Republic of Ireland. The figures are startling: our per capita alcohol consumption was equal to 41 litres of vodka, 116 bottles of wine or 445 pints of beer per person over 15-years of age. One in five adults doesn't drink any alcohol in the State, which means the figures underestimate the real drinking habits of those who drink. These are incredible figures and mindboggling to think that there has been such an increase in the consumption of alcohol.
Have you ever noticed the number of times radio presenters make jokes and facile comments about drinking alcohol, how often they suggest that drinking alcohol is an intrinsic part of every celebration? They think it's hilarious for people to have hangovers and behave in silly and stupid ways. 'Shur it's a bit of craic' is a comment often made by highly paid radio presenters.
In 2013 alcohol-related hospital discharges accounted for 160,211 bed days in public hospitals. It cost the tax payer a whopping €1.5 billion. It is estimated that alcohol-related absenteeism in 2013 worked out at €41.2 million. It's anything but a 'bit of craic'. The lives that are lost, the families that are destroyed, the damage that alcohol abuse does to our bodies and yet we keep on drinking more. Why?
Wise words from Shakespeare: 'I would not put a thief in my mouth to steal my brains'. (Othello).