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The Royal College of Psychiatrists Improving the lives of people with mental illness

Psychiatrists support call for alcohol minimum pricing

Embargoed until 15 June 2010

The Royal College of Psychiatrists in Northern Ireland wholeheartedly supports Health Minister Michael McGimpsey's call for minimum pricing for alcohol, saying that this could save lives as well as money.

The Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety (DHSSPS) today issued a report showing that the cost of alcohol abuse in Northern Ireland is up to £900 million a year. The average estimate of the cost to mental health services is around £13 million, including £8.6 million from inpatient admissions and the £4.2 million cost to Community Psychiatric Teams.

Dr Philip McGarry, Chair of the Royal College of Psychiatrists in Northern Ireland, said: "Psychiatrists not only treat people with long-term alcohol abuse problems, but those whose drinking is contributing to and causing mental disorder and self harm. The Royal College of Psychiatrists does not oppose responsible drinking, but we see the dreadful consequences of harmful and hazardous alcohol consumption.

"We are pleased that Mr McGimpsey has acknowledged the need for minimum alcohol pricing as we know from international evidence that this works. Walk into any supermarket this week and you will see World Cup offers on beer. Supermarkets use cheap booze to get customers through the door – minimum pricing would tackle that.

"The World Health Organisation says that increasing the price of alcohol is one of the most effective ways of curbing harmful drinking. We need to make alcohol less appealing, particularly to young people. The evidence is that banning advertising, limiting the number of retailers and introducing minimum pricing works."

The relationship between alcohol misuse and mental health problems is complex, with alcohol both contributing to mental health problems and being used by some people with mental illness to ‘self medicate’.

Alcohol misuse is also linked with suicide rates. Research has shown that 62% of people who died by suicide in Northern Ireland who had been in contact with mental health services within one year of death had a history of alcohol abuse.

For further information, please contact:
Sarah Nevins
Press & Social Media Officer
Telephone: 020 3701 2543
Claire McLoughlin
Media & Communications Manager 
Telephone: 020 3701 2544
Out of hours contact number: 07860 755896


Note to editors:

On 15 June, Health Minister Michael McGimpsey said that further action is needed to tackle the alcohol misuse problem that costs Northern Ireland up to £900million per year. The Minister was speaking as findings of a research study to estimate the cost to society of alcohol misuse to Northern Ireland in 2008/09 were published.


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