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Family key to beating our drink culture

THE abuse of alcohol by parents has a greater impact on a child than advertising by the drinks industry, according to the head of the country’s only residential treatment centre for children. Declan Jones of the Aislinn Adolescent Addiction Centre in Co Kilkenny said it did not treat any young person for drugs that it was not also treating for alcohol.

“It’s all very well saying the drinks industry have to be responsible, or the advertising people have to be responsible, and they certainly do, but I also think parents, adults, older brother and sisters, are all responsible for the culture of drink and the recreation culture that is built up around drink.”

He was responding to a report, published last week by the Irish College of Psychiatrists (ICP), calling for a ban on alcohol advertising.

While supporting the paper, Mr Jones said more emphasis needed to be placed on adults’ use of alcohol and the broader culture of drinking.

“Parents having the bottle of wine on the Friday night, but tippling too much, children soak in more by observation than by you intentionally trying to teach them something.”

He said the ICP report highlighted research that indicated that 50,000 children were getting drunk every weekend in Ireland.

“What got me recently was the Junior Cert results were out and every report on radio was urging everyone to ‘celebrate sensibly’, which is code for ‘don’t get drunk’. I’m listening to national radio and local radio urging 15-year-old children not to get drunk. What sort kind of culture and society are we.”

He said other research, revealed in the Irish Examiner last week, showed that some 14,000 people — including more than 400 children — were being treated for alcohol problems in hospitals every year.

Mr Jones said they have seen girls as young as 15 with chronic alcohol problems, as bad as men in their 50s, with long-term damage to their internal organs.

He said as well as being a “phenomenal killer and destroyer” itself, alcohol was also the gateway to other drugs, particularly cannabis, and more recently, cocaine.

He said the cost of the six-week residential programme was €16,000, which was paid for by a mixture of private health insurance, statutory funding and people paying privately.

He said relapse was part of recovery and that most relapsed in the first month of leaving the centre. He said this was why families were central — not only to the six-week programme but to recovery.

Aislinn Centre, Ballyragget, Co Kilkenny. Tel: 056 8833 777

By Cormac O’Keeffe

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