The ICGP survey’s finding (‘Half of GPs say they’re ineffective in treating problem drinkers’, 07/01/19) that two-thirds of GPs have managed patients for hazardous drinking bears out our own research that one-in-five Irish adults are hazardous drinkers – using the World Health Organisation’s Alcohol Use Disorder Identification Test (AUDIT).
But the fact that the majority of GPs are the initiators of the conversation shows that whilst alcohol misuse is endemic there still exists a cultural complacency around excessive alcohol consumption, as revealed in the 2018 Drinkaware Index that maps the true extent of harmful alcohol use across the nation. It is this complicit attitude that normalises harmful drinking, making it natural that change in this area is often resisted.
GPs are at the coalface of intervention and have a crucial role to play in helping people to drink less alcohol – 12% of people who have made positive changes to their drinking habits consulted with their GP for advice and support (Drinkaware Index 2018).
But the article is right, more supports are needed. The hundreds of thousands of visitors to our website and the fact that frontline health professionals accounted for one-in-ten orders for Drinkaware health promotion resources – standard drink measure cups, sugar/calorie calculators, booklets – in 2018, reflect a growing need and indeed appetite for information and support. This needs to be met with evidence-based practical tools and tips, that are informed by unique and robust research, and delivered across multiple channels.
But perhaps more critical just now, is that if we are to create an Ireland where alcohol is not misused then we need to collectively create an attitudinal shift that converts intention into action, and ultimately positive behavioural change.