GPs in new safe drinking initiative

  • Niall Hunter, Editor

GPs will be able to show patients what a standard drinks measure is under a new alcohol initiative being launched by the Irish College of General Practitioners (ICGP).

The standard drinks (SD) measure, which the College is distributing to GPs around the country, is a glass which has the accurate measure of one unit of wine or spirits marked on it.

SD is a simple way of expressing the quantity of pure alcohol in a drink. One SD contains 10g of pure alcohol, which is the estimated amount of alcohol the average adult can process in an hour.

The plastic glass is for use in patient consultations as a visual aid to help GPs, practice nurses to explain recommended alcohol consumption levels to patients.

The new standard drinks measure is part of a range of alcohol awareness initiatives being launched by the College to help GPs identify and tackle alcohol addiction.

According to Department of Health statistics, 11,740 bed days were used for alcohol detoxification in 2012, which, at an average cost of €1,000 euro per day. This equals an economic cost to the health service of €11 million.

Dr Margaret O'Riordan, Medical Director of the Irish College of General Practitioners, said the College is aiming to encourage patients to talk about how much they drink and to bring the conversation about alcohol from a subjective to a more accurate one in the consultation through an easy-to-interpret tool which shows recommended consumption levels.

"Alcohol creates major health and social problems, which can have tragic consequences, as we have seen in the last week", Dr O'Riordan said.

She said the Government's plan to introduce minimum pricing on alcohol was welcome.

"However, with average alcohol consumption now over 145% higher than it was in the 1960s, we cannot be complacent about the problem being confined to the young, or those with a known alcohol problem."

"A simple tool like the standard drinks measure will assist general practitioners in tackling the subject of alcohol abuse with their patients in a sensitive but realistic way," Dr O'Riordan said.

According to latest HSE guidelines, in Ireland, a standard drink has about 10 grams of pure alcohol in it. In the UK a standard drink, also called a unit of alcohol, has about 8 grams of pure alcohol.

Examples of a standard drink include:

A pub measure of spirits - (35.5ml).
A small glass of wine - (12.5% volume).
A half pint of normal beer.
An alcopop - (275ml bottle).
A bottle of wine at 12.5% alcohol contains about seven standard drinks.

Weekly recommended alcohol consumption guidelines are:

Up to 11 standard drinks in a week for women, and
Up to 17 standard drinks in a week for men.

Drinks should be spaced out over the week, not consumed in one sitting. Drinking more than the safe levels may cause harm.

Information on the standard drinks measure is also available on the ICGP website at www.icgp.ie/drinksguide.

 


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