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Worldwide Treaty on Alcohol Necessary

A liver specialist calls on governments from all over the world to come together and come up with a worldwide treaty on alcohol aimed at reducing alcohol-related damage. Dr. Debbie Shawcross from the Institute of Liver Studies at the King’s College Hospital in London writes about her observations in this week’s edition of British Medical Journal.

Every day, hospitals encounter cases of patients suffering from the physical or psychological damages that alcohol has inflicted. In the United Kingdom alone, cases of death resulting from alcoholic liver disease doubled over the past decade. The incidence has also increased by eight times among individuals under 35 years old because of the evolution of the culture of binge drinking in the younger generation. Because of this, “the incidence of cirrhosis is expected to increase exponentially and there will be a 500% greater need for liver transplantation in the next decade.”

The author remembers the patients that she came to her for consult early in her career in comparison to recent consults after attending an alcohol symposium at the British Liver Conference in Edinburgh last year. First, she mentioned about two young girls who walked by her house on their way to school that morning. The girls are both drinking alcopops even when it was only 7:30 a.m, hardly an appropriate time to get intoxicated. She asked them about their weekly intake, where they got the drinks and whether they also drank during lunchtime and after class.

She then though of a man who is in his early twenties. The guy has an impressive background, coming from a respectable family and had a well-paying job. The man has just been recently discharged from the hospital where he stayed for cirrhosis treatment. The patient didn’t follow through on his appointments and it’s more likely that he was unable to stay away from alcohol use after getting out of the hospital.

Dr. Shawcross also remembered a second young man who was admitted for alcoholic hepatitis. His Muslim upbringing made him keep his addiction to himself. His family had no idea he was already addicted. “It was only as his alcohol withdrawal syndrome was reaching its terrible crescendo and he quite literally began crawling up the walls that he finally admitted to his alcohol addiction,” she writes.

“I dread the day when the young schoolgirls drinking alcopops will be referred to my clinic or, worse still, present with multiorgan failure,” she said. Alcohol may be more socially acceptable when taken in moderate amounts as compared to tobacco or drugs but leaders from all over the world should start acting now towards creating a worldwide treat on alcohol, she concludes.

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