Northern Ireland

NI psychiatrists call for minimum price for alcohol

Psychiatrists have called on the Stormont Executive to introduce a minimum price for alcohol.

The Royal College of Psychiatrists said local ministers should follow Scotland's lead in proposing a minimum price of 45p per unit.

The chair of the college, Dr Philip McGarry, said psychiatrists see "the dreadful consequences" of dangerous alcohol consumption.

He said a price increase was a very effective way to curb harmful drinking.

Dr McGarry explained: "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."

'Heavily discounted'

He added that The Royal College of Psychiatrists did not oppose "responsible drinking" but had advocated minimum pricing for alcohol for some time.

"Supermarkets sell beer for less than the price of bottled water, and we see pubs and clubs promoting drinks, often to young people and in particular young women, at heavily discounted prices," he said.

It is believed that alcohol abuse costs the taxpayer up to £900 million per year and both the Health Minister Michael McGimpsey and Social Development Minister Alex Attwood have already said in recent months that minimum pricing is needed.

"We need to make alcohol less appealing, particularly to young people," Dr McGarry said.

"International evidence demonstrates that minimum pricing for alcohol works, and the World Health Organisation says that increasing the price of alcohol is one of the most effective ways of curbing harmful drinking."

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