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adOn October 3rd Deputy Jan O'Sullivan presented a motion to the Dail on Addiction Services. The aim of the motion is to highlight the scale of the problem of addiction throughout Ireland and the increasing demands on services. In his submission to the debate Deputy Wallace singles out alcohol as a drug which is costing the state €3.7 billion per year. You can watch his full speech here.

I commend Deputy O'Sullivan on tabling the motion, and the aspiration, to prioritise addiction as a health issue, not primarily as a criminal one, and ensure the necessary allocation of resources, is a noble one.  I would like to speak about alcohol because for too long we have not recognised it as a drug.  We think of it almost as part of our diet.  At this stage it is so interwoven into who we are that it is problematic.  When one visits other European countries, one sees how different the attitude is in comparison with here. The notion that alcohol costs the State €3.7 billion in overall terms is frightening.  It is amazing.  Given that money is so scarce, apart from the destruction of so many lives which alcohol causes, dealing with it could also save the State a huge amount of money.  A 30% reduction in alcohol harm would save the State €1 billion.  A huge effort is required in this area and it would be money very well spent.  It would be good not only socially but also economically. Most people have mentioned the various elements on which alcohol touches, such as 60 medical conditions, suicide, crime, absenteeism and workplace accidents.  The list is endless.  Like most people in the House, I like a pint of Guinness and a glass of red wine, but it is not the drinking of alcohol which causes all the harm, it is its abuse.  I coach under 16s, 17s, 18s and 19s in the Wexford Youths.  When I get a group of new players, my first challenge is to deal with the alcohol issue.  Honestly, this is my first challenge.  I must get them to think differently about how they drink.  Cigarettes are another issue, but alcohol is the biggest one.  I must completely change their mindset.  We have won six under 18 all-Ireland titles in the past 15 years.  The only reason we have done so is because we develop a discipline which involves responsible drinking.  I am not saying they give it up, but they stop abusing it.  If I am watching a match, after ten minutes I can tell whether a guy was drinking the night before.  One can tell by how he moves and his pace over the first two yards. One cannot play sport at this level and abuse alcohol, which emphasises the value of sport.  It is in the State's interest to invest as much money as it possibly can in sport.  Every sport is beneficial. It is amazing how much sport can help with the problems we encounter in these areas. I am a great believer in education, and we need to target alcohol.  We must teach people more and be more specific about the harm of alcohol. Improvements have been made over the years with regard to cigarettes.  I can remember in my last year in secondary school that 40 out of the 60 pupils in the two classes smoked. I have an 18 year old son and I checked the matter with him recently.  In his class of 30, only four students smoked so things have improved and there has been much work done to counteract the harm of smoking, including advertising. Advertising is an area that we certainly need to look at due to the volume of advertising thrown at people and the content.  With regard to content, we see far too much humour and joviality associated with alcohol.  We must stop that as it is giving young people the wrong idea.  We need strict regulation in that area and I think it will be very effective.

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