A review and update of the weekly low-risk alcohol guidelines is upcoming and changes in drinking patterns during the pandemic will inform the process, this newspaper has been told. The weekly low-risk alcohol guidelines were last assessed in 2015 following a review commissioned by the HSE. The HSE Alcohol Programme has since been established and now oversees the guidelines.
“An implementation plan for the HSE Alcohol Programme is currently in development and will include an action to review and update the low-risk drinking guidelines,” a Department of Health spokesperson told the Medical Independent. The spokesperson added that the “pandemic has resulted in a significant shift towards home drinking”. “The next review and update of the weekly low-risk alcohol guidelines will need to take cognisance of these changed drinking patterns and national and international literature.”
The current recommended weekly low-risk alcohol guidelines are less than 11 standard drinks for women and 17 standard drinks for men. A standard drink in Ireland includes a pub measure of spirits (35.5ml), a small glass of wine (12.5 per cent volume), and a half pint of ‘normal beer’. A bottle of 12.5 per cent alcohol wine has about seven standard drinks.
According to the Healthy Ireland Survey 2021, which was published last month, 42 per cent of drinkers stated they were drinking less. Binge drinking had reduced to 15 per cent of the population as compared to 28 per cent before the pandemic. However, 44 per cent of respondents reported that their drinking had not changed during the pandemic and 13 per cent reported they were now drinking more. Minimum unit pricing for alcohol was introduced earlier this month