A Derry GP has said that attitudes to drink and drugs must be changed by political action at the top level after figures revealed the number of teenagers treated in Altnagelvin for drink and drug abuse.
Hundreds of teenagers have received treatment at the city’s Accident and Emergency Department for alcohol and drug abuse in the last four years, it has emerged.
The figures were released to the ‘Journal’ following Freedom of Information requests which asked for the numbers of young people between the ages of 13 and 18 who have been treated for the effects of both alcohol and drug abuse between 2012 and 2015.
In a statement added to the answers to the questions, the Western Health and Social Care Trust (WHSCT) said that the figures for A&E admissions are likely to be higher than the actual figures quoted because some of those presenting at the hospital may do so with injuries such as head trauma for example,with drugs and alcohol, therefore, being considered as secondary factors.
The WHSCT also added that to conduct a FoI request on this basis would be too extensive and would fall outside their obligations under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.
Dr. Anne Doherty, who is based at Oakleaf Medical Practice in the city said: “It’s very disheartening to see this happening.”
The response to the question on those treated for alcohol abuse revealed that in 2012 a total of 75 teenagers were treated (34 females and 41 males), in 2013; 65 were treated for the effects of drink (29 females and 36 males), in 2014; 32 females and 22 males presented to A&E (a total of 54) and last year, 2015, 59 were treated (34 males and 25 females).
In the last two years a total of 19 more teenage girls were treated for alcohol abuse than males.
Overall, the amount of males and females treated was 253.
The ‘Journal’ also asked the same question in relation to treatment at A&E for drug abuse in the same time period.
The results revealed that in 2012, 19 (11 females and 8 males) were treated and again in 2013 a total of 19 (9 females and 10 males) received treatment for drug abuse at A&E, whilst in 2014 the overall figures was again 19 (10 females and 9 males). Last year, 2015, 12 females and 27 males were treated.
Therefore, in overall terms the amount of teenagers treated for drug abuse in the last four years has doubled and in two of the four years scrutinised marginally more girls were treated than boys.
This means that the final totals in relation to treatment for drink and drugs is 349.
And, a GP who has spoken out in the past on the issue of teenager alcohol abuse has called for top level political action to address the situation in Derry.
Dr. Ann Doherty from Oakleaf Medical Practice reacted to the figures obtained by the ‘Journal’ by saying: “I have been looking at the issue of alcohol related harm in this city for 15-20 years.”
In 2006, Dr, Doherty publicly called on Derry City Council to scrap the annual Hallowe’en Carnival unless it could assure that alcohol consumption could be completely controlled.
At that time the GP said: “Underage drinking is not only confined to Derry, it is every city in Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland and in England.”
Dr. Doherty also said that when Nelson McCausland, as Social Development Minister, launched a consultation of alcohol in 2014 she formulated a survey of her own and sent the responses she correlated to Stormont.
“I broke it down into two sections which were to create a minimum price for alcohol and also to control the sales of alcohol.
“98 per cent of the doctors I spoke to agreed with thse points, but I am still waiting to hear back from what was the Department of Social Development.
“I believe that change will only come when politicians realise that they need to take this seriously.
“I think there also needs to be changes in awarding top level DLA to people addicted to drink and drugs because it simply encourages them to keep doing it,” she said.
Dr. Doherty also contended that Derry is witnessing premature deaths from alcohol and drug abuse.
She continued: “What we are seeing now are people in their 30s and 40s dying early from drink and drug abuse.
“People that should still be alive today that developed these addictions as teenagers.
“Young people see their parents do this and so it continues on.
“Women in this town used to meet each other for a cup of tea, now they meet each other to drink wine.
“However it appears to me that the political will to address this isn’t out there.
“We are seeing the results of all this now-people choking on their own vomit, liver failure, trauma, head injuries and crashing their cars when they are drunk.
“As a GP in this city I am seeing this more and more.”