Page last updated at 09:22 GMT, Friday, 5 June 2009 10:22 UK

Doctor's diary: Binge drinking

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"People are dying in front of my eyes through excessive drinking"

By Dr Tom Coffey

This week BBC diary doctor, Tom Coffey, reports on his weekly shift in the emergency department of London's Charing Cross Hospital.

I've seen a number of quite seriously ill people, but the one that sticks in my mind is a 29-year-old woman who came in with alcoholic liver failure.
She was bleeding, she was yellow, she had a swollen belly and she was confused - she'd been drinking non-stop for 13 years and she's now facing a liver transplant.

Twenty years ago, when I first started in A&E, the classic alcoholic was a 50-year-old man who had been drinking down the pub for a number of years.

Now, that has changed - more and more I'm seeing younger people, especially young women, who've been drinking for the last 10 years, non-stop, and now they're getting all the problems of alcohol - they're bleeding internally, they're getting liver failure, and they're getting high blood pressure.

The tragedy of seeing patients with alcoholic liver disease is that it's so preventable.

These are people coming in, with self-inflicted illness, who are dying in front of my eyes - consuming alcohol as a pleasure, not realising the enormous damage it is doing to them.

I would hope that doctors and the government realise that the biggest drug problem in Britain isn't heroin, it isn't ecstasy, it's alcohol.

Too many people now, especially young people, are drinking to excess and are slowly killing themselves.




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