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  Inside Out - Yorkshire & Lincolnshire: Monday September 22 2003

LIVER DISEASE FEARS FOR YOUNG WOMEN

Glass of beer
Alcoholic liver disease causes many deaths annually

Doctors in Yorkshire say there's increasing evidence of liver disease amongst young women caused by drinking excess alcohol.

Hospitals are used to seeing women with liver damage in their forties and fifties - now they're seeing the symptoms in women who are in their twenties and thirties.

Binge drinking, happy hours and the ready availability of alcopops are blamed for this worrying trend which some doctors believe is going to cost the NHS tens of millions of pounds.

'Ladette' culture

Dr Fleur Ashby
Dr Fleur Ashby treats people with alcohol problems

Dr Fleur Ashby from Kendray Hospital in Barnsley says the situation is worrying and peculiarly British.

"There are women out there who are trying to drink as much as the lads… but the way their bodies are built mean they can't tolerate the same amount of alcohol."

"Many of them are coming through by displaying physical symptoms and these are getting picked up by their GPs.

" People are binge drinking and a percentage of these people are now drinking in a more dependent fashion as a result."

Devastating

One former drinker, who was displaying the warning signs of liver damage, says the effects of alcohol can be devastating.

Healthy liver
A healthy liver

"You don't know what damage you're doing to yourself. Your whole body is shattered - you can't sleep, you can't control your eating, you can't control your bowels. You are just messing up your life."

It's believed that alcoholic liver disease accounts for between 5,000 - 6,000 deaths a year.

These pictures show a comparison between a healthy and diseased liver.

Limits ignored

Diseased liver
Diseased liver shows the devastating effects of drinking excess alcohol.

Government safe drinking levels recommend that women drink a maximum of 14 units of alcohol a week.

The safe recommended level for men is 21 units.

But doctors believe these levels are being routinely breached in weekend drinking binges.

Critics of the alcohol industry say young people, and women in particular, are being targeted with a vast range of alcopops with fruit juice tastes laced with vodka or other spirits.

Action needed

Doctors admit they're fighting a losing battle with more and more bars offering happy hours and cheap drinks.

HEALTH RISKS OF HEAVY DRINKING

Liver damage

Osteoporosis

Pancreatitis

Heart disease

Damage to unborn children

Increased risks of some types of cancer

Dr Dermot Gleeson, a liver expert from the Royal Hallamshire Hospital in Sheffield says, "This is a huge industry, about £10-12 billion is raised in tax."

"There is a case for increasing the tax on alcohol because it is less expensive than it used to be."

Even those in the licensed trade believe there's a need for reform with better and larger labelling on bottles to indicate how many units of alcohol each one contains.

Roger Hodgkinson, Chairman of the British Institute of Inn Keeping says, "You could even argue that there should be better labelling on the pumps on bars so that people are getting as much information as possible."

Getting help

If you are worried about the affects of alcohol on yourself or someone else, Sheffield Alcohol Advisory Service offer free and confidential counselling. They can be contacted via their website (see links section below) or at:

Sheffield Alcohol Advisory Service
646 Abbeydale Road
Sheffield
S7 2BB
Telephone: 0114 258 7553

Many other towns and cities arcoss the country have similar services.

See also ...

On bbc.co.uk
BBC: Healthy living - alcohol

On the rest of the web
British Liver Trust
Alcohol Concern
Sheffield Alcohol Advisory Service

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external websites

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Readers' Comments

We are not adding any new comments to this page but you can still read some of the comments previously submitted by readers.

Ann
My son is 27 and due to alcohol is now in need of a liver transplant. three weeks ago he was just working away with no care in the world and now his whole life has changed and his life is in danger. Please dont drink to excess.



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