Talking about Too Much Booze!

A Kranz (wreath) of Kölsch beer.

Some might say that for me to post about the negative aspects of booze is a little hypocritical however; given my life-long connection with alcohol (see here) am I not also more qualified than many to comment?

I suppose that when you consider I’m also a (part-time) barman, your initial conclusions would probably be galvanised even further but then again, I’m also one of the few that is fully conversant with the many of the negative aspects which surround irresponsible drinking – are you? You’re probably not even that concerned about my ramblings after all, you only consider yourself to be a social drinker – but are you?

When Social Drinking Becomes a Problem: Since the 1950s, alcohol consumption in the UK has gradually increased. The NHS now spends more on alcohol-related illness among baby boomers than any other age group, with £825m spent on 55 to 74-year-olds in 2010-11 compared to £64m on under-24s…(bbc.co.uk)

By talking about alcohol with some first-hand knowledge, not just from a puritanical or even partly scientific viewpoint, I would also hope to provide opinion that is perhaps a little more simplistic and realistic. Contrary to some popular belief, much of the advice and guidance available from ‘official’ sources like the NHS and (I hate to admit) our government, is actually factual and valid. The problem arrises when we make the choice to ignore that information, for whatever reason.

Too many people now see alcohol (and other drugs) as their escapism from the realities of life. They may dress it up as social drinking and simply having a good time, but an evening of escapism is just a temporary fix to disguise a problem that is usually still there the next day.

Bob Hoskins once reminded us in a TV commercial that “It’s Good To Talk!” It is, and that’s why I meet with friends socially on most Sunday afternoons. Yes we meet in a pub to talk (see here), but unlike so many these days,  the beer is not the sole reason for our meeting, it is ancillary to the event.

It’s partly ironic that Alcohol Concern decided to brand their recent Alcohol Awareness Week with the theme – “it’s time to talk about drinking.” 

Alcohol Awareness Week: One of the nation’s defining features is that people love to talk about drinking – but are we having the right kind of conversation? (Alcohol Concern)

Despite the undoubted value of the social interaction and enjoyment which can be obtained from going for a drink with friends, our media always tend to focus solely upon the negativity of drinking. But it’s also interesting that despite continually battering the public with all this negativity, as a Nation we still appear to be incapable of curbing the rise in drink related problems within our society. Perhaps we’re warned about drinking too much but what is too much?

The risks of drinking too much: Most people who have alcohol-related health problems aren’t alcoholics. They’re simply people who have regularly drunk more than the recommended levels for some years…(NHS)

This media hammering is all well and good however; either excessive drinkers don’t read newspapers and watch TV or, they simply don’t believe the booze negativity. They don’t see how it could possibly impact upon them, after all most of them think they only drink socially.

Social Drinking – The Hidden Risks: If you think only alcoholics and binge drinkers are putting their health at risk, think again…(NHS)

Click for larger image

This is why there is a need to have conversations about the health risks, the social problems, the stigmas and taboos along with all the dangers, if only to provide a reasoned and solid base from which people can become better informed about the subject in its entirety.

Why not start off by having a go at the NHS Alcohol self-assesment calculator? It won’t just tell you about your alcohol intake but also, you can get a starting point for your conversations about alcohol. All this talk of Alcohol Units often has little or no effect however; it might just persuade you  to drink less!

A report by a group of MPs has expressed concern that government guidelines on how much alcohol people should drink “appeared to endorse daily drinking”. Here we show what the government recommends and what the units actually mean…(bbc.co.uk)

As a slight aside but still connected to the subject; the “good to talk” strap line has also been adopted by the British Association for Counselling & Psychotherapy (BACP). I mention this because I believe, drinking to excess is not only a form of simple escapism for many but also; any true addiction has both psychological and chemical causes, it isn’t just a simple way to out the negativity that impacts upon your life.

…Daily drinking can start off as a social event but turn into dependency, addiction experts say. So when does social drinking become alcoholism? (bbc.co.uk)

During the Christmas festivities, perhaps more than any other period in the year, many people who don’t really drink at any other time suddenly become booze monsters. Most of this can be attributed to simply having fun and/or elements of succumbing to peer pressure. It’s a direction taken out of either simple stupidity, a devil-may-care type of mentality or just a lack of knowledge.

It may be a simple misunderstanding about alcohol units or the risks and dangers of drinking to excess however; when the information is actually available to inform us about our personal choices, why do we still fail to heed all (or any) of that advice? I think it’s that predominant live for the here and now and bollocks to the consequences mentality which is now so endemic within our society.

The information is out there but too many people never see the real consequences of their actions, until it’s too late that is. In addition to that and because of our inherent self-interest (also endemic within our society), any consequences of our actions, be they direct or indirect are mostly insignificant and/or ignored, unless it comes to the point where they actually impact upon us directly as individuals.

Take for example that annual seasonal message – Drinking & Driving Wrecks Lives. Despite reported reductions in accidents where people have been killed or seriously injured and alcohol was a factor (see 2010 figures here), the drink & drive message is still one which far too many choose to ignore.

Perhaps the way in which we choose to ‘advise’ our society isn’t actually graphic enough?

The drink-drive campaign this Christmas will target young people as figures show that this year, drivers aged between 20 and 24 failed more breath tests than any other group…(bbc.co.uk)

But as this year’s annual Christmas Drink Drive Campaign rolls onward, recent news that Harrogate tops the drink-drive conviction list tends to support my belief; the message is still falling on deaf ears. And even more worrying than that, parts of our society are prepared not only to condone but actively assist others to drink and drive.

I’m aware that my observation about Harrogate may also have something to do with police resources and their enforcement actions/inactions, but that’s another story.

But despite award-winning adverts from organisations like the Campaign Against Drink Driving (CADD), we still refuse to learn the simple fact; Drinking & Driving Wrecks Lives!

A recent ‘experiment’ by The Mirror secretly filmed Christmas shoppers in Cheltenham Gloucestershire assisting an apparently drunk driver get into his car. Worryingly, two-thirds of the people passing by were prepared to help him unlock his car so he could drive, despite his obvious inebriation (see here). With that sort of mentality prevalent within our society, what hope for eradicating the problem?

When it comes to alcohol and drinking problems I get all the stuff about personal choice, I can understand that people don’t like being preached to by a less than squeaky clean government but what I will never comprehend is; why so many people still can’t get their heads around the real impacts and consequences of drinking to excess. I’m prepared to write off the idiot who wants to drink themselves to oblivion, that’s their choice but when personal choice impacts upon others that is wrong.

I previously mentioned the notion of being more graphic about the way we portray public information on the matter but in reality, I also think this would also be destined to failure. I suspect there are now too few in our society actually capable of considering anyone but themselves!

Oh how I’d love to be proved wrong!

About Dave Hasney

National Coordinator for UK SMART Recovery - Previously a Recovery Worker and prior to that a Management Consultant and H&S Practitioner - Kept sane by Angling, Good Food, Real Ale & Wine - Cynical thoughts sometimes developed from others.

Posted on 15-12-2012, in Police, Society Babble and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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