Is binge drinking a mental health problem?
Yesterday, the government published a national alcohol strategy. Unfortunately, the nation already has one. It's drink a lot and drink it quick. One in three men drink more than the recommended limit, 40% of their sessions involve bingeing and the under 16s are knocking back twice as much alcohol as they did ten years ago. The worst record in Europe.
Of course,there is no shortage of drunks on the continent where the bars are open long and late and the wine costs less than a bottle of Coke's famous tap water. But they're different. A French drunk will tell you a hopelessly unfunny joke or try to kiss your girlfriend; a British drunk will put your teeth down your throat. French drunks do it quietly and with a little embarrassment; the Brits do it loud and with no embarrassment at all even when they're showing you their spotty bottoms through train carriage windows.
The government has told the booze industry that it's binge drinking in the last-chance saloon and had better come up with some self-regulation soon. Has the last bell tolled on the happy hour? We'll see. Meanwhile, the government is going to send under-age kids into bars to see if they get served. Pity they didn't think of it sooner. It would have been the ideal job for Euan Blair.
Doctors have called for firmer action. The British Medical Association want clear warnings and labelling on alcohol products and a ban on alcohol advertising.
Binge drinking is not just dangerous to the health of the participants. It is dangerous for everyone else. There are the 92,000 cases of drink-driving every year in the UK, the 150,000 alcohol related hospital admissions and the incredible 1.2 million cases of alcohol-related violence. Bingeing is also even more dangerous in young people as their brains are still developing and more sensitive. Just one weekend of hard drinking can cause brain damage that can never be repaired.
French drink ads do have much the same sort of warning about excess that ciggie ads used to have. But do we really believe this why they drink less dangerously than the Brits? What is it that makes the British male and, increasingly, the British female, want to change - rather than enhance or liberate - his or her personality by drinking? Answers on a beer mat to…
Page created on March 16th, 2004
Page updated on January 16th, 2010