Personal or legal, do most people know their limits? Janine White Investigates…

By Janine White: Culture Editor

With Boris Johnson announcing a roadmap out of the current lockdown, the citizens of England are planning parties, big nights out and community gatherings at an unprecedented rate. Why is alcohol the first thing on the agenda?

Alcoholic beverages have been a part of British culture for centuries. It has been professed that it became this way when alcohol was the safest and cleaner alternative to water. Despite a vast array of safer drinking options this tradition continues to dominate.

In 2018, 22% of 15-year olds recounted that they had been drunk at least once in the previous 4 weeks. 71% of these children had been given the alcohol by their parents or guardians, many had partaken in the activity with their caregivers fully aware that they were drinking this amount.

Conveyed in a study of adult drinkers in 2017, 27% admitted that they would binge drink regularly (the excessive consumption of alcohol in a short time).

Extreme drinking was a problem in the UK prior to the pandemic with 358,000 hospital admissions in 2018/2019 due to alcohol. In 2018 alone there were 5,698 deaths specifically owing to alcohol.

NHS staff and emergency services faced dangers each weekend from intoxicated groups. Accident and emergency rooms were full of people sleeping off the effects of alcohol poisoning, to the point that spaces were set up in town centres to enable hospitals to function for the rest of the population.

Alcohol has been known to cause more harm than any other drugs according to previous Government advisors, including heroine and crack cocaine. Regardless of the transparent harms of such substances communities still choose to ‘hit the bottle’.

TV shows have become popular so that people can laugh, feel shame for and see for themselves what alcohol can lead to. Booze Britain is one of these programs that show the disastrous effects of group nights out. Long standing and popular television shows such as Coronation Street and EastEnders use the local pub as the place of community gathering. The place to socialise, argue, fall in love and crawl home from. All depicting an overindulging culture.

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Following the British is a reputation of ‘going on benders’ leading to Friday and Saturday emergency services strain. Once popular holiday destinations for determined drinkers, such as Magaluf and Ibiza have introduced bans on the sale of alcohol, as it has been decided that it leads to sexual inhibition in public and other uncivil behaviour, regularly witnessed during 18-30 drinking holidays, stag and hen dos. This drunkard status has become an accepted part of our culture and tourists are informed about this before arriving.

Potential international students are advised on the British Council’s official website that British pubs are an important part of UK values, reinforcing to young adults that excessive alcohol consumption dominates universities.

The British public house has gone from an establishment that working-class men would visit to rehydrate themselves after a long day at work in the mines or factories, to a place for twenty somethings with the explicit aim of getting drunk. Described by some as essential for a good night out, consumption at home prior to the festivities is a prerequisite for ensuring drunkenness.

The pandemic could have created a culture shift forcing society to change their ways and improve their international standing; however, this does not appear to be the case.

With the roadmap out of lockdown now in sight and pubs refurbishing, creating enticing beer gardens and staff being employed, the British population are counting down the days to their first night out in over a year. Facebook forums are full of groups arranging meetups, discussions of sharing hotel rooms, getting drunk and meeting likeminded people for dancing, drinking and sexual jollies.

According to research carried out by Drinkaware, over a fifth of the population report drinking more than they did prior to COVID-19, 17% of these finding it hard to stop at just one.

In fact, 11% of respondents described having to consume more to get the same effect as they did a year ago revealing that intake has increased.

Even the 15% of the population who disclosed drinking less now, their reason was the lack of the social side, with 31% not currently having contact with their ‘drinking buddies’. In this case as soon as the social distancing rules subside and meetups restart there will be more heavy drinkers than before.

Will there be a binge drinking pandemic next? Will the hospitals be filled with alcohol related accidents and deaths instead of COVID ones?

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