Drinking ourselves to death?
This essay will look into the question as to whether we are a nation that is on the verge of drinking ourselves to death, despite the ever increasing health warnings raised by the government and the National Health Service, about the consequences of consuming too much alcohol. A vast majority of individuals still seem to be regularly binge drinking without thinking about the devastating damage that they are doing to their bodies. It will also examine the ever demanding costs of alcohol related incidents that the National Health Service have to deal with upon a daily basis. It will look at the alcohol ‘strategies’ made by both the Labour government in 2004 and the Conservative government in 2010, to help tackle the problems related to alcohol. Furthermore I will look to evaluate whether the current alcohol policies proposed by the present government are helping to tackle the ever increasing problems related to binge drinking. It will also examine the tricks that the media use to try and persuade individuals to consume an unsafe amount of alcohol. Along with shocking evidence that a unit of alcohol is unbelievably cheaper that a bottle of water!
The first section of this essay will discuss the current problems relating to binge drinking. Secondly I will look to evaluate as to whether the policies that have been imposed by the Labour government and Conservative government are actually helping to resolve the problems, caused by individuals choosing to consume considerable amounts of alcohol. Thirdly I will expose the ‘tricks’ that the supermarkets and media use in order to encourage individuals to consume unsafe amounts of alcohol. Along with this I will add some recent research conducted by myself to find out about the unit price of a number of different wines and spirits. The last section of this essays will discuss as to whether I believe the current binge drinking problem has spiralled out of control. Plus if the government has in fact left the long list of consequences attributable to alcohol related accidents and violence, far too late to tackle.
Firstly the main point to be raised about the irresponsible drinking habits of individuals in Britain. Are they young adults who choose to pre-drink before going out clubbing, sometimes these young individuals can be under the drinking age? Or young individuals who are choosing to drink more than the recommend safe amount. The nation seems to have an irresponsible relationship with alcohol consumption, which leads to individuals choosing to binge drink as the result. The true reality of the impact of the nation’s irresponsible drinking habits can be highlighted in research, which was conducted by The Home Office in 2010. It is estimated that in a community of 100,000 people each year: 2,000 people will be admitted to hospital with an alcohol related condition. A 1,000 people will be victims of alcohol related violent crimes. Over 3,000 will be binge drinking. (Drugs and Alcohol Unit, 2012: 6) Sadly those who choose to drink to the extent where they became paralytic are often the ones, who end up needing medical treatment.
Moreover it is the Accident and Emergency departments throughout Britain that are consistently clogged, mainly at night, with individuals that have been injured or have become ill due to the result of excessive alcohol consumption. The Police also have to deal with individuals that choose to repeatedly drink irresponsibly. It is believed that at peak times 70% of all admissions to Accident and Emergency are in fact alcohol related (Cabinet Office, 2004: 9).This means that there is ever increasing pressure being put upon these services trying to deal with real emergencies. The Labour Government calculate the cost of the health service treating alcohol misuse to be ?1.7 billion per annum (Cabinet Office, 2004: 12). Clearly there is a number of points to be raised about individual’s irresponsible attitudes when it comes to alcohol consumption. Furthermore the admissions to hospital because of alcohol related violence and accidents could in fact start to rapidly increase. In a report by the Home Office, almost two million people more than six percent of men and two percent of women, were consuming more than what is regarded as the safe level of alcohol. (Baggot, 2004: 203) What these individuals do not realise is that by drinking alcohol to the extent they do, may causing them to develop extreme health complications in the future. They could develop kidney failure, liver damage and a number of different forms of cancer.
Secondly this section will look to identity some of the policies the government have imposed in order to tackle the nation’s irresponsible drinking. Before the government can introduce a new set of policies they need to identify the aims. Moreover, in order to justify a national alcohol policy there needs to be an acceptance that alcohol has a profound effect upon society as a whole and that in the interest of the public good there is a need to combine the regulation of alcohol use with actions to attenuate the actual or potential consequences (Ratistrick, Hodgson and Ritson, 1999: 19). In order to impose a new set of policies the government needs to consider a number of different circumstances, as to which interventions will work to prevent the current problem. The government may consider imposing a set of polices within the interest of protecting the basic rights of individuals, whilst considering the overall safety of the public. Sometimes governments can make mistakes. The shocking decision that was made in 2000 when the Labour government, introduced plans to alter the licensing laws proposing a dramatic relaxation in those provisions covering hours of sale in England and Wales(Baggot,2000: 206). Probably one of the biggest mistakes that any government has made regarding the effects it has had upon increased binge drinking and consequently public health.
On the other hand the current government has imposed some ambitions that they believe will help curb the problem with the nation’s irresponsible drinking habits. They have three main ambitions these include, a change in behaviour so that people think it is not acceptable to drink in ways that could cause harm to themselves or other. Along with a reduction in the amount of alcohol fuelled violent crime and a reduction in the number of adults drinking above the NHS guidelines (Drugs and Alcohol Unit, 2012: 5). There has been slight improvements in the reduction of alcohol fuelled violent crimes when Police Forces have imposed alcohol removal zones in certain towns and cities. Where any individual caught with alcohol in these areas will have it removed. Although this scheme seems to be working to reduce the number of crimes occurring due to alcohol, the same cannot to be said for the majority of the country. Recently the Home Office have introduced a series of posters highlighting the problem of drinking too much alcohol too early. They hoped that the posters would highlight that drinking before going out clubbing, can cause you to become ill and miss out on the fun later on. However it seems that the message is not getting through. There are still many individuals choosing to drink above the recommend safe guidelines.
Thirdly the media maybe one of the contributing factors to the nations binge drinking. With a constant stream of adverts that show individuals enjoying alcohol in a number of different social situations. There seems to be a cultural representation of the drinking mirror society in a way that shapes and reinforces the public discourse on alcohol related problems. (Ratistrick, Hodgson and Ritson, 1999: 145) However not all the blame can be put upon the media. Supermarkets and independent shops are just as much to blame, by advertising ever increasingly cheap deals. Whether the deals be three boxes of beer for ?21 or two bottles of wine for ?10. They are still encouraging purchases of a vast amount of alcohol. Pubs and clubs may also be blamed for the ever increasing spiralling out of control of the binge drinking nation. Pubs and clubs sometimes have deals on certain spirits or beers. Some clubs even advertise cheap entry and cheap drink deals to lure individuals into drinking vast amounts of alcohol. On the other hand the argument here is that some young people do not seem to worry about what binge drinking does to themselves or others. (Wechsler and Wuethrich, 2002: 157)
Furthermore some health professionals have argued that there needs to be a stricter unit price. The Conservative Government did state that they were going to impose a minimum unit price of 50p, however this is yet to come into force. After conducting some research of my own on Monday 3 rd. February 2014 it came back with some surprising results. In order to work out the unit price, an individual needs to divide the price by the number of units. For example a ?4.99 bottle of wine has 9.8 units, meaning each unit costs 50p, along with ? 1.93 bottle of cider has 10.6 units , meaning that each unit costs 18p. Shockingly a unit of alcohol costs less than a bottle of water at ?1.00 or a packet of chocolate at 70p.
Lastly in this essay I have researched as to whether the nation is in fact drinking itself to death. Firstly the fact that it costs the National Health Service ?1.7 billion in order to treat incidents related to alcohol is shocking. However as highlighted in the third section of this essay the government has imposed some policies to try and tackle the binge drinking problem. Although some of these policies seem to be helping to reduce the problem slightly, others seem to be having the reserve effect. Moreover it is clear that there should be a reduction of the licensing laws. On the other hand perhaps imposing that minimum unit price of 50p may help to reduce the current binge drinking culture.
Baggot. R, 2000, Public Health Policy and Politics, Hampshire, Palgrave
Cabinet Office, Strategy Unit, 2004, Alcohol Harm and Reduction Strategy, H.R.S.O, London
Drugs and Alcohol Unit, 2012, The Government’s Alcohol Strategy, London, Home Office
Ratistrick. D, Hodgson. R and Ritson, 1999, Tackling alcohol Together the Evidence Base of a UK policy, London, Frist Association Books
Wechsler H and Wuethrich, 2002, Dying to drink confronting Binge drinking on college campuses USA, St. Martin’s Press