People drink to shut out pain and stress – arresting them won’t help

If getting drunk is a crime, it’s often a crime of passion

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The Independent Online

As someone who spent much of their twenties getting as drunk as possible, as often as possible, naturally I flinch at the prospect of drunk people being carted off to jail. So I hope he’ll forgive me when I say Dr Cliff Mann, president of the College of Emergency Medicine, may be in the running for having had one of the worst ideas ever. Dr Mann thinks drunks should be arrested for being drunk. He believes the police should take a “zero-tolerance” approach to binge drinkers in order to stop them clogging up hospital A&E departments.

However, arresting drunk people for being drunk wouldn’t merely offload the issue of strained resources from A&E to the police force – who have also suffered budget cuts – but surely is also missing the point. Why, when millennials are drinking less than Gen X, are our town centres like the seventh circle of hell on Friday and Saturday nights? Why is my old home town Worthing riot-vanned up? Why does Shoreditch have piles of vomit on every corner? Why do we continue to get so drunk?

Ironically, though I have toured with bands, run club nights and even lived in a pub, some of the most legendary drinkers I’ve met have worked in the health service. They were nurses and doctors, overworked, stressed and desperate for a quick slide into relaxation and a mild lobotomy.

With limited time off between hell-on-earth shifts, getting plastered can seem the only viable and affordable option for a break. If you can’t leave the country, you can still separate your mind from your body.

Of course hardly anyone gets drunk hoping they will end up in hospital and contributing to the £1bn drunks cost the NHS in A&E services alone. We’re all deluded – imagining we’re as witty as Oscar Wilde, as wild as Rihanna or with as much moist banter as Dapper Laughs.

 

The line between tiddly and twattish is thin, no more so than when it comes to Dapper, yet lads up and down the land are getting into fights emulating his kind of smart-arse laddishness.

I only know four people who have been admitted to hospital drunk: in 1996, when we were both 16, my mate had to have her stomach pumped. In 1998, another mate had his nose almost bitten off while waiting to be served at a free bar.

The same year, I threw a remote control to a friend and it accidentally hit him in the head – he insisted on going to hospital even though he was probably not dying owing to a complete lack of injury.

The fourth person was a homeless guy I came across outside Whitechapel Hospital on a weekday afternoon in 2003. He was lying on the ground, blood all over his face, bottle still in hand, pulling his top up to show a hole in his stomach which turned out to be a stoma for a colostomy bag. I stopped to help and tried to work out how to get an ambulance to someone already inside hospital grounds. When the paramedics arrived they knew his name.

All these people, from the nurses to the homeless guy, lads to the students, the intellectuals to pop stars, they all use the booze to do something to them. They need it to help them relax, give them confidence, to feel grown up, to fit in or to block something out.

Those who have been to the funeral of someone they love may be familiar with the allure of booze to blot out painful emotions. Can’t Dr Mann call for fewer working hours or relaxation lessons in schools? Help people work out how to socialise without a dozen bottles of wine? Is adding another pressure really going to work? If getting drunk is a crime, it’s often a crime of passion.

How are we supposed to tell if celebs want to be in photos?

Celebrities go back to their homelands at Christmas too. So when I went to Dylan Thomas’s boathouse the day after Boxing Day and Michael Sheen was there I shouldn’t have been surprised – it’s just an ordinary should-have-been-Oscar-nominated Welshman enjoying a beautiful Welsh place.

My boyfriend side-whispered: “Let’s get a photo,” as I walked past, pretending not to notice. No way!

You don’t just bother a bloke because you love Frost/Nixon, Fantabulosa and all his Blairs. We debated if he’d be “cool” because he seems like a nice guy till it was too late.

Now my nickname’s “No Fun”. Everyone we told thought we should have accosted Sheen for a celeb selfie but, come on guys, – no one’s told me the rules!

I’m guessing graveyards and AA meetings are a no-no but a simple solution would be to put the onus on the celeb.

Make them wear a badge saying “Fun” or “No Fun”.

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