Dr Mark Salter: A distraction from the fight against addiction

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The Independent Online

For people suffering from alcohol dependency, which means they are not able to function without having a drink, chemical treatments are notoriously unreliable.

Alcohol problems are endemic in society, 20 per cent of us are drinking too much and one in 20 of us are dependent on alcohol, but society doesn't want to face up to the scale of the problem.

The reasons that people drink are wide-ranging and complex. Alcohol is the world's favourite tranquilliser and there are few societies which don't have some kind of ritual associated with it.

When a baby is born we drink to celebrate, the same when it gets married and to blot out the sadness when it dies. We drink with the lads after the game. And in our culture, people who don't drink are mocked as square.

For as long as we have sugar and fungi, the processes of fermentation and distillation, we will have alcohol. Man has an uneasy relationship with consciousness at the best of times. Many of us who are honest about it have an internal struggle with alcohol because we know it is not good for us.

So it is not surprising that when something like this comes along, people rush to embrace it. But it just encourages us to displace our own problems with alcohol and the problems it is causing in society.

Dr Mark Salter is a consultant psychiatrist with a special interest in alcoholism who works in east London