Mark Steel: Alcohol can be a problem, as can doctors

Share
Related Topics

Britain is getting drunker than ever, apparently, with a government "consultation" expected to reveal the shocking statistic that, compared with 20 years ago, there are 80 per cent more documentaries or news items showing a clip of a girl in a short skirt being sick on a bench while a lad with no shirt makes a noise like a werewolf as he's thrown into a police van.

But more worrying is the increase in pompous doctors who come on the radio or programmes like The One Show to give us guidelines, telling us, "Those of us who think we're drinking moderately may still be at risk. For example if you have one glass of wine and then later in life have another, you are technically an alcoholic."

Then they say, "Of course there's no harm in drinking safely. I often enjoy an Italian wine with my evening meal, by opening the bottle and pouring it all into a bush. That way there's only a small risk to my liver, as long as I do it once a month as a treat."

Websites offering advice on safe drinking are full of tips such as, "If you're thinking of having a lager please consult your doctor first." Or, "One way of cutting down consumption while still enjoying a wild girls' night out, is on alternate rounds instead of having a drink have a bowl of soup, or go canoeing."

On the Drinkaware site I looked at, I was told three pints of medium- strength beer, twice a week, can lead to "heart disease, liver disease, impotence and cancer." I didn't check but I expect it went on, "and a fourth pint will cause cat flu, plague, rust, feeling like a woman trapped inside a man's body, fascism and a tendency to suddenly turn inside-out in the morning."

It also told me, "If you consume alcohol to feel good, or avoid feeling bad, your drinking could become problematic." So it's only safe to drink if it's to make yourself feel worse.

Still, alcohol can cause havoc, so we shouldn't be flippant. You only have to look at the demise of poor Amy Winehouse, who presumably had three pints of bitter on a Sunday and then another three the following Friday.

But the campaign against drunkenness doesn't seem to have learned from the "Just say no" anti-drugs campaign, which connects with hardly anyone as it insists drugs lead rapidly to disaster and aren't fun. But if they weren't fun there'd be no need to tell people not to take them, just as there's no need to tell people "Just say no" to sticking your bare arse into a nest of wasps because no one does it anyway because it's not fun.

Similarly any attempt to reduce drunkenness must depend on acknowledging that people do it because it seems fun. The alcohol industry appears to be aware of this, which is why it markets drinks for teenagers as bursting with fun, then denies they're doing so with comments such as, "The product 'Marshmallow-alco', in which a marshmallow is filled with a cocktail of vodka and Southern Comfort, is not in any way aimed primarily at a younger market range."

But the Government's "consultation" is being run in conjunction with the alcohol industry, to such an extent that the British Medical Association have withdrawn from it altogether as a pointless exercise, because if we were to be cynical, the drinks industry may not be the keenest people to find ways of cutting down the sale of alcohol.

So the complex job of getting young people away from drug addiction and alcoholism will still be done by charities, such as Mentor UK. But they have declared the recent cuts in rehab clinics have made that almost impossible, saying these cuts "could have devastating implications".

So we're left with doctors telling us not to drink sherry on two consecutive Christmases, and if Amy was still around she could have updated her song by singing, "They tried to make me go to rehab but they said, 'Piss off, we've shut'."



React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Training/Learning and Development Coordinator -London

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Training/Learning and Development Co...

Training Programme Manager (Learning and Development)-London

£28000 - £32000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Training Programme Manage...

Senior Marketing Executive (B2B/B2C) - London

£32000 - £35000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Urgently looking for Qualified Teachers and NQT's

£110 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Urgently looking for Quali...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Letter from the Assistant Editor: Domestic violence is no petty matter

Siobhan Norton
 

There’s nothing wrong with GM

Steve Connor
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried