Yesterday I had the opportunity to talk about alcohol on Radio 4’s Inside Health, along with a GP from Glasgow, Dr Margaret McCartney. The link is here.
We were exploring ways of reducing the harms caused by alcohol. Margaret presented the very compelling evidence about minimum pricing. My view on minimum pricing is that I must ditch my instictive libertarian position in favour of the pragmatic – the evidence is so overwhelming that minimum pricing improves the health of both the drinkers and those around them affected by violence that we must introduce it.
I then talked about something which may be piloted here in London. The idea is to make abstinence from alcohol compulsory for those who have committed violent crimes where alcohol has played a part, and to monitor that with twice daily breathalysers and an ankle bracelet. Any drinking results in an immediate, short jail sentence. It’s an idea I first heard presented by Professor Keith Humphreys and Baroness Finlay last week at the Alcohol Research UK conference, and I found it intriguing. Sometimes the best policies come from people who are willing to take a risk and try something new.
We finished by talking about treatment, or rather the lack of it, thus covering what I think are the three most important initiatives around at the moment: minimum unit pricing, which we know works; treatment, which we know works and we know is not adequately funded( or adequately thought through in some instances); and brave new initiatives which require early adopters and thorough evaluation to see if they can make a difference.
Thanks to Inside Health for giving us time to make the points and lay out the arguments.