There have been some big stories about alcohol in the press in the past couple of weeks, and as I’m working on my PhD (it’s nine days until I hand it in, and I’ve had to re-do a load of stats), I’ve resisted the urge to blog about them. But, here’s a short summary, and in October I’ll revisit some of these things and talk about them in more detail.
Firstly, the proposal by the police that drunk people should be scooped up off the streets in drunk tanks, and pay a fine to cover the cost of medical treatment. In the news coverage I don’t think I’ve ever heard the words “responsible” and “irresponsible” uttered so many times. Leaving aside the logistics of deciding who’s drunk enough to be fined and thrown into the drink tank, which would be tortuous, let’s think about the motives for doing this. There is absolutely no evidence that it would stop people from drinking large amounts and getting into trouble. It is also the thin end of a large wedge – do we charge people who like scones and cream for heart problems, or those with mobility problems for not doing enough exercise while they were younger? So what does that leave us with – the motivation of punishment for using a substance society is happy to condone and governments are happy to take taxes from. Maybe that’s enough for some people, but it’s not enough for me.
Secondly, minimum unit pricing for alcohol reared its head again, with a representative from the drinks industry on BBC News saying “the evidence isn’t there” – it is actually, in the shape of over 100 peer-reviewed academic studies, including evidence from countries where they’ve tried it, and guess what, it works – less accidents, fights, liver disease, domestic violence… He also said the debate is behind us. It’s not. Saying something doesn’t make it true, however much you wish it. The debate is still alive and kicking, mainly because the evidence is so overwhelming.
And thirdly, Alastair Campbell has a novel out called My Name Is… about a woman who drinks. Brave for a man to have a go at this, even if he has a history himself with alcohol. I’m looking forward to reading it, and will review it here. It’s second on my list when I’ve handed in my PhD, after Cracked: why psychiatrists are doing more harm than good by James Davies – okay it came out six months ago, but I’ve been busy. It winks at me from time to time from its spot by the bed, saying “read me, read me” and soon I will be able to do just that. I’ll review this one too, particularly in terms of what it implies for alcohol and addiction.
Thanks if you’re still checking in and reading the posts. More to come….