Binge drinking has been a hot subject amongst medical professionals, news readers, reporters, off-licenses and pubs for a long time. There is a view that alcohol related anti-social behaviour is on the rise due to the increase in binge drinking, which in turn has augmented through incentivised drinking.
Let’s make it clear what we mean, so binge drinking is having the primary intention of becoming intoxicated by heavy consumption of alcohol over a short period of time. The short time span and the intention are key to understanding this problem: binge drinkers are not planning on socialising and including drink in that arena, they are drinking and happen to be able to socialise at the same time. Anti-social behaviour is acting in a way that shows a lack of consideration for others and may cause damage to the society, whether intentionally or through negligence.
Alcohol is often said to release our inhibitions thus allowing us to say and do things that in the sober light of day we would not normally think of, this is the main reason behind the drink aware scheme. However, most people realise that they do change under the influence of alcohol but can we blame alcohol itself when the vast majority of people can enjoy a social drink, or a bottle of wine with dinner without ever causing a problem to themselves or others.
But supermarkets, pubs and clubs often entice people to drink more than they should, or perhaps create a way to allow people to drink more alcohol buy letting their money go further. Supermarkets will often have deals on wine, beers, spirits and alco-pops. Some supermarket deals I have seen are:
- 3 for £12 on selected red, white and rose wines
- save 50% on selected red wines
- 3 for £5 Beck’s lager (660ml bottles)
- 2 packs of 6 Budweiser for £9.00
- 2 packs of 4 Cobra for £8.00
- 2 packs of 4 Bacardi Breezers for £7.00
- a pack of 10 Gaymers cider with raspberry for £8.00
So the price of these deals is reasonable and easily affordable, this could encourage people to drink more comfortably in their homes. Whilst this could potentially encourage a higher alcohol consumption it may not necessarily increase anti-social behaviour on the streets (although noise pollution from music could be increased as could pre-drinking.)
Pre-drinking is a trend that is occurring with alarming frequency. This is to save money on the boosted prices that pubs and clubs charge (as well as door charges in some places), however this does mean that people are already somewhat intoxicated when entering the public arena, so inhibitions are lowered, reactions are altered and decisions not as clearly made.
Once these pre-drinkers enter pubs they are then bombarded with drink deals – there are very few pubs that don’t offer deals, particularly in cities such as London, Leeds, Manchester, Liverpool, Edinburgh, Dublin and so on. This is quite often driven by the competetive nature of the business, but also through a realisation that if people are drunk they often think they are “having a good time” and once inebriated will often purchase more drinks for themselves and other people around them.
Some of the deals I have recently witnessed are:
- All shots £1 all night
- £1 on selected bottled beers
- £2.50 pint night
- £2.75 vodka and Red Bull
- Double up on all spirits for £1
- Buy a pint and Get A Shot for free
These deals are fantastic for the individual wallet and for the sensible drinker – but if your mindset is that of a binge drinker then you are more likely to over-indulge and eventually react out of character in way that could possibly lead to anti-social behaviour. It is worth mentioning that the numbers prove that anti-social behaviour carried out by those under the influence of alcohol is far smaller than those who behave in a social manner – decency is still the majority choice!
Whilst I realise the effect that alcohol has on individuals, the mental changes and the health implications – I still believe that the biggest cause of anti-social behaviour whilst under the influence of alcohol is licensing laws. Because of our work patterns and licencing laws – pubs open for a very brief period of evening/night time, which encourages people to drink more in a short period of time giving no time for the body to absorb the alcohol, no time for food and relaxation – one must drink!
The other problem is the closing time – in my area, for example, there are 7 pubs/bars on the same road and 6 of them close their doors at the same time thus forcing hundreds of people out onto a high-street. With that many people, under the influence of alcohol. all trying to get home, to see if another bar is open – there is bound to be trouble. A staggered arrangement would be better at half hour intervals e.g.
- PUB 1: close at 11pm
- PUB 2 & 3: close at 11.30pm
- PUB 4 & 5: close at 12pm
This would mean less people on the streets at any one time – but to ensure they don’t bar hop – no admittance to those bars after the first bar has closed its doors. I believe this will dramatically drop the rate of anti-social behaviour in all its forms from violence & criminal damage to noise & public indecency.
I also feel that we need to educate children on the risks and truths of alcohol in the UK, explaining that it is a social, enjoyable thing to do but something that is still a drug and is dangerous in high doses. Rid the myth that it is “cool” to drink and make them realise that it something that a large number of people do and enjoy and it is not special but normal and that it must be treated with respect.
Well…alcohol rant over. (I could do with a large glass of white wine now!)