View previous topic | View next topic

Are we getting it right on alcohol?

Page 1 of 4
Goto page 1, 2, 3, 4  Next

CB27
856373.  Mon Oct 17, 2011 8:06 pm Reply with quote

I recently read an article on the BBC website, written by the director of SIRC (link to article) which I don't completely agree with, but has made me question my views on alcohol.

At the heart of her article, Kate Fox argues that we should not tackle social ills brought on by binge drinking by merely trying to limit how much people can drink, but that we should change attitudes to alcohol. I personally think it's probably a mixture of both.

One paragraph that caught my eye was the following:
Quote:
In high doses, alcohol impairs our reaction times, muscle control, co-ordination, short-term memory, perceptual field, cognitive abilities and ability to speak clearly. But it does not cause us selectively to break specific social rules. It does not cause us to say, "Oi, what you lookin' at?" and start punching each other. Nor does it cause us to say, "Hey babe, fancy a shag?" and start groping each other.

The effects of alcohol on behaviour are determined by cultural rules and norms, not by the chemical actions of ethanol.

This makes a lot of sense to an extent, I agree that it's not the physical symptoms of alcohol itself which cause some people to act out, but I think the fact alcohol impairs our reaction times is probably also linked to some people's inability to control their words and actions as they would usually do. It's the old "speaking and acting before we think" syndrome.

Looking at some info from WHO which is from 2005, which looked at officially recorded alcohol consumption, as well as unrecorded consumption (from various sources), broken down by beer, wine, spirits and others. The list contained information from 188 countries. The list counts litres of pure ethyl alcohol consumed per capita in a given year and corrected for tourism.

Looking at the UK, the total consumption was 13.37 litres, which placed it at 18th highest in the world, way behind leaders Moldova (18.22) and many Eastern European counries, as well as South Korea (14.80), Portugal (14.55), Ireland (14.41) and France (13.66).

However, if you break it down further you'll see:

The UK has the 16th higest consumption of beer (4.93), behind countries like Germany (6.22), Ireland (7.04), Belgium (5.49) and others.

The UK has the 20th highest consumption of wine (3.53), behind countries like France (8.14), Italy (6.38), Greece (4.51) and others.

When it comes to spirits, the UK drops to 49th highest consumption (2.41), way behind the likes of South Korea (9.57), Russia (6.88), Thailand (4.69), Japan (3.37) and others.

In terms of others, the UK was 29th highest (0.67), but they were only partially higher than most other countries, and way behind a number of African countries, Japan and a few other countries.

Apart from revealing some interesting truths about stereotypes, it shows that the UK consumption is high, but not exceptionally high, so maybe we should be looking at alternative viewpoints to the problem.

 
aTao
856384.  Tue Oct 18, 2011 12:11 am Reply with quote

Quote:
In high doses, alcohol impairs our reaction times, muscle control, co-ordination, short-term memory, perceptual field, cognitive abilities and ability to speak clearly. But it does not cause us selectively to break specific social rules. It does not cause us to say, "Oi, what you lookin' at?" and start punching each other. Nor does it cause us to say, "Hey babe, fancy a shag?" and start groping each other.

The effects of alcohol on behaviour are determined by cultural rules and norms, not by the chemical actions of ethanol.


So, alcohol does not trigger particular behaviour directly but removes controls to prevent such actions. The question becomes why do cultures exhibit certain responses to a lack of control. My thoughts are that the UK is one of the worst nanny states, remove the nanny and the kids play up, like kids. Countries that treat citizens with respect and trust are rewarded with a responsible population (that are a bunch of boring old fuddy duddies when drunk).
An interesting case would be The USA, also a nanny state (?) but deals with the problem by alcohol legislation that breeds a bunch of wimps that cant handle any amount of beer (In my vast *ahem* experience of Americans and booze [mostly restricted to getting tour crews and bands unfit for work the next gig])

 
Lukecash
856401.  Tue Oct 18, 2011 3:22 am Reply with quote

I had a professor, who taught about Prohibition in the United States.
He pointed out that before Prohibition the United States were plagued by alcoholism.

That wan't the reason why it was proposed: The usual worry in urban areas about the alcohol as the cause of crime and sin. However, some historians believed that a cycle of alcoholism was broken. While many ignored it, there were many law abiding citizens that did obey it. Apparently, we did not get back to our per-capita consumption drinking levels until 1960.

As far as weather or not Americans can hold our own drinking? In America, being a drunk is not really regarded acceptable behavior. And since we are an automobile society, unlike Europe, we have to drive many places-thus we can't get too plastered.

It's currently a subject of one of our better documentarians Ken Buns.

 
exnihilo
856424.  Tue Oct 18, 2011 4:30 am Reply with quote

A lot of the problems people had with alcohol pre-Prohibition (and in Victorian Britain for that matter) was that it stopped the lower orders from behaving as their employers/betters would like them to. Much of the effort to ban or reduce drinking stemmed from those who wanted to see the working class either working or in church, not in taverns. It's in part this moralistic tone to alcohol that has helped create the culture we have here, and in the US, that isn't echoed elsewhere. I read Kate's article as well and I do agree with it, it's fine to say that we should stop people drinking as much as they do but in order to do that we can't simply ban it we need to look at why people drink as much as they do and address that. This top down approach of attempting to engineer a result by dictating it does not work. Incidentally, some sources would argue that Prohibition did not see a decline, as the rise of stills, Californian grape production etc more than compensated.

 
Southpaw
856427.  Tue Oct 18, 2011 4:49 am Reply with quote

Quote:
we need to look at why people drink as much as they do and address that


Absolutely. Mrs. Paw, bless her cotton socks, is a sucker for reality tv shows, which of course means I occasionally have to suffer having said tripe forced into my brain every so often as well.

One thing that I have gleaned from these programmes is that a large part of the younger section of society, say 35 and under (sorry 36 and up, you're getting old) really do seem to live for getting drunk on the weekend. They don't drink to 'be social', whatever that means, they drink specifically to get as drunk as possible, preferably in as short a time as possible.

If the inmates of the Big Brother house manage to complete the maze set for them by their keepers, they are often rewarded with alcohol; the joy this engenders in them is incredible, and at the same time deeply depressing. Is life so bad that only the sweet caress of alcohol-induced oblivion can make it bearable?

Lukecash: When you mean 'whether or not' you spell it 'whether', not 'weather', which refers to the atmospheric conditions outside your window.

 
exnihilo
856430.  Tue Oct 18, 2011 4:56 am Reply with quote

Yup, and that's the issue. Why? In Victorian mill towns they did it because they had so little time and there was nothing else to do. We have plenty of time (whines about long working days aside) yet it seems to be the goal of a generation to work only as much as needed to pay to get blotto on Friday night. The constant cry of our youth is they have nothing to do, that they're bored, perhaps the roots lie there. But that can't be it either, because we're always told that children / students have never worked harder...

 
Southpaw
856433.  Tue Oct 18, 2011 5:02 am Reply with quote

Also, why is it perceived as cool to get so absolutely drunk, when clearly it is not cool to throw up on the street, punch a copper, and have a screaming argument with your girlfriend at 3am outside the chip shop?

 
exnihilo
856434.  Tue Oct 18, 2011 5:03 am Reply with quote

Doing all three seems to have no ill effect on some people's romantic/sex life. At least from what I see of the Jeremy Kyle Show,

 
npower1
856456.  Tue Oct 18, 2011 5:36 am Reply with quote

Over heard during a lunch time visit to a bar (circa 2001), said in French accented English -

"The objective of a young British male on a Saturday night is to get drunk; the objective of a young French male is to get laid."

 
Lukecash
856467.  Tue Oct 18, 2011 6:00 am Reply with quote

exnihilo wrote:
A lot of the problems people had with alcohol pre-Prohibition (and in Victorian Britain for that matter) was that it stopped the lower orders from behaving as their employers/betters would like them to. Much of the effort to ban or reduce drinking stemmed from those who wanted to see the working class either working or in church, not in taverns. It's in part this moralistic tone to alcohol that has helped create the culture we have here, and in the US, that isn't echoed elsewhere.
*snip*
Incidentally, some sources would argue that Prohibition did not see a decline, as the rise of stills, Californian grape production etc more than compensated.


A few amusing things: Prohibition did not outlaw drinking. Just the production, transportation and selling of alcohol.

Nor did it outlaw home cider and wine stills. My great grandfather had a vineyard in his back yard and made his own wine until he died in the late 1970s You were allowed to make 200 gallons.

California vineyards did get away by selling concentrated grape juice "bricks". many included the helpful warning label:The grape concentrate was sold with a warning: "After dissolving the brick in a gallon of water, do not place the liquid in a jug away in the cupboard for twenty days, because then it would turn into wine." One brazenly sold the bricks in flavors of Port, Virginia Dare, Muscatel, Angelica, Tokay, Sauterne, Riesling, Claret and Burgundy.

Utah was the deciding state in repealing the amendment: The home of the Mormons who are very anti-alcohol.

Now days, in the United States, it's a matter of how the behavior affects the community. It's not really a religious thing. Some states outlawed happy hour due to drunk driving accidents. There has been the sad cases of repeat DUI offenders who ended up killing people-leading to harsher drunk driving laws. Sure some religions do like alcohol, but they really have little influence except in the cases of certain counties. It's our country has been really made aware of the effects of alcohol has on your body and your family. Moderation is fine-as in all things.

Now if we could do something about the drug and prostitution problem, we could put a dent in crime here.

 
Neotenic
856470.  Tue Oct 18, 2011 6:04 am Reply with quote

Quote:
In America, being a drunk is not really regarded acceptable behavior. And since we are an automobile society, unlike Europe, we have to drive many places-thus we can't get too plastered.



I'm not entirely convinced that a look at the DUI statistics would support this rather rose-coloured view of US drinking habits.

Plus, Europe may be small, but it's not that small - people in rural, and even less-dense urban areas are still just as dependent on their cars as any American.

I tend to agree with the idea that the disinhibiting effects of alcohol are more psychosomatic - I know plenty of people who wouldn't dream of going near a dancefloor, or an individual in a pub or club that they would like to 'get to know better', without a bit of 'dutch courage' inside them. But I've never had a problem doing either whilst stone-cold sober, so I do think there's something in this 'social conditioning' angle.

However, I do still think that she's taken it a bit far in ascribing virtually all 'bad' behaviour to our belief in what alcohol will do to a person - particularly when it comes to violence. I think anyone that has been in a situation that has rapidly deteriorated into violence - particularly if they themselves were sober at the time - can see that there is rather more at play than simply social norms and expectations.

Personally, I think that a big part of the problem is lack of choice. Pretty much all civilisations throughout history have needed two main things - some form of deity to explain the unknowable, and the means to, from time to time, get completely off one's face.

For many and various reasons - most of them remarkably recent decisions - alcohol has become the one and only legitimate conduit for, er, off-facedness. And, for some people (myself probably included) it's not the right one. And the other options currently make these people criminals.

One has to wonder, in the context of my previous point, just how different the world would be if rather than Jesus saying 'drink this - it is my blood', he'd said 'smoke this - it's, like, my aura, man'.

I've made no secret of the fact that, whilst never really touching alcohol, I have had my experiences down other avenues of intoxication. The last time I had MDMA, I danced like a maniac to the Sisters of Mercy, despite the fact my hatred of the band goes back the best part of 20 years - no amount of social conditioning was going to overcome that, it was most certainly a physiological effect.

So what if, rather than being railroaded towards the bar and another pint of lager, people had a wider choice of intoxicant? And, indeed, what if drug education was rather more than just 'if you do drugs, certain doom awaits', and genuinely taught people that going out and getting high needn't be any less safe than going out for a few pints?

Expectations may indeed count for something, but so does the social pressure people feel to 'fit in', even if alcohol really isn't the right choice of drug for them - and, in those situations, being able to have a light dose of MDMA, or a few bangs on a spliff, may mean they don't end up in a puddle of vomit and/or blood at the end of the night.

For sure, it's not 100% safe - but neither is alcohol, and everyone just accepts those risks and costs to society.

 
Lukecash
856497.  Tue Oct 18, 2011 6:42 am Reply with quote

Neotenic wrote:
Quote:
In America, being a drunk is not really regarded acceptable behavior. And since we are an automobile society, unlike Europe, we have to drive many places-thus we can't get too plastered.



I'm not entirely convinced that a look at the DUI statistics would support this rather rose-coloured view of US drinking habits.


According to the 2011 World Health Organization of the drunkest countries.( Warning PDF)

25. Latvia
24. Finland
23. Germany
22. Luxembourg
21. Austria
20. Netherlands
19. Slovakia
18. Denmark
17. United Kingdom
16. France
15. Ireland
14. Portugal
13. South Korea
12. Lithuania
11. Croatia
10. Belarus
9. Slovenia
8. Romania
7. Andorra
6. Estonia
5. Ukraine
4. Russia
3. Hungary
2. Czech Republic
1. Moldova

You will notice who in the top 25. United States of America.

We do have our share of DUI and accidents. We have equivilant DUI standards .08% (Some states do .05%)

 
exnihilo
856509.  Tue Oct 18, 2011 7:02 am Reply with quote

UK figures give 16% of traffic fatalities (2,946 in 2006) as being alcohol related.

Figures.

US figures give 40% of traffic fatalities (17,941 in 2006) as being alcohol related.

Figures.

 
CB27
856525.  Tue Oct 18, 2011 7:37 am Reply with quote

Let's not turn it into a "your country is more drunk than mine" argument.

 
Grim
856538.  Tue Oct 18, 2011 8:10 am Reply with quote

Neotenic wrote:


For many and various reasons - most of them remarkably recent decisions - alcohol has become the one and only legitimate conduit for, er, off-facedness. And, for some people (myself probably included) it's not the right one. And the other options currently make these people criminals.

One has to wonder, in the context of my previous point, just how different the world would be if rather than Jesus saying 'drink this - it is my blood', he'd said 'smoke this - it's, like, my aura, man'.


Thereís often conjecture the only reason alcohol is legal when other drugs perceived (rightly or wrongly) to be no more damaging are illegal is that historically brewing gave us some protection from death by horrible waterborne disease. Once something has pervaded society in that way, itís rather difficult to remove while any other drug that comes along on the way can be banned before it takes hold and even if that ban canít be wholly enforced, itís kept on the fringes of society.

Thereís also the fact that when primarily all you need is water, yeast, sugar and a bit of patience itís particularly difficult to exert any control over manufacture compared to other drugs requiring more specialist equipment or raw materials.

I guess the question then becomes, are any mood altering substances appropriate to be used for recreational purposes, can any really be said to be less damaging than others given the potential difficulties of doing any sort of like for like comparison of the different short and long term detrimental effects. When everyone's perception is going to be different, the default ends up being trying to manage the situation with the status quo.

 

Page 1 of 4
Goto page 1, 2, 3, 4  Next

All times are GMT - 5 Hours


Display posts from previous:   

Search Search Forums

Powered by phpBB © 2001, 2002 phpBB Group