We have got a problem really. The news is a little full of stuff about alcohol and it's supposed threat to the health and moral well-being of the country. Pete Brown is continuing to dispel the myths on his blog and the level of deceit contained in The Parliamentary Health Select Committee Report on Alcohol is incredible. Bearing in mind that government legislation is likely to be influenced by such scaremongery, I'm increasingly thinking that some form of action is required which consists of more than just sitting at a keyboard writing great essays on the subject, as good as those writings might be.
Today on the news we see that comedian Bill Bailey, a guy with a great name, is fronting a campaign to educate kids on the dangers of alcohol. Yet more negative exposure for alcohol. How do we deal with this?
But wait! Is this really so bad? I have always said that the solution to alcohol problems is not legislation but education. Although I might not quite agree with all the points Bill makes in the interview I've linked to above, there is some sense being talked I feel.
My partner Ann used to be a Paediatric Nurse. A regular occurrence on her ward was the treatment of drunken young people between the ages of 11-16 years. Brought into the hospital incapable, semiconscious or unconscious and probably suffering from hypothermia. They were perhaps found by the police in the park having consumed a large quantity of Diamond White cider that had been bought by an older sibling or friend who might or might not be over the age of 18.
Invariably these individuals were dripped with dextrose-saline solution to combat the critical levels of alcohol in their blood and the effects on the physiology of the patient. Without this treatment severe health risks occur including possible death. The unfortunate by-product of this treatment is that much of the symptoms of excess drinking that most of us are aware of in the morning after a good night, have been reduced by the re-hydrating effect of the drip. The patient does not have a significant hangover. However, as the levels of alcohol measured in the patients blood are potentially fatal, lack of treatment is not an option.
Now this is not the norm for young people. Very few end up in hospital, so I'm not suggesting it is endemic in the young population, but it is there and is a problem that the health experts know about. I broadly support the educating initiative as a parent, and hope that it helps young people to respect alcohol.
I'm not siding with the neo-prohibitionists; they are indeed a problem. However, as a licensee I can cite plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest a proportion of the population, not, I hasten to add, the majority, have an unhealthy attitude to alcohol. We cannot ignore this.
I've said before that part of the problem with the negative press surrounding alcohol is that the perceived problem does exist to some extent. OK, the way it is reported and the suggested remedies are way out of proportion and additionally there is significant evidence to suggest that the problem is diminishing. However, if we are to tackle negative press then we also have to have one eye on how we would deal with the perceived problems of alcohol abuse. Much of the electorate are parents or grandparents, suggesting that alcohol is a problem to their own offspring instigates gooey knee-jerk compliance. Any noises from us about inaccuracies in reports will largely be ignored.