David Cameron has described binge drinking in the UK as a scandal and has urged the drinks industry, supermarkets, pubs and clubs to work with the government to ensure that “responsible drinking becomes a reality and not just a slogan”.
Are we to read that as an admission that ‘responsible drinking’ is not the current reality of our drinking culture? If it is then I agree with him, responsible drinking is a nice fantasy but does not reflect the reality of where we have ended up with alcohol.
Mr Cameron’s early educational experiences with alcohol allegedly included some less than responsible drinking, but when it comes to alcohol all politicians have found themselves in a ‘no win’ situation, and that looks set to continue.
The ‘reckless’ and ‘irresponsible’ drinkers, as Mr Cameron described them, may well be costing the NHS a reported £2.7Bn per year in alcohol related costs, but the tax revenues from alcohol are nearly five times that amount. More than 1.6M people are employed in the UK producing alcohol, £800M is spent on advertising, not forgetting the contribution that the sale of alcohol makes to the packaging, retail and export sectors.
Drinking alcohol is widely considered to be a recreational pastime, people will say that they enjoy the taste, like the effect, use it to unwind some even go so far as to say that it is one of the few pleasures that they have in life. But few will recognise that it is recreational drug use.
But why is alcohol such a big ‘problem’?
Because there is no other legal way without visiting a doctor of accessing mind altering drugs across the counter. Generations learn from previous generations to self medicate using alcohol and do not possess the skills required to manage their emotions or get into a ‘relaxed’ state without it, and so it goes on.
Not only does the UK have a mental dependence on alcohol but a financial one as well. If profit is the true priority over doing the ‘right’ thing then I suspect that the alcohol issue will remain largely unaddressed until the costs exceed the profits.
The real scandal is the reluctance of our politicians to separate money and their own personal interests when seeking a solution to the alcohol issue. We need to remember that only one psycho active drug is legal in the UK.
Why is that exactly?