Are We A Nation of Drunks?

Are we a Nation of Saints & Scholars or just Drunks?

The law says I can only buy one packet of Paracetamol in a chemist at any one time, but any 18 year old on their birthday can walk into an off license and buy 50 bottles of Vodka if they want.  How many people die from Paracetamol overdose a year compared to alcohol related deaths I wonder?

We entertain world leaders like Obama and heads of state like the Queen of England, by bringing them to the pub or Guinness factory in front of the world’s cameras.

Irish Drunk

Image courtesy of askmen.com

In the middle classes, it’s become socially acceptable to drink a bottle of wine every night in Ireland (we all know someone who does) and yet if they drank a flagon of cheap cider, half a bottle of vodka or 6 cans of Dutch Gold every night that’d be different somehow?  Maybe because they drink it on a posh sofa from Brown Thomas, it’s much better than a park bench?

A water bottle has to have its nutritional values detailed down to the macro nutrient but not one single mention of even the slightest ingredient, calorie content or sugar content is on any alcoholic drinks label or its website. Labels just state how much alcohol is in it and lets face it, that’s a selling point. When was the last time you looked at a beer label and chose the one with the lowest alcohol content?

When I was starting to drink alcohol, I seem to remember it was only available in off license’s, but in the last few years pretty much every corner shop has been given a license to sell alcohol, and from 10.30am. Does that sound like a government trying to tackle the alcohol epidemic?  Do we really need to be able to go to the corner shop at 10.30am to buy a bottle of wine?

I always understood early houses were for those who worked nights etc but surely everyone else doesn’t need the option?  We’ve all been caught out by off license’s closing at 10pm, where we’d have drank more if we could.  Limiting hours definitely has an impact.

Does the government really care about our alcohol epidemic or is it just blowing smoke to appease the masses, while it reaps enormous taxes on the sale of alcohol?

We constantly hear about GMO food dangers, about low fat this and that or meat that’s traceable and yet see no problem consuming beers, wines or spirits, never questioning the source of its ingredients, whether its ingredients are genetically modified or contain artificial ingredients or chemicals.  If I said I ate 15 Mars bars over the weekend, people would think I had an eating disorder but if I said I drank 15 pints over the weekend, no one would bat an eyelid.  A mars bar (240kcals) has similar calories to a pint of beer (244kcals).  Checkout my article on the calories and sugar in beer, stout and cider.

Here in Ireland we talk about how America’s gun laws are insane and yet when you think about it, we kind of do the same with alcohol here? We cant understand how millions of Americans believe every man, woman and child has the right to bare arms – high powered, fully automatic armored piercing & in any quantity, arms.

Beer Holster

Maybe we should take a look closer to home, I bet per capita a lot more people die here from drink related deaths than shootings in America?  The drinks industry here is as powerful, as rich and as well connected as the National Rifle Association in America. Americans love their guns and kill each other with them. We love our alcohol and kill ourselves with it.  Its just not as instant or dramatic here.

In Ireland we pride ourselves on a pub on every street corner and get our backs up whenever there’s talk of change to opening hours.

In some rural areas we even turn a blind eye to drink driving and politicians have even tried to change the law for this.

As a “binge” drinker like most men in this country, the cheap cost, easy availability and cultural acceptance, means I can drink myself into a drunken stupor and actually get more coo dose from my peers. To be an alcoholic in Ireland gets passed off as “fond of the drink”. To order a non-alcohol beer at a bar in Ireland brings looks of horror from friends and questions of “are you pregnant?” for girls.

I lived in Australia for a couple of years and while they have a similar drinking culture to ours, they seem to be doing something about it. If a barman serves you while you’re drunk they can be fined thousands of dollars and barmen can be strict enforcing it too. Mid Strength beer in Western Australia is widely accepted as “cool” to drink, largely thanks to a successful advertisement campaign involving sports star endorsements.

Whether the Australian example is working I don’t know, but it may work here? I do know one thing, what we’re doing here now doesn’t work.  Making it more expensive is ineffective, we’ve just changed our drinking habits to going out later and drinking more at home.

Is there a comparison to be drawn between our high alcohol consumption and our high depression and suicide rates? If not directly, maybe indirectly? How many kids have witnessed their parents arguing while drunk? How many kids have grown up in an abusive alcoholic family and developed depression as a result of anxiety?

If you see a heroin junkie with a child you think “poor kid, he has no chance” and yet go to any pub on a Sunday afternoon and its full of drunk parents with their kids.

Unit of Alcohol

We measure alcohol grossly inaccurately using the “units of alcohol” to measure a drinks potency.  Which equates a small glass of beer the same as a measure of spirits.  If I drank 10 glasses of beer I’d be fine, but if I drank 10 measures of spirits I wouldn’t be able to stand up.  Not to mention if it was consumed on a full or empty stomach.  Would a 5ft girl handle 1 standard drink the same as a 6 ft man?

Of course not.  A standard drink is about as about as accurate as RTE’s weather forecast.

I’m not sure what the answer is but the question is this, are we doing much about it?  It’s fair to say Ireland’s not alone in ignoring the alcohol issue, but we were first to tackle the cigarette industry and very successfully too, maybe we can be the first to finally do something to tackle the drinks industry and our dependance on it?

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author: Andy Kenny