By Michael Dwyer
For the love of God, stop ! Whatever it is that you are eating, put it down. Bin it .If you are drinking something, pour it away. It it almost certainly poison. Studies are increasing clear that there is a very good chance that we may die. Of Something. Sometime. Somewhere. The cause may very well be something we ate, or drank, or touched, or smelled, or inhaled, or injected, or looked at through a telescope on a mountain someplace actually rather pretty(which just makes it all the more sinister)
The report du jour is brought to us by the highly reputable firm, the United Nations, via their subsidiary the World Health Organisation. They have just published their global overview of alcohol consumption and the ghastly effects it has on life love and the pursuit of happiness.
So how does Ireland do ? Badly, naturally.Precisely how badly in league table terms is frankly harder to work out than I had expected as all the tables seem to be divided into regions and organised alphabetically rather than by consumption for I am sure very good reasons. What I can tell you is that the UK , according to the Telegraph, came in at 25th in the list with 11.6 litres pure alcohol per annum and we scored higher with 11.9.
The really bad news is not in our total consumption but apparently the way we drink. More than our neighbours in Europe we binge drink. We binge. Now when I hear a word like that it conjures up a particular picture. The Binge Eater. The Binge Drinker. Say it out loud, it works better. Binging. You can see it now can’t you. The sweaty fetid desperate creature gulping at the bottle of cheap vodka, not drinking but sucking down harsh hard liquor to dim the clamour of his inner demons.
According to reports a regular binge drinker is one consuming 60grams of Alcohol in a single sitting within a 30 day period. Now one of the confusions for the man at the end of the bar is understanding the units of measure employed by this and other reports. Some use grams of alcohol, some use what are called standard drinks, some use units of alcohol but none use Pints of Stout as a standard unit.
So far as I can work out the maths is as follow. A caveat however the figures are from Wikipedia and government funded sites so accuracy cannot be guaranteed. In Ireland a standard drink contains 10grams of pure alcohol. This works out to 500ml of beer being two standard units. This in imperial measure Ireland is shorthanded to mean that a glass of beer is one standard unit.
The long and the short of that is that a binge is drinking between two and half to three pints in a night out. Three pints makes you , yes sir you, and you madam, a binge drinker. According to the World Health Organisation.
I must therefore confess an interest. I am a binge drinker. My father was a binge drinker. My mother was a binge drinker. The shame you can imagine is crippling.
Alcohol abuse is not funny. Alcoholism is not funny. I have seen both in action, in my family and amongst my friends. But to use a ridiculous metric like this one in order to maintain the fiction of a constant crisis is more than simply dishonest, it is dangerous and counterproductive.
The use and abuse of figures throughout the debate surrounding Drink is endemic and disheartening. We are told they how massively above the global average country A or B is. What we are not told is that more than half the world doesn’t drink at all. Which will rather skew your averages.
It is pointed out portentously that all of the top tipplers are European countries, as if this hid some deeper darker meaning. Drinking booze is a cold climate activity. Anyone who had ever lived in a country with a summer will know why. Somalis may be down the table for wine coolers but in a global report on the use of khat they will beat us by the proverbial cricket score.
Local prohibitionists Alcohol Action have been swift to respond to the report demanding minimum pricing and further restrictions on alcohol sales and marketing. On their website home page they tell us the between 1980 and 2010 our alcohol consumption rose by 24% while the rest of Europe declined by 15%. What they fail to say, but ironically demonstrate graphically on the same page is that in the last ten years consumption has fallen here by 25%. Moreover our increase was from a very low level, since we were at one time bottom of the table of drinkers in the OECD. They tell us that 20% of the population doesn’t drink but don’t point out that as a matter of fact in 1960, the other base year they use more than half the country in practice abstained.
So why? Why do we have to suffer these reports and the myriad of similar health jeremiads? Well you see THEY care. They care about you. They care about me. They care about all the little children. Most of all they care about their insufficient budgets, which must be boosted if they are to successfully prosecute this war against Death. They care about the meagre powers of control and enforcement the wise councils of our states and suprastates possess to protect us from ourselves. They could make our lives so much better; if only we let them.