Saturday, 27 November 2010

Christmas is coming....

Yay!  It's nearly Christmas!  I love Christmas!  Despite a (non oppressive) religious upbringing - I hold no religious beliefs - but still love Christmas!  Christmas is the time when there is the spirit of goodwill - although I do think 'it' and the magic of Christmas are fading; merriment abounds, families gather and all is well with the world.

Like many people, I am beginning to stock up on alcohol; this is the only time that stocks exist in my household; okay, there may be a few tinnies left over from last week - but that's about it!  There is the box of Liebfraumilch to be purchased for Christmas Dinner - I realise that this identifies me as a wine peasant as opposed to a wine connoisseur and indicates that I am stuck in the past - but me and my family like it!  I can only find it at the Co-op - God Bless the Co-op!  I must admit, that despite being a wine peasant, I do look down on those that drink Lambrusco - ugh!  There will be vodka for the eldest son and lager for me (spirits do not agree with me as I become, erm, well drunk - quickly!) and youngest son.  Apart from what we might receive as prezzies - that will be it!

I am not interested in celebrating the New Year and never have been.  I usually see it in with a cup of tea, that is, unless it falls on a Friday.  Friday is the night I drink alcohol (and a very occasional Wednesday) in the comfort of my home.  As New Years Eve does fall on a Friday this year, I may see it in with alcofrol or a cup of tea!   I may have finished imbibing before midnight!

Working as I do in a care home, I am aware of the devastating effects of alcohol (if abused), for there are some residents in my home with alcohol related dementia.  I found this while researching and am not surprised by it.  I think the general public are largely unaware of this aspect of alcohol related harm, which I find concerning.

So, what is it with us Brits and alcohol?  Do we have a national problem?  I think that probably we do.  Yes, some of us drink sensibly - but many of us don't.  Drinking (to excess) has become culture based; a rite of passage for the young that develops into a habit (dependence?) with some, particularly the middle classes.  This last fact always suprises me as I guess I am a bit of a snob, thinking that only those who exist on the peripheries of society might have a drink problem.

In the UK, it is estimated that 24% of adults drink in a hazardous or harmful way and alcohol related disease is a significant NHS burden.  In the UK there are approximately 5 million non-drinkers, 40 million social drinkers, 10 million "at risk" drinkers, 1 million problem drinkers and 200,000 dependent drinkers.

Hospital admissions relating to alcohol are rising on a yearly basis as are deaths related to liver cirrhosis related to heavy drinking.  It is estimated that each year, 5-10,000 people die prematurely from alcohol abuse.

In England in 2009, there were over 150,000 prescription items for the treatment of alcohol dependency.  This is an increase of 12% since 2008 and 49% since 2003.

The financial costs to the UK in respect of Health (£217 million spent in 2003-4 by PCTs and local authorities in support of alcohol treatment alone ), Work (absenteeism), Crime & Public Disorder and Family/Social networks (cost not qualified) runs into billions.  Source: Institute of Alcohol Studies  - download pdf 380kb.

So "Yes", I think we do have a problem, although it is said, that the country still thinks it is a "population of responsible drinkers".  You wouldn't say that if you saw my nearest city centre some nights!

In the days when I was young - which is too many moons ago than I care to remember - I was a regular social drinker, but I don't recall binge drinking; I did get drunk on occasion, the most memorable(?) being at a works Christmas 'Do' held in the furniture store where I worked in admin.  But I remember this because it was a rarity - would I recall this today if being drunk was a nightly occurence, which it seems to be for some of our young folk today.

But I might not be telling the whole story..... perhaps in the past, I have had an unhealthy relationship with alcohol..... perhaps I haven't!

Are some of us deluding ourselves that the UK does not have a problem with alcohol, as we know that we drink over the recommended (but arbitrary) limits, and do not wish to wear the label of a 'problem' drinker?  In today's criteria, as I drink my limit on one night - I would be classified as a binge drinker.  Do I think I have a problem?  No - but others might.

What do you think about alcohol consumption in the UK?



Anonymous said...

Drunkeness is part of the British way of life, and judging by other north Europeans such as the Irish,Dutch, Germans or Scandanavians, let alone the Russians it is deeply rooted in our culture. The French, Spanish or Italians may drink a similar amount per head but not in the same bingeing style.

As I get older I find it harder to drink and to function well the next day so rarely drink if working the next day, but Christmas is a special occasion. I am rather fond of a good wine, and would agree that German wines are wrongly out of favour. I am particularly fond of the wines of Alsalce. If you like Liebfraumilch then try a good Alsatian Gewurtztraminer or Reisling, marvelous stuff! and with Christmas pudding nothing goes better than a Beerenauslesen, a half bottle being plenty. German wines are harder to track down, but worth the search.

HyperCRYPTICal said...

Interesting comment Dr Phil - I will have to research farther afield! I am aware of Russia's big problem with drink and rumours that the Irish love a tipple - but never been there.

I have friends who have lived in Holland for many years and they would hold a different opinion - they are aghast at what they see as the rampant drunkeness at weekends in Dear Old Blighty, when they return home for visits. Both state they will never return to live here. They love the laid back lifestyle in Holland too.

I spent some time in Bilboa - never anywhere else in Spain. The different culture, I found amazing. Whole families (including kiddlywinks)out after midnight - all very well behaved. Little 'nightclubs' in house-size rooms. Loved it - but the people very reserved initially. The stigma attached to mental health - my reason for being there - awful!

Do you think I am being blinded by 'facts and figures' or is alcohol related harm increasing in the UK?

I will follow your recommendations re German wine - I do love it! In fact - I love Germany. I did think of going to live there many moons ago when I was single.

The getting older thing and less tolerance to drink. Same for me too - that's why I chose Fridays!

Anna :o]

Julie said...

If you want to know what a really bad wine is, look no further than here;

We're all still raging about the minimum alcohol price bill that was hijacked by Labour in Holyrood, not cos they disagreed with it, but because they didn't want the SNP to have the credit of introducing it. Anyway, it'll happen sooner or later..

Linda said...

I don't think any country has a corner on the alcoholism market. I have never been outside the United States, but I can tell you that detox and rehab centers are very big business here. If there wasn't a need, it wouldn't be a mulit-billion dollar industry.

I think I should expound on the alcohol-related dementia that you mentioned. Most people don't understand anything about it.

We have prime rib for Christmas dinner with it I would pair with a smooth, velvety cabernet. I'd only have a glass -- maybe two. The rest would go in Beef Burgundy. More than a couple would have me dancing on the table while singing karoke. Trust me, you don't want to hear me sing.

Thank you for visiting my blog.

Linda said...

Ooopss... forget to tell you... my blog is

Can you tell I'm really new to this blogging thing???

HyperCRYPTICal said...

Hi Julie - thanks for the tip! The wine menu for Christmas dinner might change now!

I recall a recent conversation re Buckfasts - I hadn't heard of it until then - and it was remarked that it was the 'in' drink with teenagers a particular area. I can't remember where though!

I think minimum pricing is almost a certainty too. I am in two minds about this; I wonder about the families on low incomes where one or both adults are alcohol dependent; the alcoholic won't do without his/her drink and I worry about the financial cost and knock on effect to the rest of the family; something will have to give. Will it make life more difficult for them?

The youngsters will find the extra money, I am sure. If its aim is to decrease binge drinking - I don't think it will.

Linda - thanks for visiting too! Your blog is fine - certainly a lot more professional than here when first started out! Clicking onto your name on a comment will bring people straight to your blog.

My next post will be about alcohol victims on both ends of the age scale - for I think alcoholics are victims too, as it was never a life goal or expectation for those who become addicted. This one will deal with alcohol related dementia.

Take care.


Anonymous said...

Dear Anna,

maybe I just get into bad company in other parts of northern Europe! Certainly I have seen enough alcohol related harm to wonder if the prohibitionists weren't right. I do like a glass of something decent with my Christmas Dinner, and my father in law has educated my palate a little. He is on a modest pension so likes to have a good bottle when he visits, he and I review the wines, and pore over the wine atlas with cheese. The wives roll their eyes, but tolerate our little misdemenors. I shall miss him when he is gone.

It's not exactly getting hammered on Buckie, as they do in Glasgow, but perhaps no better for the liver.

Julie McAnulty said...

I recall a recent conversation re Buckfasts - I hadn't heard of it until then - and it was remarked that it was the 'in' drink with teenagers a particular area. I can't remember where though!

It's the in drink in my area; Coatbridge. It's a kind of purple gloop; looks a bit like stuff that you imagine the Romans must have drunk and it has a reputation for causing violent behaviour, although I think it might be a bit of a 'post hoc, ergo propter hoc' situation. Im not convinced the buyers of Buckie wouldn't cause trouble if they bought a caffeine free drink. Anyway, I think Liebfruamilch is a better bet for your table for Christmas..

HyperCRYPTICal said...

Hi Dr Phil,

Re the wine reviews with your father in law - do you find that good company makes alcohol more potent? I find this strange - but true!

A visit to my local supermarket yesterday found none of your wine recommendations; bar a half box of Liebfraumilch - no German wines at all! I shall see what M&S have to offer next time I shop in the big city! However, I did manage to stock up on Stollen and Lebkuchen! Yummy!

Sons used to commission a service from a German company and a big box of German goodies were received each Christmas! They now have an English provider - so no goodies! Dash!

Julie - I shall be guided by you and not invest in a bottle of two of Buckie as an after dinner drink! The purple gloop sounds fascinating!



Kit Courteney said...

I think that a lot of us have fallen into the trap of 'Well, I work hard, so it's ok to play hard', or 'My life is sh*t, so it's ok to have fun when I choose', etc.

Play and fun often equal drinking to excess.

Rather disturbingly, I find that the older I get (40), the less I feel the down side of alcohol. It's something I have had to shake myself about - just because I CAN drink a bottle of Soave (I'm a cheap date!) a night with no ill-effects, doesn't mean I should!

Interesting blog :)

HyperCRYPTICal said...

Hi Kit.

I'm just the opposite to you in that alcohol has more of an effect as I get older, in that it makes me lethargic the following day - no hangover stuff, just damn tired! I reckon it's due to the fact that alcohol keeps me awake rather than knocking me out!

Nevertheless, I have considered that strictly I would be classified as a binge drinker - all units in one night (tonight!) and wonder if I should drink less across more nights. But I don't want to! I like feeling slightly merry!

Thanks for visiting!

Anna :o]