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Binge Drinking

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Binge drinking

The Govt defines binge drinking as drinking more than 6 (woman) or 8 (man) units at one time, which may not really be a very helpful concept. Alcohol is so cheap these days that the alcohol industry have been able to steadily increase the measures of pub drinks without even bothering to announce it to anyone. Wine is now often sold in 250ml (3 unit) measures - 3 glasses to a bottle, and in many bars the standard spirit measure has been increased from 25ml (1 unit) to 35ml (1.4 units). A woman becomes a binge drinker after 2 double vodkas, or 2 large glasses of wine in a pub.

Currently in the UK one quarter of young women, and one third of young men binge drink at least once a week. So what are the problems associated with this - essentially they the problems of being drunk. When people are very drunk they can be more aggressive, they loose their sense of judgement and they become more vulnerable. Everyone knows this, but perhaps they are less aware of the levels of harm that can result. On the whole alcohol probably needs to be treated with a little more respect.

Health consequences in young people

There is some good news, contrary to popular belief isolated episodes of binge drinking don't cause liver damage, although drinking more than 30-40 units / week for several years can cause liver damage. The main problems come from alcohol related violence, and alcohol related vulnerability.

Sexual assault, rape and domestic violence

These problems usually involve men who have been drinking assaulting women who may also have been drinking - although the rape of men by men is also a significant problem.

According to the Home Office the lifetime risk of a woman being raped or seriously sexually assaulted in the UK is 10%. In at least half of these cases the man has been drinking, and in probably more than half of these cases the woman has also been drinking.

Drunken rapists tend to be even more violent and nasty. Only 15% of rapes are reported to the police. If the woman has been drinking she is less likely to report it, and unfortunately the courts are even less likely to convict.

The absolute minimum number of alcohol related rapes every year in the UK is 20,000 according to Govt figures. In comparison of 1000 women who thought they had been 'drug raped' in only 2% of cases was the urine analysis positive for a possibly spiked drug - if their drinks had been spiked it was with more alcohol. Alcohol and not Rohypnol is the UK date rape drug.

The figure for alcohol related domestic assaults is 360,000.

Alcohol makes some people very nasty, and makes many people extremely vulnerable. If you are going to go out and get so drunk that you cannot look after your own safety - then you need to stick together, look after each other, and have clear strategies for getting home safely. If you do not have a safe exit strategy then do not drink so much that you cannot look after yourself.

Other violence and injury

Alcohol is responsible for around 4000 deaths from violence and accidents, including drink driving. There are around 80,000 arrests for drink related behaviour and our accident and emergency units are full of drink related injuries and other problems in evenings and at weekends.

The overall cost of drink related crime in the UK according to Govt figures is 7.3 billion. Most of this crime is directed towards people and not property. In the words of the Govt alcohol strategy - drinking is more likely to be associated with violent offences than with acquisitive crimes.