Our Favourite Drug
There is a long history of alcohol consumption in many societies, including our own; however, we have never before had a situation where alcohol has been so widely available or cost so little.
Over the past 50 years the price of alcohol has continually fallen to the extent that certain retailers currently sell alcohol, ostensibly a dangerous drug, as a loss leader simply to encourage the sale of other products.
Added to this is the fact that alcohol is available in many parts of the UK 24 hours a day, and it is again local supermarkets and convenience stores that are reaping the benefits of this relaxation of trade; the majority of sales of alcohol are no longer limited to bars and off licences.
Perhaps it is not surprising then that over the past 50 years alcohol consumption has doubled in the UK, with Scotland leading the home nations in levels of consumption and harm.
The Normalisation of Alcohol
Where as in the past alcohol may have been saved for special occasions its current availability, alongside everyday items such as toothpaste and crisps, has rendered alcohol just another consumer product to throw in the basket during the weekly shop.
The purchase and consumption of alcohol has become utterly normalised in today’s society .
One mark of how normal alcohol consumption has become is the act of coming home to a glass of wine after work. This is a daily ritual for many people - their justification is that it helps them cope with stress - yet few give thought to the harm this self-medication is causing.
The consequence of this increasingly relaxed attitude towards alcohol in the home has wide ranging impacts including: rising health and social costs; normalising children to alcohol at a younger age; as well as increasing numbers of people struggling with varying degrees of alcohol dependency.
As it stands society is facing an alcohol-related illness epidemic. Many in the medical profession are gravely concerned that we are blindly walking into an alcoholic time bomb.
The Damage to Our Health
Deaths from diseases traditionally considered alcohol-related - such as cirrhosis of the liver - have seen huge increases in the past decade, yet so too have other conditions with clear links to alcohol and the rise in its consumption.
Alcohol has proven links to cancer, dementia, kidney failure, strokes, blood pressure and has the potential to reduce life expectancy significantly. The effects of these conditions are being seen in patients 20-30 years earlier than has ever previously been experienced.
According to World Health Organization estimates (2018), three million people worldwide die annually from harmful alcohol use, accounting for 5% of the global disease burden. One quarter of the UK’s population are now classed as harmful drinkers. Serious problems arising from their consumption are no longer simply limited to the clichéd ‘drunk’ in the street.