Wednesday, 21 October 2009


You want to have a good time? Yes, so do I. Like most people in this country, when I go out, I like to enjoy myself. But unlike many people, there’s one ingredient I like but don’t need – alcohol.

What is it about people that they feel they have to drink to have a good time? Why is it that when people talk about going to a party, there is an implicit assumption that they will get smashed and have a hangover the following morning?

It may all seem pretty harmless, with any damage being largely done to the self-inflicter. But consider this.

Recently it emerged that the number of people landing in accident & emergency wards in East Sussex for alcohol-related reasons had increased by 131 per cent in the last six years. In 2007-08, there were 6,064 alcohol-related admissions in Brighton, East Sussex Downs and Weald PCTs.

It was only in 2002-03 that statistics on alcohol-related admissions in the county began to be collected. In the first year there were 2,624, a figure that has risen every year to make for a six-year total of 24,520. Of these, 729 have been people under 18 years old, and that age group is rising too.

These statistics are truly alarming. And at a time when there’s precious little money in public coffers for essentials, why is the NHS having to spend money dealing with a problem that is largely avoidable?

It certainly is avoidable. I know of a case in which a woman was convinced her gin & tonic at 6pm was the key to letting go and enjoying herself. So one day her daughter gave her tonic without the gin at 6pm – and she still got drunk! In other words, it doesn’t take alcohol, only the belief that it’s OK to have a good time.

It’s easy to blame retailers for selling alcohol to under-age buyers, but let’s face it, if young people want alcohol, they’ll get hold of it somehow.

It would also be wrong to overreact and try to make alcohol the demon, when millions of people drink in moderation and get great enjoyment out of it. I especially enjoy locally produced drinks, such as a half-pint of Harvey’s, or a glass of organic wine from a Sussex vineyard.

No, alcohol isn’t the demon – it’s our attitude as a society towards it. It’s enjoyable and can take the edge off us, but we don’t need it, and certainly shouldn’t have so much that we suffer and make others suffer for our indulgence.

We’ve largely got the message when it comes to drinking and driving. Now we need to get the message that it’s OK to say no even when we’re not driving – and that it’s possible to have a great time without a hangover, let alone a hospital visit.

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