Alcohol minimum pricing – alcoholism isn’t about price (14 May 2012)

I have blogged on this not too long ago but the issue has raised its head again as The Alcohol (Minimum Pricing) Bill has passed stage 2 in parliament and the minimum price of 50p per unit of alcohol is the preferred amount of the Scottish Government.

Today Nicola Sturgeon said, “Too many Scots are drinking themselves to death”, and she is absolutely right on this, they are, but rather than follow the advice of a study done by the University of Sheffield which says that minimum pricing will save the lives 60 people each year (300 annually after ten years), they Scottish Government need to look at why people are drinking so very heavily.   

I’m behind any measure that will see drinking substantially cut down, particularly amongst the younger generations, but the cause has to be dealt with.

Why do people binge drink? Why do people of all ages take themselves out on the town at the weekend and drink until they can’t remember.  I listen, horrified, to stories from people in their early twenties discussing how they don’t remember getting home, how they don’t remember most of what happened while they were out.  Apart from the fact that the amount of alcohol they’re drinking is seriously damaging their health, they have no idea what could happen to them while they’re so intoxicated that they don’t remember.  What’s more horrifying about these stories is that often they’re volunteered to me, and the person telling them has no regrets about they were.

S0, there’s binge drinking but there’s also the routine so many people have got themselves into of either having a few pints after work or opening a beer or bottle of wine at night when they get home.  This is fine in complete moderation but it’s not happening like that.  One glass leads to two and then the rest of the bottle.  One beer leads to two, then the rest of the pack.  

Why are people doing it? Is it stress? Is it to help forget all their other problems? Is it to help them sleep? I have heard that latter one more than once recently.  

A minimum pricing of alcohol units is a nice idea in theory but there are stumbling blocks.  For those who are on good wages the minimum price of alcohol means nothing.  Yes, the shopping bill will go up but if it can be afforded then so be it.  So minimum pricing doesn’t impact on those that can afford it.

Alcoholics are addicts and like any other the cost of something won’t make a difference.  They will still pay for what they crave.  There will be some, like smokers who can no longer afford it, who will cut down or cut it out but others won’t.  Severe addiction to alcohol, like a severe addiction to anything else, will not be beaten by price rises.  What happens, sadly, is that the obtaining of alcohol becomes more important that the obtaining of anything else, like food or clothes for the children.  

So while sticking a minimum price on alcohol is a nice idea, and while it will make some think twice it will not solve the alcohol problem that Scotland has and continues to face.  Only finding out why people drink so much, and solving it, will help Scotland in the long run.