Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Minimum alcohol pricing

Many press reports (BBC) over the last two days seem to be indicating that the government is backing away from an alcohol minimum pricing policy.

I smile at this idea - a lot of learned people think it is a good idea but as recently I've talked about on this blog, alcoholics will go to extraordinary lengths to drink, putting your life and well-being in repeated danger seems small fry to me compared to saying - oh that is a bit more expensive.  Alcoholics lie about their use of alcohol, the recent report indicating that 50% of the UK's alcohol purchases are "lost" when you ask people how much they drink.  So how much difference will this have?  Some but I feel minimally for people like me.

When I drank I bizarrely almost exclusive drank beer; there are some awful incidents involving vodka that meant I thought it best I avoid shorts and stick to beer only.  That was "sensible".  I almost exclusively drank in pubs - because that gave my drinking an air of "acceptability", it was "social", also it oddly hid my drinking, by moving from pub to pub through the day I looked like a guy in a suit having a couple at lunchtime, on his way home, after work, in the evening.  If I'd have drunk at home my family would have rumbled me not that frankly the whole world didn't know about it really I was frankly deluding myself about the "normality" and the "hidden" nature of my alcohol abuse.  On reflection in rehab I realised what a twit I'd been, if I'd have bought a bottle of vodka or two a day from the supermarket I'd have saved myself thousands of pounds over the years!  (I don't recommend that course frankly!)

So for years I paid well over the minimum per unit amounts considered currently a deterrent and I gladly did that for all the reasons above and more.  I was lucky I held down a good job which meant I had the money but I'd have found the funds somehow and/or changed how, what and when I drank if the money hadn't have been there.  How many alcoholics do I know with similar stories?  More numerous than I can count often involving "just buying a half bottle in the morning - only to buy another by lunchtime" or "I'd get 6 cans on the way home - only to have to stagger out late to get another 6"...  you get the picture.  We all have the same issue.  Once we start drinking a craving is initiated in us that can only be sedated with more alcohol no matter  how good or noble our intentions initially were.

For me these days the minimum price is clearly not an issue - I don't buy alcohol!  But with all this hoohah with it I'll return to those stats with interest in a couple of years to come.  Do you think really that our purchases will be any closer to our disclosures?  Or that the deaths due to alcohol will have stopped rising from 8,700 a year?   I doubt it frankly - drinking for alcoholics isn't a fiscal issue.


  1. I thought this was a measure to tackle binge drinking, which I have always thought was a bit different to alcoholism. Perhaps I'm wrong.

    1. You may be correct Nic - but I'm still not sure it'll have an effect on that much either, that is if the intent to stop the "weekend binger" - again many of those people are buying alcohol in bars and clubs where the cost is already high.

      Also many alcoholics would describe themselves as binge or bout drinkers, i.e. not daily drinkers but when they did drink they couldn't control how much they consumed and found the drinking went on past the intended period and often only stopped when they got physically ill.

  2. I remember at the height of my drinking (I was exclusively a Chardonnay girl) my husband coming to me and complaining about how much money we were spending on wine. I looked at him with a look that clearly said, "So! I'm entitled!"

    Now I think back and much money literally down the toilet.


  3. One group who I actually DO think would be deterred from heavy drinking by a minimum price is the early/mid teens.When I was a kid (oh I can hear the groans from here) spirits were prohibitively expensive so we stuck to beer or cider, as it was all we could afford. Of course we got pissed, but not to the point as happens now, where it's very easy for fourteen year olds to get their hands on a ten quid bottle of supermarket vodka and neck the lot in the local park.

    A lot of the cases clogging up A&E at the weekends are not street drinkers, or even adult drinkers - they're really young kids. My friend who's an A&E nurse faces a parade of embarrassed parents every Friday and Saturday, come to pick up little Maisie or Freya who's just been pumped out (the girls go straight to the vodka now; they won't drink beer because they're scared of getting fat.). I know cost is not the issue for someone with an addiction, but for a school kid with a very limited income it almost certainly is - or should be.

  4. Good point now there is a good argument in favour. In fact I am in favour just I don't think it will do any good in the long term alcohol abuse cases.

  5. Where I grew up there were tiers for the legal drinking age. Once you were 18, you could buy ONLY beer, and the low-alcohol 3.2% kind. Once you turned 21, the horses were out of the gate. Full liquor and standard beer (I think it's 5%?). The only thing that did was make us double-up on our consumption from 18-21.

  6. I'm not sure any measures will help alcoholism except if it were possible to have alcohol production completely ceased (lol) or a pill to counteract addiction were created. In other words, it's going to be abused. Personally, I think the closest thing to easing the problem would be increased awareness and less shame associated with getting help.