News Ian O'Doherty

Friday 29 August 2014

Enough to drive you to drink. Binge drink, that is

Published 24/06/2014 | 02:30

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Alcohol advice: More than six standard units constitures binge drinking

Have you been enjoying a beer or a glass of wine with the nice weather? After all, it's the summer, the football is on and everyone knows that the Irish like a drink in the sun. Or in the rain. Or in the snow. Or when the skies are grey.

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Basically, we like a drink. And we all know too many people who like too much of it. But while there's not a family in Ireland who doesn't have at least one knock-down, dragged out, full blown alco in their midst, most people know how to enjoy a drink without their life crumbling down around their hapless, booze-sodden head. In fact, you might even have thought that restricting your consumption to a few pints at the weekend was fairly innocuous stuff. But you'd be wrong and languishing in a state of pathetic denial if that's the case.

The latest example of health professionals wagging their fingers and pursing their lips as the rest of the country enjoys a cold one on a hot day comes with the news that even supping a modest three pints per sitting is enough to be classed as a binge drinker.

That's the latest piece of really, really useful advice from the Health Research Board who have come up with a wizard equation which states that consumption of 'more than six standard units' – three pints to the rest of us – constitutes 'binge' drinking, so it should come as no surprise that any study operating under those parameters should decide that half the country is bingeing to beat the band.

There are several rather screamingly obvious flaws in that argument, and even the Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland was forced to point out that "while welcoming the investment in research in the area of binge drinking, the broad approach taken in this study and the definition given to binge drinking does not help in identifying those most at risk".

In other words, the ABFI doesn't want to be seen to sneer at a report that might hit them in the pocket, but even they are nonplussed at this new and deranged definition of what constitutes a binge-drinking sessions.

That too many Irish people enjoy a problematic relationship with gargle is hardly one of the lost secrets of Fatima. But when it comes to obsessing about booze we're like a nation of dry drunks – even when we give it up we remain obsessed.

I appreciate that this might come as a bit of a shock to regular readers – I'm not actually a medical professional. But you don't need to be Dr Feelbad to know that such a ridiculous and reductive view on drinking habits makes a mockery of any good that may have come from the study – such as the fact that people are now drinking 25pc less than in 2012 and 7pc less than last year.

Here in Nanny's Ireland, we are used to being warned about the dangers of everything by a bunch of people who seem to be on less than a passing acquaintance with the real world.

Because telling us that having three beers in one sitting makes them a binge drinker is the kind of witless tomfoolery that allows people to say eating a piece of bacon will give you heart disease, a bag of chips will kill you, a 99 will make you morbidly obese and if you enjoy the occasional cigarette, you're a morally bankrupt sinner who needs to repent.

All of the above diktats have one thing in common – they tend to come from those who see life as some sort of statistical flow chart and are either unwilling or incapable of viewing things through the prism of reality or common sense.

Here's the best way to examine your drinking habits and it's a lot simpler than the cotton wool brigade would ever like you to realise – if you think you have a problem with booze, then you have a problem with booze.

After all, there are some people who only need to consume a drop before they have a bad reaction and go completely bonkers.

Also, if your friends and family think you have a problem with booze, then you have a problem with booze.

But common sense and personal responsibility will go a lot farther in helping you sort that problem than a bullshit, panic-inducing survey which says we're all hopeless binge drinkers.

But then, those qualities always do. And some medics really don't like that.

You know what? I see a slight flaw

For a paper that likes to think it battles discrimination and stereotypes, it sure knows how to perpetuate them. Yesterday's edition of The Guardian carried one of those typically hand-wringing pieces by some mad bird who is grumpy that there aren't enough women playing in the World Cup, or something. Frankly, it was hard to keep up with the logic of any piece which asks: "Is it anti-feminist to watch the World Cup?" (the answer is no, by the way) and laments that "there is no Jessica Ennis or Victoria Pendleton to aspire to or root for", because this tournament is: "played exclusively by men".

It's rather interesting, don't you think, that in an age when the only men who assume women know nothing about football are either senile or stupid, that the people who are most ignorant and patronising of women's understanding of the game seems to be other women. But then I suppose I would say that, being someone who loves a game which is, apparently "ageist and sexist ... disabled people are tacitly excluded". Not from the Paralympics World Cup, they're not ...

Ein reich, ein volk, but no Beatles

The latest instalment of a popular first person shooter posits a world where the Nazis won and The Beatles have become Hitler's musical stooges.

But the premise of Wolfenstein: New Order has caused controversy with one Liverpool politician, Steve Rotherham, complaining that: "This is grossly offensive. Hitler and his evil philosophy should not be used to make money."

You see what he did there? Apart from further reminding us that some Scousers are only happy when they're moaning, he also pointed out that he thought Hitler's philosophy was 'evil.' As opposed to those politicians who aren't really that clear on where they stand when it comes to Nazis, I s'pose.

 

Ian O'Doherty

Irish Independent

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