Binge Drinking

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Binge Drinking

Binge Drinking

Background & Objectives

The consumption of alcohol, often to excess, has long been a feature of British social and cultural life affecting all ages and all walks of life. Critically though it is the impact that binge drinking is having on young people which is perhaps of the greatest concern. This prompted the Government's recently updated, 'Safe, sensible, social' national alcohol strategy to identify young people as a priority group for action in a context where: 'While the proportion of young people who are drinking has declined in recent years, those who do drink are consuming more alcohol, more often. High levels of alcohol consumption are associated with a range of high-risk behaviours including unprotected sex and offending'. Government statistics suggest that young people who drink are drinking twice what they were in 1990 and that the amount of alcohol consumed by younger adolescents aged 11-13 continues to climb. By their own admission these trends are not yet fully understood by the Government and it was in this context that Positive Futures2, commissioned a survey to find out more about the experiences and attitudes towards alcohol consumption with the young people they work with. (Sampson Gallager Lange Chondra Hogan 1999 1228-1231)

Young binge drinkers enjoy drinking alcohol and being drunk. Few feel that their drinking habits are something that they should change, even when they have been involved in various forms of risk or disorder as a consequence.

Indeed, episodes of risk and disorder are often viewed as part of the excitement of getting drunk with friends. Getting drunk is an integral part of the social scene for these young people, although comments made by some about how their drinking habits have changed over the years suggest that they are likely to 'calm down' to some extent as they grow older and take on new responsibilities. For this reason, young people are unlikely to consider their drinking as a problem unless something quite serious happens to them while they are drunk. This means it may be difficult to reduce public drunkenness by changing the attitudes of the current generation of young adults, although responsible serving practices may reduce more extreme consumption patterns. There may be more scope for having an impact on the behaviours that surround binge drinking, and so reducing the 'social harms' associated with binge drinking. This could involve measures to target the risk behaviours that the research has identified, e.g. young people aggravating strangers or using unlicensed minicabs(Turrisi Wiersma Hughes 2000 342-355). The drinking environment can be as strong an influence on risk and offending in the nighttime economy as individual attitudes, and young people believe that policies aimed at changing this environment are the most effective way to curb alcohol-related disorder. There is widespread support for extended licensing laws and a greater range of late-night venues to calm down the night-time economy, by slowing the pace of drinking and reducing the crowds of drinkers who are all on the move at the same time.

There is also support for practical measures to ensure drinkers' safety, such as late-night transport, more targeted policing and the use of plastic glasses and bottles in pubs and ...
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