Sunday, November 21, 2004

magical disinhibiting powers

Today the Observer says that Paul Evans, an American 'super-cop' brought in by the Home Office to cut Britain's crime rate warned last night that

"the nation's binge drinking culture was spiralling out of control and fuelling an epidemic of violence outside pubs and clubs that threatened to overwhelm the police."

Ah, well, we've heard that before, even if we know it's probably true. But I read in the Guardian yesterday a more interesting article which went some way to factoring me into the equation, where previously I thought,

"binge drinkers, eh, tut tut".

According to new research, the system by which we measure our alcohol intake is hopelessly outdated - for example, since 1985 the average pub-bought glass of wine is 50ml larger and on average 5% stronger. We're told that a unit represents one glass of wine or half a pint. In fact, a standard glass of wine in a pub is now accurately measured at 2.3 units. A pint of Stella is 3.

And if you - like me - regularly go out and drink three pints of lager then guess what? You're a binge drinker too. And if you do it every night then you are a chronic drinker, you statistic, you.

Best paragraph in the article was, however, less sobering...

The timelessness of our desire to get drunk has led anthropologists such as Kate Fox, director of the Social Issues Research Centre in Oxford, to speculate about the British character. She concluded that we are all suffering from a "congenital sociability disorder", a disease whose symptoms are akin to a kind of autism combined with agoraphobia. In plain talk, the British are uniquely buttoned up and starched stiff. Animal watcher Desmond Morris says that if we were monkeys we would be picking imaginary fleas out of each other's fur, in an act of "social grooming", a pretext for prolonging social encounters. Instead we have for centuries propped up the bar.

A national characteristic has been identified in numerous scientific trials. In one, British volunteers were plied with drinks, all purporting to be alcohol, half of which were placebos. Everyone became equally loud, crude and garrulous, the technically sober behaving identically to the genuinely drunk. Similar tests carried out on volunteers from Mediterranean countries found no such associations. Scientists concluded that British people invested alcohol with "magical disinhibiting powers".

God, that's so true.

1 comment:

BB said...

I don't know how many decades ago 8% wine was the norm in pubs, but that's the basis of the ludicrous "glass of wine equals one unit"

125 ml * 8% / 1000 = 1 unit

I'd say this was more common:

175 ml * 13.5% / 1000 = 2.36 units

And for the Christmas party-goer:

250 ml * 14.0% / 1000 = 3.5 units

I really should be plugging my AlcoPal program!