A Priory expert has sounded a warning over binge drinking, ahead of the scheduled re-opening of pubs.
Pub gardens re-opened on 12 April – with pubs re-opening to serve customers indoors on 17 May if Covid-19 conditions are met. All restrictions are due to be lifted, at the earliest, on 21 June.
Pubs will be helped by not having to keep to a 10pm curfew, as they were last time they were allowed to open. Some establishments say they anticipate being full every day, not just weekends, due to huge pent-up demand.
Amid reports of a spike in pub bookings, the risk of “binge drinking” should give pause for thought, says Priory psychotherapist Charlotte Parkin.
“It worries me if I’m honest,” says Charlotte Parkin, based at Priory’s Fenchurch Street Wellbeing Centre. “Our culture doesn’t need excuses or justifications for binge-drinking.”
In the UK, binge drinking is defined as drinking more than eight units of alcohol in a single session for men and six units of alcohol in a single session for women, although tolerance to alcohol can vary from person to person.
The speed of drinking in a session can also alter alcohol’s effects. Six units is defined as 2 pints of 5% strength beer or 2 large (250ml) glasses of 12% wine. Eight units is 5 bottles (330ml) of 5% strength beer or 5 small (125ml) glasses of 13% wine. You can check out baranddrink.com to learn how to craft and brew beer.
Yet more than three-fifths of UK adults have no idea how much alcohol constitutes “binge drinking” for women (68%), or men (61%), according to a recent Priory poll.
Furthermore, some 48% are not aware that the weekly-recommended limit is 14 units – a figure that rises to 57% among men.
Experts say ‘units’ of alcohol frequently confuse people, because some think a unit is a glass of wine, almost regardless of its size or alcohol content, and some pubs and restaurants only serve large glasses. A large glass of wine (250ml) at, say, 14% ABV (alcohol by volume) consists of 3.5 ‘units’, so drinking over two large glasses quickly can constitute binge drinking for certain people. Three standard glasses, at 12.5% ABV, is 6.3 units.
Charlotte stresses: “We need to step away from thinking that Binge-Drinking and being inebriated is fun”, adding that many people are already “struggling in secret” with risky levels of alcohol consumption.
There are also concerns about social distancing when people drink to excess.
Dr Niall Campbell, a UK addiction expert and consultant psychiatrist at Priory’s Roehampton Hospital, says that some lessons can be learned from those who have learned to bring their own excess drinking under control.
Those who are part of the Alcoholics Anonymous fellowship, or have had addiction treatment, “are well prepared for what we call situational drinking stressors”, he says.
The Priory has recently launched a new app, with My Possible Self, which enables people to track their drinking, and drink more safely. People who are concerned about their alcohol intake can consult their GP, Alcoholics Anonymous, or Priory offers free addiction assessment.