February 3rd, 2015
For contemporary society, it is the menace which tarnishes a town’s image in seconds, a symbolic token of a town’s scale of deprivation or when the risk of violence brews in the air. The 2005 legislation which introduced 24-hour openings of bars across the UK have cemented a familiar culture, known as ‘binge Britain’ or other phenomena, which have seen up to as many as 10,500 alcohol-liver related issues up to March 2014 alone. Recent studies have indicated that the North West and North East regions are particularly susceptible to such challenges and consequentially have cost the NHS £2.8 billion alone. However, are the horror stories of such violence becoming stories that belong in a darker past?
For young people, whose custom association at drinking from a young age outdoors and in the secrecy from their parents, the temptation to fall into the trap that is often associated with their own parents’ behaviour has fallen. We can blissfully declare ourselves as ‘Generation Sensible’ – a group, which perhaps more socially conservative and less interesting for media attention, has shown a marked decrease in the numbers of young people which drink. Only 9% from a 25% rate back in 2003 say they have drunk alcohol in the past week, according to statistics from the Department of Health. Even before that time, the younger generation said the act of getting drunk was acceptable had fallen from 46% to 35% back in 2008. An increase too in the minimum pricing of alcohol, which though would likely only affect 1% of drinks on sale, young people are especially more cautious about their spending habits. Such causes for this drastic downturn can only be speculated upon and if one addiction to abuse alcohol in the streets has been compensated to selecting the comforts of being reliant to technology and secure online rather than hiding in the cold outdoors, that conclusion is not of any astonishment. If anything, we can only be grateful to the media for the endless depictions of young hooligans haunting parks and similar locations – what was formally once an accepted rite of passage and rebellious deed is now a dreadful parody of its former self.
Indeed, the UK Peace Index has contributed to this promising trend to a safer society, with a 14% decrease alone in violent crimes and one of the most rapid reductions in violence overall, despite still being one of the most violent counters in the EU. Many local authorities across the UK are now adopting a scheme, which was initially piloted in the Ipswich area, to actively encourage off-licenses to stop selling drinks with the strongest alcohol volumes and to take a much less tolerant approach to persistent public drinkers. The consequences while on the surface may appear to be promising safer streets and a healthier culture to society; it leaves many with no alternative but to retreat into the guilty pleasures of drinking indoors, free from the scrutiny of the public eye. While we may rest easier at night in the comfort that communities will be a lesser pray to the morale breaking and destructive nature of rowdy behaviour, it will become a much harder task to change people’s ways if they can now manage a more presentable public persona, but a worrying face when in private. A study showed that two thirds of men and women were relieving stress by drinking in the comforts of their home – and the unseen is much harder to cure than what is already in front of our eyes. It is a duty to ensure that when a cry for help eventually does come, that is acted upon with seriousness and sensitivity and not to punish people at their most vulnerable.
*All views expressed in this article are the author’s, and do not necessarily represent the views of ‘It’s the Drink Talking’ or of Alcohol Concern.