21 May 2019

Britons Drunk Once a Week – Global Drugs Survey Findings on Binge Drinking

a photo of alcohol being poured
British people are binge drinking more than any other nationality, the 2019 Global Drugs Survey has found. Britons get drunk 51.1 times per year on average – nearly once a week.

In this blog, we’ll look at some more data on binge drinking from the Global Drugs Survey. Why is the alcohol moderation message not getting through to British drinkers?

If you’re sick of binge drinking, UKAT is the leading national provider of alcohol treatment programmes. Our specialist teams can help you establish your alcohol recovery and restart your life. Please contact us for alcohol help.

Binge Drinking Statistics – Global Drugs Survey

The 2019 Global Drugs Survey surveyed 123,814 people in 36 countries. 38% of all survey participants said they wanted to drink less next year. One in five people regrets their drinking sessions. Women aged 25 and older regret getting drunk the most (24.2%). Men aged 25 or younger regret it the least (17%).

Researchers found that people from English-speaking countries got drunk most often. Britain, the USA, Canada, Australia and Ireland were all ranked in the top 10 binge drinking countries.

  1. Britain – 51 times per year
  2. USA – 50 times per year
  3. Canada – 48 times per year
  4. Australia – 47 times per year
  5. Denmark – 42 times per year
  6. India – 41 times per year
  7. Ireland – 41 times per year
  8. Mexico – 38 times per year
  9. Czech Republic – 37 times per year
  10. Finland/ Belgium – 35 times per year

Alcohol Moderation – Why Aren’t Binge Drinking Britons Getting the Message?

a photo of a festival fair
In Britain, alcohol is deeply ingrained in society and culture. For many people, alcohol is synonymous with fun, relaxation, social events, celebrations or commiserations. Alcohol is served alongside our favourite pastimes and traditions – at pubs, clubs, sporting events, airports, festivals, summer barbecues, weddings, birthdays, on holiday and more.

Although there’s a recent trend for younger people to drink less alcohol or abstain, the moderation message doesn’t seem to be as appealing to middle age and older drinkers. According to Professor Winstock, British people just aren’t accustomed to sensible drinking. “We have never grasped moderation. It’s not part of our culture or conversation,” he said.

Here are five explanations why binge drinkers find it hard to moderate alcohol:

1. People who regret binge drinking are riskier drinkers

According to the 2019 Global Drugs Survey results, people with high-risk drinking patterns regret getting drunk almost twice as often (35%), as low-risk drinkers (19%).
This suggests much higher levels of alcohol addiction amongst people who feel ashamed or guilty about their drinking.

So while they may wish they hadn’t got drunk and want to change, the risks of it happening again are higher due to the way they drink.

2. Addiction makes it harder to moderate or stop without help

It seems like the simple answer – if you’re embarrassed about what happens when you drink alcohol, then drink less or stop. Why do binge drinkers repeat the same mistakes?

Loss of choice and control is at the core of most addictive disorders, including alcohol addiction. Despite strong evidence about the harm, alcohol is doing, cravings for more alcohol are overwhelming and insatiable.

Alcohol affects brain function in many different ways – including judgment, decision-making and risk-taking behaviour. This is why cutting down alcohol is usually hard or impossible for dependent drinkers – once they have taken a drink, it becomes even harder to say no to more drinking.

Alcohol treatment helps to cut through the cravings for more, with physical detoxification, psychological rehabilitation and ongoing alcohol support.

3. Alcohol culture in Britain – the fear of not drinking

a photo of a person saying no to alcohol
Even people who don’t consider themselves to be dependent on alcohol should question how they feel about not drinking. Does not drinking feel completely normal or acceptable to you? Do you often feel obliged to drink alcohol? Would life be dull without alcohol?

If you’re fearful about not drinking because of social or cultural factors, then the dominant alcohol culture in Britain is affecting you. There’s no problem at all with enjoying a drink or joining in – but if you believe that you have to drink alcohol to fit in, then there may be a dependence issue.

Addicts and non-addicts alike can be affected by this subtle or obvious pressure to drink in Britain, as it’s ubiquitous. From alcohol adverts that promise glamorous fun, to beer with your mates at sporting events, to trays of champagne that are offered at weddings – sometimes the non-alcoholic option is an afterthought, or it isn’t offered at all.

4. Alcohol health warnings need to change

With the 2019 Global Drugs Survey release, Professor Winstock said: “Deaths due to alcoholic liver disease and cancer due to excessive alcohol consumption are on the rise, along with obesity and poorer mental health. Drinking too much makes all these worse; drinking less make them better.”

It’s clear, however, that the four in five who don’t regret getting drunk aren’t swayed by alcohol health warnings. Many know that they should drink less alcohol, but they don’t want to change their habits. Is alcohol more desirable than good health?

With this group, Professor Winstock is calling for radical change to the conversation about alcohol. He has suggested alcohol harm reduction techniques – including education on how to enjoy lower quantities of alcohol.

a photo of two hands holding a papercraft family
While these techniques could be effective in people who aren’t addicted to alcohol, it’s important to highlight their limitations with dependent drinkers. For example, if you try to monitor your alcohol units and you regularly can’t remember how much you’ve drunk, then it’s not going to help you moderate.

5. Mental illness and binge drinking

With 70.9 million prescriptions for anti-depressants dispensed in England in 2018, are people who binge drink getting the alcohol help they need?

Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant. If you’re binge drinking regularly, then the way you process information and feel your emotions will change. It’s one of the reasons alcohol becomes addictive – the mood-altering effects.

If you’re drinking alcohol to manage anxiety or depression, then it’s essential to talk to your GP openly about alcohol as well as your mental illness. Treatment can only be effective if the full picture of your health is known.

To get help to stop binge drinking, call UKAT today. We’ll carry out an assessment so that we can advise you on our alcohol detox and rehab programmes.

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