Stop boozing after four drinks? The public health people just don’t want us to have fun

    6 August 2015

    Nothing better sums up the out-of-touchness of public health prigs than the debate about so-called binge drinking. To these teetotal, ciggie-dodging suits, for whom fun is the foulest of f-words, and who are such miserabilists that they’re made sad by the idea of happy hour, anything more than four units of booze a day for a bloke, and three for a lady, counts as binging.

    Four units is two pints of weak lager. Three units is a large glass of wine. Are these people for real? That’s lunch for many of us. On party nights most of us have more than that before we even don our glad rags and leave the house. Consider it pre-drunkenness, in anticipation of actual drunkenness, which is often followed by blind drunkenness. If it’s a binge to have a couple of weak pints of beer then, hell, I’ve already binged today. (I’m writing this in a bar in Dublin, where two pints is an appetiser, not a binge).

    Now the Telegraph reports that the public health weirdos are worried, quite rightly, that anyone who doesn’t live in a nunnery or follow the cult of Alcoholics Anonymous (ie pretty much everyone) might consider it a tad rash to describe necking more than a couple of beers a day as a binge. So they’re updating their guidance. They’re now thinking of scrapping the units talk and telling us we shouldn’t have more than four drinks on any one occasion. Jesus wept. Four units, four drinks — who cares? It’s all so unrealistic, and so buzz-killingly dispiriting.

    According to the Telegraph, alcohol researchers found that the current four-units advice seems ‘unrealistic’ to many people — people who are normal — and ‘out of kilter with modern lifestyles’. So government officials are considering new proposals to adopt the Aussie system instead, which involves hectoring folks to have a ‘maximum limit of four drinks on any occasion’.

    Guys. Come on. What kind of circles must these people move in to consider it acceptable to tell us we should stop boozing after four drinks? Remind me never to go out with anyone from public health. ‘Hey everyone, it’s 10pm, we’ve had our four Stellas, let’s order an Uber.’ For many of us that’s when the night kicks in: when the blood, fuelled by booze, starts pumping; the banter flows more freely; the jokes become sharper (this doesn’t last long); and you feel you could do anything, maybe even gab with that man/woman you’ve been eyeing up. To nip the night in the bud after four pints is the boozing equivalent of coitus interruptus.

    Inebriation interruptus — that’s the true aim of the binge-panic lobby. They just don’t like the idea of a throng of woozy humans laughing, bantering and occasionally puking their way through the public houses and streets of Britain on a Friday, Saturday or any other night. They don’t want us to get hammered. But they recognise that they can’t simply say ‘Don’t get drunk’ — at least not without exposing the priestly killjoyism that lurks behind their health-concerned veneer — and so instead they redefine drunkenness as ‘binging’. They’ve pathologised being pissed. They’ve turned something perfectly normal and fun — drinking so much you get giddy and unstable — into something medically bad, a case of scary overindulgence.

    We shouldn’t let them manhandle language in this way, or redefine drunkenness according to their own narrow, unworldly morality. What they call ‘binging’ the rest of us call ‘a night out’; what they refer to as a ‘maximum limit’ of booze (four drinks) some of us call ‘getting started’. They’ve already banned smoking, demonised sugar, spread panic about corpulent kids being killed by chips, and treated salt, every dish’s silver lining, as Public Enemy No 1 — we can’t also let them get away with redefining the glory of being plastered as some kind of disorder. They say ‘binge-drinking’; we say ‘drinking’.

    The Telegraph says Dame Sally Davies, England’s chief medical officer, has seen the latest ‘binge-drinking’ research and has added it to officialdom’s ongoing discussion of booze guidelines, which will be submitted for public consultation later this year. Blimey, it’s all like a metaphor for the oligarchical aloofness of the new political class: it spends months and months discussing in sober, excruciating detail how many units of booze the public should be advised to drink, while the rest of us, the actual public, just gets on with drinking, and with life. Seriously, public health people, chill out. Have a drink. Or five.