Drinking Culture and a Damning Reputation: Brits on the Booze

March 25, 2012 4:49 pm

Saturday night has come and gone and as I now sit here typing out this article, there seems to only be one thing on my mind. This self-inflicted, stomach-churning, head-splitting hangover. I’ve gone through the motions; the sore head, the nausea, the regret, the aversion to light, the ‘I’m-never-drinking-again’ and now the slobbing on the sofa watching some pointless show on television. I have, in effect, just watched myself waste an entire day of my life. I have done nothing but complain, groan, whinge and nap on what has been one of the warmest and most summery days of the year thus far.

I can absolutely guarantee that I am not the only person who, on this gorgeous Sunday evening, is sitting feeling, let’s just say, a little worse for wear. To be honest, we don’t really have a leg to stand on if we want to complain. Too many double vodka-lemonades in a mélange of loud, booming music and hot, sweaty people – the hangover is part of the package. You drink; you suffer the next day. Everybody knows that. But why do we do it? Why are we effectively paying to feel like we’ve just been beaten up? I think it’s safe to say that the drinking culture is slowly spinning out of control; at least it is in the UK.

As it currently stands in this country, men are recommended to drink no more than 3-4 units of alcohol per day, with women’s recommendations being no more than 2-3 units. This is equivalent to two pints for men and one and a half for women. I can just about hazard a guess to say that the majority of young people, last night alone, consumed a fair few more units than the recommended daily allowance.

University life has taken a swift left turn recently and now much more emphasis is being put on the social side of life as opposed to the educational side. Alcohol is prevalent in everyday university conversation, with endless amounts of gossip from the night before and as various clubs and pubs are open seven days a week, there’s seemingly no escaping it. Even before you can think about joining any kind of sports team you have to face the initiation phase; an embarrassing, dangerous excuse for current team members to get the potential team members absolutely bladdered. Classy.

Delving even deeper into these initiations, let’s take a look at one game that has become commonplace in a few cities up and down the UK: The Frosty Jack’s Challenge.  This is a take on Edward Ciderhands, where participants have to tape a bottle of cider to their hands and consume it within a certain time period. The aforementioned Frosty Jack’s is a 3 litre bottle of 7.5% ABV apple cider that can be bought for as little as £2.25. The challenge starts as soon as all participants have had both hands taped to the bottle. They then have two hours to consume the entire bottle, which contains a whopping 22.5 units. So, in two hours, each participant will have aimed to have downed just under six days worth of alcohol. Where has this need to imbibe, and technically abuse, copious amounts of alcohol come from?


According to NHS statistics, in 2009/2010 there were 1,057,000 alcohol related admissions to hospital. 63% were men, and unsurprisingly, the majority of people who partake in rigorous drinking challenges are men, although women are definitely catching up. Binge drinking in British people has taken over the news an ungodly amount of times, with ‘Brits Abroad’ being headline to some of the most embarrassing news stories around. British women had even been branded ‘the ugliest in the world’ according to an international poll with “Beer-guzzling”, “belching” and “hideous dress sense” being just some of the descriptions floating around. Not a reputation one really wants to be a part of.

Thinking about it, a hangover is a small price to pay when it’s in direct competition with a disgusting reputation all over the world. Government plans describe raising the price of each unit to 40p, which slashes alcohol deals and aims to deter binge drinking across England and Wales.

I’m not entirely convinced that this will change all that much; people who want alcohol, and lots of it, are willing to fork out a hell of a lot of money to get it, especially judging by the way students live. It’s difficult to change people’s minds about things like alcohol, smoking and drugs, especially when they really enjoy their effects. I’m not entirely sure what would have to happen to change the way the UK views alcohol, but it would have to be something truly eye-opening.

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