Public health doctors have objected to the proposed liberalization of licensing laws – pubs and clubs will be allowed to stay open until the wee hours and there are concerns revelers will stagger home by 6am after a night of drinking.
Liver disease – a common measure of alcohol consumption, particularly in the 18-34 age group – is reported to have increased significantly: three deaths a day are attributed to alcohol abuse in Ireland, and the medics involved in public health (Dr. Maria Deery, Dr. Fiona Cianci and others) fear that relaxing the law will result in “further unnecessary harm and loss of life.”
The experts know their field, and yet there are other perspectives on this topic. I’ve had more experience with drinking problems and alcoholism than I’d like to know, and if there’s one thing I know for sure, it’s that an alcoholic will always get alcohol, regardless of licensing laws.
Alcoholism is a driving compulsion for those affected, and no law – as far as I can tell – diverts its power. In my experience, the price doesn’t have much of an impact either.
What’s needed is more research into the causes of alcoholism (and even into the brains of alcoholics) — and more accessible treatment, too.
The majority of the population can – and does – enjoy alcohol in moderation. A poll by Alcoholics Anonymous found that about 85 percent of people can be classified as regular drinkers; of the rest, about 8 percent could fall into the “problem” drinker category, including bingers. Another 7 percent could be in the addicted or heavy alcoholic group.
Certainly the sensible approach would be to focus on the 15 percent who may be problem or addicted drinkers and trust the majority 85 percent to make their own decisions about when and where to drink.
I remember well the days when there were restrictive licensing laws for pubs and bars in both Dublin and London.
In the afternoon, ironically dubbed the “holy hour,” pubs were closed for an hour; in London they were closed for two hours. Believe me, we came up with creative strategies to circumvent this “holy hour” of supposed abstinence: One evasive maneuver was to walk into a licensed restaurant just before closing and order six bottles of wine, which would keep the party going until opening time would lead.
Memories of the old Dublin – like John Ryan’s engagement Remember where we stood – represent a drinking culture of outrageous excess. In London, Soho offered afternoon “shebeens”—drinking clubs born out of a loophole in the law—that could be dirty and still attracted the likes of Francis Bacon and his cronies.
Dorothy Parker, the witty poet, claimed that Prohibition in America triggered her alcohol addiction. Especially the secrecy surrounding the “speakeasies”, who secretly served alcohol, increased the excitement of the forbidden.
Whatever causes alcoholism—and we still don’t know enough about the cause—the alcoholic will rarely be deterred by the license terms, or sometimes anything else. I had a distant cousin, a priest in the west of Ireland who became an alcoholic in his twenties. To keep him away from the town’s bars, he was sent to a remote island community off the west coast. Despite being unable to procure alcohol, he was still found intoxicated on the altar – and afterwards “silenced” – and was not allowed to say mass or conduct services.
The family tried to help him stay sober and he had no money; but somehow Father Paddy always found something to drink somewhere. Eventually he was placed in the care of a monastery where monks were instructed to look after him and ensure he had no access to alcohol.
He would be fine for a while under strict sobriety, but he would somehow get hold of alcohol every once in a while. Eventually he was found dead in a field after managing to obtain enough alcohol – possibly Poitín – to kill him. Unfortunately, neither caution nor prohibition changed anything about the alcohol urge. I know of more than one case that followed a similar pattern.
Certainly there is a place for alcohol awareness in health education. The joys of sobriety can be taught without being snooty. In societies where there is a tradition of moderate drinking – in Mediterranean cultures, but also among religious Jews – alcohol is seen as part of family life. Incidentally, the French have always had a high death rate from liver disease, but their alcohol consumption is a pattern of little and often rather than lashing.
Young people are having a miserable time with the pandemic lockdown. Let them enjoy their party, if they wish, through the night. Most will reasonably do so.
But focus help and research on the minority of individuals who really need treatment to combat the scourge of alcoholism.
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/stricter-laws-simply-dont-deter-problem-drinkers-an-alcoholic-will-always-get-hold-of-liquor-42112041.html Stricter laws just don’t deter problem drinkers. An alcoholic always gets booze