Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Social Drunking

My last post despaired against law-makers for their approach to problem drinking.

I called upon them to think bigger thoughts and help shape a new common goal that might divert attention from day to day angst leading to binge drinking (oh, and help to save the planet in the process).

A couple of things have occurred to me since that post.

1. It will never happen. Such a movement will have to come from 'me'/'us', not 'them'. [thanks to my lovely wife for reminding me of my previous thoughts about this topic. In my 'red mist' I got rather carried away with utopian dreams]

2. I've fallen, once again, into the trap of thinking others are "like me" - "I thinking" in Mark Earls' excellent Herd Thinking work

I assume that others could/should think like me about alcohol (or anything) simply because I hold it to be true. But they don't. However much I try and explain the error of their ways.

Are we the same? After all, I drink alcohol. Binge drinking kids and young adults drink alcohol.

No, the actual similarity is that we drink to socialise.

I drink to learn and explore, in the main. I like to share that knowledge gained with others who like wine in particular (I posted on this some months ago)

Those that are the target for this sort of legislation drink to socialise too, but alcohol, drinking to the point of drunkenness, is the objective of socialising, not as a subject to be explored. I have now seen this called "Social Drunking" - a great term for a sad state of affairs.

I found this presentation, courtesy of my friend Andrew (who knows a fair amount about this subject and helps to bring solid research to this debate, not just my ramblings), to be very enlightening. It is worth reading through it just to see how these 18-25 year-olds think about alcohol.

It would probably be unfair of me to point out that wine plays no part in their drinking (except for the one woman who mentions it in relation to 'sensible' drinking at home). All of those involved in alcohol have a shared responsibility to do something about this problem, but it could be that there is something about wine, or how it is perceived, that differentiates it and that could help us improve drinking habits.

I would point out, however, that price of alcohol, or availability from off licences did not figure at all.

I still think that learning about CONSEQUENCES, whether for our planet, through our wasteful consumption, or short-termist commercial thinking impacting on the sustainability of jobs and culture, would also have an effect on people's attitudes to alcohol.

Certainly, one consequence of my own drinking is that I feel a responsibility to do something, however small, to try and encourage a sensible approach to alcohol - by young drinkers and legislators alike.

You never know!


Jeff said...

I don't remember where I read it but research regarding minors and smoking showed that the most effective form of prevention was that related to vanity.

So, rather than pound into youth the idea that smoking will kill you, they told them that it would yellow their teeth and give them bad breath. The idea being that youth are unconcerned with death since it's such a distant "problem." Smoking rates dropped significantly.

Not that this is applicable to alcohol necessarily but I thought the idea was interesting.

Robert McIntosh said...

I agree. The one campaign I remember having some effect on smoking showed the fat/cholesterol being squeezed out of arteries. I remember overhearing young adults telling each other how disgusting it was. That works - even if they associate it with getting fat rather than heart disease.

The Tasting Note said...

I agree that shocking children before most of them into realising the problems alcohol misuse can have on them would be a good idea, but it struck me that it regardless of what any government does now, the effects are not going to seen for at least one generation.

Parents of children born now will have been part of the 1990's rave scene where excess is the norm, so anything that is done to shock children now will take around a decade to filter into an age group that is wanting to drink.

I fear that demonising the drinks industry is the easiest way to 'deal' with the problem, even if it doesn't work!

Andrew Brown said...

By coincidence I was sent a paper about shock tactics today. It doesn't make for happy reading.

In fact it is one of the reason I'm not a huge fan of the current social marketing being done by the government - plus it doesn't address the point being made in Andy's presentation that for some young people getting smashed up is part of the fun of the fair.

In the talk that Andy gave which accompanied these slides he said that the young people he spoke to were videoing their "adventures" in A&E and sharing them with friends. It made them the hero of their evening out.

Gabriella Opaz said...

Your post reminded me of a podcast I heard on NPR (http://tiny.cc/dSPmu) on my way back from Lisbon a few months ago about an anti-meth campaign called The Montana Meth Project. And what made this podcast so memorable was that Montana took the rising number of meth cases into their own hands, realizing that the "don't do methane" propaganda was completely ineffective.

Realizing that they had to start their message targeting children, they decided that kids respond to kids. So they got children to display real life consequences of using meth in videos, radio programs, posters, etc. in hopes of completely bombarding them with the message. Consequently, the message also affected adults.

It worked. According to their website, ss of April 2008, teen Meth use has declined 45% and adult Meth use has declined 72%.

Putting aside the obvious fact that you can drink wine in moderation, but you can't use meth in moderation, I bring this project up because it gives an interesting example of how one group chose to show "consequences" in a very in-your-face manner. FYI: videos on the Montana Meth Project are pretty creepy.

Andrew Brown said...

The Econonmist covered the crystal meth story, and it seems that the emphasis on what the drugs does to your looks did have an impact.

But, it isn't all good, while increasing numbers of young people say they don't think that crystal meth is safe the numbers are now falling for crack cocaine. And that seems to be mirrored in real life drug taking too.

That switching from one drug to another as they come into and go out of fashion happens here in the UK as well. So a the moment cocaine use is going up, while heroin use is declining.

It doesn't mean these campaigns don't have an effect, just that it isn't straight forward.

Gabriella Opaz said...

I think you bring up a great point Andrew. Some, well-done, campaigns tend to work very well at targeting the issue and attacking it full force.

However, the emotional and mental drive behind the addiction is not typically taken care of. Therefore, the consequences are that the numbers for one may decrease, but the numbers for another "fix" increase depending on what's in fashion.

Until we attack the source of the issue - the internal drive that is pushing us to find a quick solution - the cycle will continue in a different form.

Coming from a long line of alcoholics, I can tell you first hand that those who have sobered up have all altered their drug of choice to everything from smoking to sweets.

Going back to Robert's point, maybe we need to teach choice and consequence on a more holistic level.

Robert McIntosh said...

thanks everyone, and in particular Andrew and Gabriella for some really interesting follow up points. I found the last links most informative

I wonder HOW one teaches consequences?

I remember, as a young adult, actually worrying about learning to drive because I was too used to the idea of having 3 lives when playing video games. I am obviously an individual with WAY overdeveloped sense of such awareness. Of course I could blame (or thank) my parents, but is there something that could be done at a social level to engender this? After all, look at the "consequence" to the bankers for what they did with the credit crunch. They may lose their jobs ... after picking up fat bonus cheques. What messages are we sending young people?