Pandemic has created alcohol problems - but help is out there
We are approaching the time of year when ordinarily many of us would be heading out to enjoy a drink at Christmas parties.
However, this has been far from an ordinary year, and although we still don’t know whether those nights out and family get-togethers will take place over the next few weeks, it is clear that alcohol will continue to play a big part of many people’s lives.
Perhaps too big a part. The Covid-19 pandemic, and the upheaval, stress and sometimes heartbreak it has caused, has sadly pushed many people towards excessive or problem drinking.
This week marks Alcohol Awareness Week, and the charity Alcohol Change UK has published new research showing that nearly one in three drinkers have been drinking at increasing or high risk levels for the past six months.
More than half said they had drunk alcohol for a mental health reason, such as feeling anxious, stressed or worried, at least once during that time. However, drinking had actually made mental health worse for four out of 10 drinkers, who had experienced a negative impact on their wellbeing at least once.
These problems included feeling anxious, stressed or worried, trouble getting to sleep, or feeling low, irritable or angry.
But help is available for those who are concerned about their drinking. Alcohol Change UK offer advice and information for people who want to manage their drinking during the pandemic as well as information on where to get support if someone you know is drinking heavily.
Remember, the pandemic has been difficult for all of us and there is no shame at all in seeking help.
Time to change drink drive laws
Another element of alcohol abuse, with which my colleagues in Dorset Police will be all too familiar, is drink driving.
Unbelievably, despite the publicity campaigns we run every year in the run up to Christmas and at other times of the year, there is still a minority of people out there who believe it’s OK to drink and drive.
Whether we go into the Christmas season under lockdown or not, I can almost guarantee there will be people out on our roads putting their and other people’s lives at risk by having a drink and making a choice to get behind the wheel.
Many people will know I have long called on the Government to lower the drink driving limit in England and Wales.
The limit stands at 35 microgrammes of alcohol for every 100 millilitres of breath, or 80 milligrammes for every 100 millilitres of blood – the most generous threshold anywhere in Europe.
I’ve consistently argued that our current law causes confusion, with drivers having to guess how much alcohol is acceptable. A lower limit – such as that which now exists in Scotland – or even a zero limit, which exists in some European countries, would send out an unambiguous signal that motorists should not drink at all before getting behind the wheel.
These calls may have fallen on deaf ears so far, but I remain optimistic that one day we will see more robust drink driving laws across the UK. In the meantime, it goes without saying that – whether or not we are able to go to pubs or visit loved ones in December – you should never take a chance and drive after a few drinks.
And while I understand we are living through very stressful, uncertain times, please try to be careful about how much you drink – and remember, if you are worried about how you use alcohol, help is out there.