Southampton doctor urges more education in schools to halt ‘binge and brawl’ culture

  • Addictions expert says more must be done to curb numbers in hospital
  • Southampton hospitals admit much higher than average numbers for alcohol-related harm
  • For under 18's alone, the figure is more than twice the national average

Consultant psychiatrist Dr Kaleem Baig, who specialises in alcohol addiction at Southampton’s Priory Hospital has urged more education in local schools and colleges to end the “binge and brawl” culture which is leading to significant numbers being hospitalised for alcohol-related harm.

“Reduced alcohol prices, increased alcohol strengths and the massive advertising campaigns at Christmas time are also contributing to highly damaging levels of alcohol consumption” said Dr Baig.

Latest figures show that Southampton hospitals are admitting far higher numbers of residents for alcohol-related harm than the national average. 

The figure for under-18s alone admitted to hospital for ‘alcohol-specific stays’ is 87 per 100,000 residents, 117% higher than the national average for the same age group.

This represents in excess of 200 hospital admissions a year for under-18s, even though this age group is not allowed by law to purchase alcoholic drinks.

The number of adults admitted to hospital for alcohol-related harm is also worse than the national average – with 1,562 stays according to the latest figures, up from 1,528 the previous year, and 13% higher than the national average.

Other figures, also from Public Health England, the Government advisory body, show that the numbers dying from excessive drinking in Southampton is 16.5 per 100,000 residents – against the average for England of 11.9. The figure for men alone is 26.8 per 100,000 against a national average of 16.6.

The number of men dying from chronic liver disease in Southampton is 23 per 100,000 – while the national average is 15.5 per 100,000.

Following Alcohol Awareness Week, Dr Baig said “binge drinking” was a prevalent problem.

“We are a consumer society and we put great emphasis on the pursuit of pleasure, and promotion of consumption, alcohol being no exception,” he said.

But active promotion of the night-time economy, and reliance on alcohol in social situations, has fuelled a “binge and brawl” culture especially evident in major cities like Southampton.

“Nationally too figures are shocking. There are over a million alcohol-related hospital admissions per year, half of the violent crimes are committed under the influence of alcohol and the overall cost to the economy is more than £50 billion per year.

“Changing society’s relationship with alcohol would involve considering steps such as education, early access to treatment and support, consideration of minimum alcohol pricing and reviewing advertising standards for alcohol products.”

Dr Baig stressed that media campaigns “and a focus on students in schools and colleges in Southampton and other major cities across the UK, could help shape the attitudes of the next generation”.

He urged all adults who find themselves drinking alcohol daily to stop having an alcoholic drink for at least a few days a week.

“For most people,” he said, “it is much more manageable not to have a drink for a few days in a week, and have fewer drinks of lower strength when drinking, than aiming for a much longer period of abstinence - such as a month without drinking.

“Emphasis also needs to be on how much you drink in a session, on a night out or in a day, and keep yourself within limits.”

When people do consume alcohol, he urged them to “alternate alcoholic drinks with non-alcoholic drinks, and be mindful of the number of units in a drink.

“Peer pressure is a major factor, especially in younger adults, when on nights out and this is where many people would struggle - as they do not want to be the odd one out. But ultimately the key responsibility for taking active steps to maintain our health and wellbeing lies within ourselves.

“Those who feel that their drinking is problematic should not feel they are completely on their own. You can make use of the professional support available from health services to help cut down - and improve your overall quality of life.”

Current Government advice – which is under review - suggests women can drink two to three units of alcohol a day (one 175ml glass of wine) and men three units, without compromising their health. But new advice from the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence says drinking any alcohol can increase the risk of dementia, disability and frailty, and suggests Britain’s “social norms” when it comes to alcohol “need to be challenged”.

“Drinking alcohol daily at home has become normal for some people, and this poses a threat to health,” the guidance says.

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