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R1 Newsbeat's alcohol week

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Rod McKenzie Rod McKenzie | 08:50 UK time, Monday, 24 January 2011

Can being banned from drinking alcohol hinder not help your chances of recovery from the effects of alcoholism? It's just one of the questions we're tackling on Newsbeat this week.

Radio 1 will be looking at the issues surrounding drinking - our week investigating this kicked off on Sunday night on The Surgery. Newsbeat reporter Jim Reed talked about the stories he'll be covering.

Booze Calculator


All week, our listeners will have the chance to click on our Booze Calculator. You put in the number and type of drinks you had last night and it works out the number of units against your weekly recommended amount, number of calories, time the alcohol stays in your system, amount you spent in a typical bar, how much you spend a year on booze if you have one night like that every week. It's all set in a bar with the results displayed on the blackboard.

You can automatically post your results to Facebook and Twitter. Radio 1 DJs will have a go at this and talk about it on their shows. Why not try it yourself?

The first person to be stopped from buying alcohol in every pub and bar in England and Wales has told Newsbeat the ban has made her drinking problem worse. Laura Hall, 21-year-old, has had to go back into rehab after a period off booze. She was arrested after drinking again last week. You can see a documentary about her struggle with alcohol on BBC Three.

Clearly, it's an important subject which connects with our core 18-24 audience. We will also explore liver disease - something we usually associate with older people - but new statistics show a record number of under 30s were admitted to hospitals in England with liver problems linked to booze last year.

The figure has gone up 53% in the last 10 years from 230 to 351. The numbers are small but rising significantly: some experts we have spoken to believe it is the tip of a very large iceberg waiting to hole NHS budgets.

Separate figures show there are now 71 under 30s on the waiting list for a liver transplant in the UK, up from 28 in 2000. We have spoken to a 19-year-old admitted to hospital with a liver problem and a 25-year-old with serious health problems linked to booze that she kept hidden from the NHS.

In Dundee we're out with police as they pilot a new scheme to prevent underage drinking in the city. Supermarkets and off licenses are selling bottles and cans with a special code. If they get confiscated from someone under 18, then police know where and when it has been bought. They can go back to the shop, study CCTV and find out if shop broke the law or if someone over 18 bought the alcohol on their behalf - which is obviously also illegal.

The coalition government has announced it was bringing in minimum pricing on alcohol in England and Wales. In Oldham that's already happening after the town was labelled the "binge capital" of the UK two years ago. Then the council cracked down - more policing, strict conditions on bars and so on. They say it's been a success and crime and anti-social behaviour is down. We'll be back there to test those claims.

Of course, there are the tricks of the bar trade, too: for example: evidence shows the louder the music in the bar, the more people drink, if they take away chairs leaving customers standing, you are likely to buy more booze. We'll be talking to some insiders from the world of bar work about the tricks and the techniques they use to get us to get another round in.

Our audience will be giving us their feedback and I would love your ideas and thoughts too.

Rod McKenzie is editor of Newsbeat and 1Xtra News.


  • Comment number 1.

    For some reason, when I read this, I had visions of corridors strewn with champers bottles.

    But then, that was another time... and another place... and another set of folk... and another set of standards.

  • Comment number 2.

    When we are young and setting out to face the word alone, we reach out for any means of suport that we can find, not caring for consequences, only effects and results. Then we get to middle age and the case of beer was once a confidence boosting help is more a case of habit or subconsious need. But having survived so far, we feel we are doing ok, street wise all by ourselves. Then if we are lucky we grow old and see children for what they really are. Vulnerable and always hell bent on self destruction, especially if left to the mercy of the preditors from within our own and every generation.
    When alchohol is such a known danger, why is it almost universally glamourised on UK prime time television ? (Answer:Because "free enterprise" and vested interests are more important in our society than the health and welfare of the general public.

  • Comment number 3.

    I tried to access the booze calculator, as it sounds like a great tool for building awareness, but yet again, you've decided to use a closed technology that means Adobe gets to decide who can and can't access your website. Next time, please consider using open technologies so that the BBC's services remain accessible to all.

  • Comment number 4.

    Life used to be fun before the righteous decided to measure everything that we do and journalists took it upon themselves to be their mouthpieces. I wouldn't mind if there was any real science behind all of this lifestyle coverage. Drinking loads of jager bombers is bad for you, how bad depends on lots of things that this superficial piece of journalism will not address. I am wondering why the editors devote so much time to alcohol, tobacco and obesity. It is dull and annoying.

  • Comment number 5.

    It is NOT the BBC's remit to campaign on such issues. This has all the appearance of an anti drink campaign. Worse it is being smeared all across the ordinary news.

    It is also conterproductive to be banging on tirelessly year after year like a nagging fish wife about people drinking. They always have, and always will. In the USA where they have stupid under 21 drinking laws people go and get drunk from 10 or earlier, often illicitly away from their parents, and then end in real problems.

    If you want to do something to cut down on drink then shut up about it - that way it will be less glamourous and less a snub to society, allow kids to drink at any age, most parents can be trusted (I know the Labour party doesn't think they can, but they can) to be responsible with their kids, allow kids into pubs so they see the effects and at the same time a trip can be a family time which will restrain the more stupid drinkers, and finally provide something else for teenagers and young adults to do.

    That last one will involve rolling back much of the stupid legislation introduced over recent years - you don't need to do 'crb checks' and require 'child safety officers' and other rubbish, what you need to do is investigate child abuse complaints and lock the perptrators up for many many many years when they are caught (at the moment abusing a child rarely seems to attract more than 6 months inside!), perhaps arrest and charge the priests and bishops that have covered this up and lock them in prison for obstructing the course of justice (as they have). Scrap a lot of the 'health and safety' bull as well - the costs of complying with these things make many clubs totally unviable. Frankly the difference in injury rates does not justify the costs (besides, we can never ever make it so that people are never hurt through their whole lives, and by stopping people doing anything but drinking we are certainly doing more harm than good). Finally sort out the ambulance chasing mentality we have developed. If you slip on a wet floor, trip over a wire, fall off an insecure ladder then ITS YOUR FAULT FOR NOT TAKING APPROPRIATE CARE OF YOURSELF, as such if you are stupid enough to try and sue someone be prepared to lose ALL your possesions, money, savings, and spend a long time in prison. The solicitor should share the fate on the grounds that they failed to advise you correctly (in fact, perhaps they should suffer a longer imprisonment, and the company they work for should also lose all its assetts). This may sound odd but just look at the stupidity of modern day life. A friend of mine is being sued because someone tripped on a stair carpet in a rented house - it means he can't let the house elsewhere, can't get the tenant (whose not paying the rent) out of the house and has a potential major financial problem hanging over him - and the stair carpet was properly fitted by a proper carpet fitter working for a proper company with all the correct paperwork! I took my son to a steam museum, he wasn't allowed to go on the footplate of the stationary engine in case he fell off - nothing to do with in case he broke something - and thats despite the fact I was there to look after him. This is costing us ALL dear and destroying our way of life.

    If you want to do something about drink then do something that will work!

  • Comment number 6.

    Most of the UK drinks a little more than they need to. the culture of meet and drink leads to real problems.
    Alcohol is not as safe as another unmentionable ERB yet it remains legal. prohibition never works?
    I'd agree but then the goose is looking at the gander.
    I wonder if it were booze that made a BBC tech that was writing the ticker tape message at the bottom of the news to describe the protests in Lebanon as " Beirut is hosting protests". LOL it would take some bias or some drink t say that they are "hosting protests" because they never hosted and protests by hezbollah. Seems that if the protesters are pro US they Host.

    Will they be providing drinks with their cocktail.

    PS We ban Hashish and expect people to think we are tolerant
    They ban Alcohol and we think they are restrictive.
    I'd say that sounds like defensive alcoholic talk.

    Now I know BBC doesn't like the subject I mention but pot/hash is not allowed to be discussed as it is off topic. BUT it is a substance used for recreation. Like booze.
    So it is comparable.
    And it comparison how many people are hospitalised due to pot/hash?
    No drink in their system. how many pot heads are hospitalised each year?
    Not just with long term liver problems.
    Now tell the kids again about how pot is illegal but carry on not mentioning why.

    Drink is the killer along with tobacco. I cured my alcohol problem with a smoke. Now I'll try to cure the smoking cigarettes problem.

  • Comment number 7.

    "It is NOT the BBC's remit to campaign on such issues. This has all the appearance of an anti drink campaign. Worse it is being smeared all across the ordinary news."

    For 40 years the BBC has educated people to the dangers of Pot and hashish.
    Yet you think they should not address a nationally available and promoted addictive toxin with as much gusto.

    I live in the USA. the number of kids drinking here is way less than back in the UK. WAY less.
    I have a hard time being polite and kind to the lovely people here but I will give them credit for not being boorishly drunk all the time when they are still at school.
    Admittedly that is because as a result of the laws you mention they tend towards the products from mum or dad's medicine cabinet.

    I am not pro booze but will have to say 21 drinking laws don't work any better than 18.
    They raised the age due to driving being so common at that age.

    I would agree that the concentration on drink related matters in the news and on "food and Wine" shows is part of the problem.
    But it is a cultural part of the problem so it is widely accepted. Bit like cigarettes used to be in every TV show or Film.

  • Comment number 8.

    I find this conversation very enlightening. Especially after I looked at the "Most Popular" question being asked President Obama on YouTube. The Drug War. Someday the world will have to come to terms with the truth.

  • Comment number 9.

    Try looking at the most significant and costly long term effect of alcohol, Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Difficulties.

  • Comment number 10.

    @anotherfakename(#5) - I think the BBC is spot on in terms of publicising the anti-drink campaign. The role of media is critical in establishing social norms and it would be irresponsible of the BBC not to provide such coverage.

    The effectiveness of such campaigns is another matter altogether though. In South Africa recently a study was produced that showed that advertising alcoholic products in fact had very limited impact on increasing alcoholism and related negative socials effects (one has to wonder about the source of the research but this is what the national liquor authority based their decision on to allow booze ads to continue!) I'm sure if the BBC produced a study to show otherwise many of the negative comments here would be zipped up.

    Anna (Social issues blogger)

  • Comment number 11.

    find out if shop broke the law or if someone over 18 bought the alcohol on their behalf - which is obviously also illegal

    It will do nothing of the sort. The third possibility is that an adult has bought the drink, then given it to the young person. This is distinct from 'buying on behalf of', and is completely legal unless the young person in question is under five years old.

  • Comment number 12.

    Statistics quoting alchohol related deaths can only be "best guess" - There are an untold number of deaths that are the direct result of alchohol misuse yet they are recorded as some other form of illness

  • Comment number 13.

    i believe that.

  • Comment number 14.

    Dear Mckanzie! 31 january morning I have been blocked from "the independent" paper for criticising two of their journalists for bias article from 27.01.11 "Saakashvili....payback.." I have not broke the house rules as computer automaticly blocks the blogger from commenting offensive staff. I have been removed by smb or group af smb.
    strangely enough I have been blocked from the Russian "pravda" too..would you give me an advise how to proceed with my complains further? thanks MG

  • Comment number 15.

    Well those who are addicted to drink will find one or other excuses to have it. Nothing matters for them.

  • Comment number 16.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 17.

    “Successful people have learnt the 8 skills needed to identify and overcome the difficulties they meet and achieve happiness” – this is the outcome from extensive research throughout the world over the last 60 years, in areas as widespread as sport, music, books, film, science and business.
    Poor Laura, like all the people with 'drink and drug problems' are attempting to use chemicals to overcome their difficulties caused by their lack of development in the skills we need to succeed and improve well being.
    It is clear that most people are probably unaware of 'the skills we need to succeed' (ie. to maximise our chances of overcoming difficulties in life and improve wellbeing). Therefore, unless our society (media, education, parents, etc.) focuses on developing these 8 skills the attempts to address the symptoms of these problems will bring limited success.
    The 8 Skills We Need To Succeed
    1. Effective Learning Skills - Unless we develop our ability to learn throughout our life the continually changing situations and difficulties in the 21st century will destroy/defeat us.
    2. Communication skills – Unless we learn to concentration well and communicate effectively, we cannot share our emotions to form good relationships or to learn effectively. This requires good development of our
    • Attention span and intensity of focus (‘in the zone’)
    • Verbal skills (speaking, listening, reading, writing)
    • Non-verbal skills (visual gestures, body language, touch)
    3. Cognitive (thinking) skills - We need to learn to ‘make sense of our world’ and make ‘good decisions’. Unless we learn how to work out how to solve problems we cannot succeed. We must develop good
    • Analytical thinking – to understand ‘cause and effect’ and detect the key information (factors) for our decision.
    • Conceptual thinking – to put this information into context so we are able to understand and relate information to our situation.
    4. Self-awareness - We are born totally unaware of who or what we are, unless we learn our strength and weaknesses we cannot know what we need to learn to succeed. Poor development of this can result in serious mental problems (attachment theory) and low self- esteem.
    5. Managing Feelings - We are born unable to control our impulses, learning how to manage our emotions (‘delay gratification’) is essential to humans being successful. We need to learn to achieve ‘long term gain’ despite ‘short term pain’
    6. Motivation - We will experience difficulties from the moment we are born and unless we learn from these setbacks and experiences we cannot become resilient and be prepared to try to overcome our difficulties.
    7. Empathy - We are ‘social animals’ and much of our motivation and pleasure involves relationships with others, and unless we learn to understand and appreciate how other people feel we cannot relate or benefit from them.
    8. Social skills - Since ‘relationships’ are so important to us, unless we learn to handle a wide variety of relationships and deal effectively with them we are likely to feel lonely, rejected, frustrated, angry and unhappy. The quality of our life is greatly affected by how well we ‘get on with’ other people, and these skills will be key to our effectiveness and success. Our success usually depends on learning to become an effective leader and avoiding following other people’s poor decisions.
    The Foundation Stage Profile carried out at the age of five years is an early attempt to assess these 8 skills.

  • Comment number 18.

    If its so bad why do the BBC buy so much of it

  • Comment number 19.

    Yes you are of course so right in your analyses of what is and what should be in the human spirit. It will be interesting in the coming weeks, months and years how the collapse of Egypt will effect the Middle East in the new “spring clean" of Middle East nations.

    As I watched the shouting and dancing of the Egyptian crowds – I couldn’t help but feel relief of an alcohol free celebration.

    In such a situation in Europe these days such a crowd soon becomes a drunken mob. But this never happens in alcohol free society like Egypt and most middle eastern countries due to their religion . .

    Now we must cross our fingers as Egypt steps into bat for a true democracy. They say come the moment – comes the man. We must now wait to see the metal of such a man in Egypt, who will take the helm of and set the course for the Middle East.

  • Comment number 20.

    To understand the alcohol addict's motivation you must have been there and smelt the viper in the bottom of the bottle.
    Previous comments here show admirable awareness of the problem, but the difficulty of access to comment here at the BBC, where everybody talks but few listen, does not bode well for the truly dedicated piss artist having any useful say on this forum.

    Television programs,(not commercial advertisements but the actual programs) are presently the best promoters for alcohol addiction in the UK, in this old, retired drunken sailors addled but slightly less confused opinion. They make abstinence impossible at times.

  • Comment number 21.

    Having been there (a borderline alcohol addict - now reformed), I can understand the addiction side of this problem. However, I do feel that the causes of the addiction need to be addressed.

    Is the "instant gratification" culture that our young people live in? Is it that there is "nothing else to do"? Whatever the cause, it is only the Brits in Southern Europe that go out for a night on the tiles with the express purpose of getting almost impossibly drunk and start fighting. You don't see it in France, Spain, Germany, Italy or Portugal (unless the miscreant is wearing Union Flag shorts) although it is more prevelant in Northern Europe (Norway, Finland etc). I will say, however, that Northern European drunks are far more amiable than the British variety!

    Whatever, Tony Blair's dreams of a European style "cafe culture" didn't materialise when the licencing laws were reviewed and amended - 24 hour licenced premises hasn't made it worse (I don't think), but it hasn't made it better either.

    Young people need to be educated and taught to show a proper respect for alcohol. Abstinence is not an option, but respect can be taught. The Government taxing alcohol to death or setting a completely arbitary minimum price per unit isn't going to make a blind bit of difference unless the revenue raised is spent where it's needed. Education and some sort of infrastructure that the kids will actually use is what's required.

  • Comment number 22.

    Since there must a lot of binge sex all too easily facilitated by 'binge
    drinking' the sincerity of the motive to curb the first is undermined by the indifference to the second. Since binge sex with all the emotional and pregnancy outcomes barely gets a mention unless it is a call for 'more resources and better ways to educate kids that 1&1=1 then the binge drinking campaign too, is likely to have more to do with resources than health. That is, easy does it taxes in the name of health and incrementally enough to maximise gain without deterring too much consumption. And of course, the middle classes don't binge drink.

  • Comment number 23.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 24.

    I wonder if it were booze that made a BBC tech that was writing the ticker tape message at the bottom of the news to describe the protests in Lebanon as " Beirut is hosting protests". LOL it would take some bias or some drink to say that they are "hosting protests" because they never hosted any protests by hezbollah.

  • Comment number 25.

    Rod McKenzie.

    "Can being banned from drinking alcohol.."

    yet another un-enforcable 'plan', as if society wasn't burdened enough with ideological clap-trap already.

  • Comment number 26.

    The main thing are youngsters, somehow they must be educated about what are the consequences if they start with or carry on with binge drinking. Somehow these youngsters must be shown the picture of what they are heading for, how alcohol is going to mess up there life and health.
    It is not just an ugly picture for the here and now it is a picture that continues with you right up to your old age. They must be educated and really frightened of by the long term consequences. Where are our psychologist and psychiatrists? Let them get together with the medics (neurologist etc) and people of different ages that have started their lifes on the wrong side of the bar counter. I am from South Africa and remember binging in hotels with friends ,even younger than me, whilst I was 15/16 years of age. Waiters are not qualified, or do not care, if a smallish 16 year that act fairly grown up buy a round of black label etc. These clubs, bars, restaurants and hotels in general must be hit real hard to do their part in curbing this misuse.

    As I have said, it must be stopped at an early age - it is a psychological thing and should be fought on that front.

    In the schools and in the media. Show them examples of what is awaiting them and don't pull on any kid gloves. I wish I had someone when I was young to show me the straight way - maybe that is the answer, a one on one type of assistance from your peer group or from someone a few years older.
    Get the "Adopt a young clean liver" show on the road.

  • Comment number 27.

    Unfortunately there is no treatment for alcohol or drug dependence there is however numerous billing schemes for said treatment and even the once treatments advocates at the NIAAA now report treatment doesn't surpass spontaneous remission in results. In the first book of Alcoholics Anonymous there was a summary of a meeting with Carl Jung with Ebby, one of Bill Wilson's running buddies and a founder of AA. Aside from some of his spectacular theories, Carl Jung was a superb therapist whose insightful cases are available for review. These make clear that on the level of individual psychotherapy Jung has no peer. Jung admits what many doctors have subsequently found out, namely that they can't treat alcoholism. If Jung couldn't treat alcoholics the chances of lesser therapists having success is minimal. As a result of misdirected compassion for the suffering of alcoholics and their families, alcoholism was declared a disease and that made it billable. Once billable numerous treatment centers opened and flourish, for a while. Most of the private ones are gone as a result of longitudinal studies done by insurance companies leaving only public funded treatment centers and what can best be called drying out farms for the rich. Jung did say he saw some people get better as a result of changing their lives, but that is a process that happens over time and beyond the walls of treatment centers. Many are not ready to quit drinking and undertake the behaviors needed to remain sober when others see a clear need for their sobriety. Enter expensive treatments and prisons that have never and will never cure incurable alcoholism. There are some things a person must do for themselves that will allow for remission and their outline can be found in the Blue book Of AA. The above doesn't include detox services that address the only real medical issue associated with "alcoholism" and are 100% effective and sometimes life saving. The post detox environment was proven to be a critical recovery factor as shown in a study by John Wallace of the now defunct Edge Hill Newport Center That aside see Citizen Editorial cartoons at

  • Comment number 28.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 29.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 30.

    I'm not a smoker but I do like a drink.
    As far as I am aware I've never been a problem to anyone after I've had a drink, and that's for well over 50 years now.
    I don't believe responsible people should pay for the irresponsible ones.
    I was just saying to my Mother only this morning, she's in her 80's.
    When you think of all the stuff we have eaten, drank, and smoked over the years we should both be long dead.
    And that's my problem with all this.
    I could name hundreds of people I know still alive who abused their body by today's standards.
    I sometimes think we are just creating jobs for all the so called experts.(and they can never agree on the same subject)
    What is the obsession with trying to save all these extra lives in an already overcrowded world?
    Time would be better spent trying to create smaller populated countries that could be more or less self sufficient.
    It does make me think the billions given to charities over the years could have been spent in a lot better ways.


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