I come from Prague, where many people drink alcohol daily. Czech Republic is on 6th place in the countries according to alcohol consumption. UK is 15th. USA is 22nd. France is first.
Yet, I do not remember seeing as many drunk people on a Friday evening in France or Czech Republic as I see on the streets of the little town close to London where I work.
There are probably many reasons for this.
It is not just how many units of alcohol, it is also how spread they are over the week. I stopped asking my patients how many alcohol units per week they drink. It was pointless. Many of my patients drink less than the recommended weekly amount of alcohol units (maximum 21 for men, 14 for women). The trouble is, if you drink all your 14 units of alcohol in one evening, you get seriously drunk.
I remember how surprised I was when I first moved to Britain, hearing on radio or in conversation things like:
“You have a hangover, you must have had a good time last night”
Not necessarily, hangover is a sign that you have drunk too much last night. Even if you think you had a great time, it is quite possible that you made a fool of yourself with some consequences. Did you notice that drunk people always seem to laugh at their jokes more than the people around? The jokes might have only seemed funny to you.
And hangovers are pretty unpleasant. Symptoms of a hangover may include headache, drowsiness, concentration problems, dry mouth, dizziness, fatigue, sweating, nausea, and anxiety. It is not well understood why some people get hangover more than others, Age, gender, genetics, dehydration all play a part. But too much alcohol the day before is a common denominator.
“Let’s get drunk!”
Medical students are known for their heavy drinking, but even when I was a medical student in Prague, we looked at people who got drunk as somebody who “can’t drink”. Being drunk was a failure, an unwanted side effect, not the goal. Getting drunk was considered ridiculous, definitely not “cool”.
I have a feeling that it is different in the UK.
Do people want to get drunk because of losing their social constrains and shyness?
Do they use it like any other drug to open up, be able to do/say things they wouldn’t dare to do or say otherwise?
To be able to approach others? To dance better?
To forget the work and other stresses? I suppose couple of glasses work.
And of course, alcohol is legal in most parts of the world.
I am a bold person. I think bold is good.
But when you are drunk, your ability to assess “what is still acceptable” is reduced. You might think you are bold, others might think you are being rude. Those other people might be of course also drunk, aggressive or dangerous.
Remember those boring conversations? Your friend John, a polite quiet man when sober, but when drunk talking loudly, laughing, and repeating jokes that were not funny in the first place? Embarrassing comments, looks from sober annoyed people in the pub?
Of course, let’s not forget about sex.
Sex is nicer when you are sober, and safer if you actually have control over who you are having sex with and if you use precautions.
Drunk people often have sex with strangers, without a condom. Bad move.
Trust me, I have seen enough patients with infections or unwanted pregnancies.
And if you are sober, having sex with a partner who is drunk, even if you love him/her is not much fun. Trust me, I have done that, too. It was somehow simpler to have sex than to say no. It was a full consent, it was not me who was drunk. Drunk sexual partners are not very inventive, and fall asleep quickly. Sex with them is boring. But of course, their consent is not really a consent- they might not know what they are doing.
There is still a double measure in this. Somehow, the publicity about consent and alcohol always suggests that it is only the vulnerable drunk women who need to be protected by law.
But I am not so sure men are less vulnerable. Is there a case for a sober woman of NOT agreeing to have sex with a drunk man because he cannot really give consent either? I think so.
Some anecdotal examples.
Tom, telling his friend “My cock was still in her and I was thinking ‘Oh no, what am I doing, now what!?”
Anna, coming to her GP on Tuesday, too late for a morning after pill. She did not remember who she had sex with, or even if it really happened. But she thought it did.
Blond Joanna, normally faithful to her beloved Jamaican husband, getting pregnant after a drunken sex with a previous (also blond and blue eyed) boyfriend at high school reunion. She could not face the suspense of having a baby who is obviously NOT her husband’s, she had a secret abortion. The story had a happy ending for Joanna. She has several children now, her marriage is very happy. Her husband never found out. She however has to live with her guilty secret.
There is a lot of research connecting alcohol and risky sexual behaviour. Some of it is non conclusive. But I remember one simple questionnaire I heard about at a medical lecture some years ago.
It went something like this:
A “Did you have unprotected sex with a stranger on holiday?”
B “Were you drunk?”
C “Did you use a condom?”
D “Did you have a condom available? “
That the answers were often yes to A and B and no to C did not surprise me.
What did surprise me was that the answer to D was often yes.
Of course, a condom in your pocket or handbag does not protect you from anything unless you use it.
Be bold, but sober. Drink alcohol for the taste of it, not as an intoxicating drug.
I am pretty sure you will have more fun. Hopefully with no reason for regret later.