DUNCAN BARKES What is it that drives so many people to drink?

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Much has been written over the past few weeks about Britain’s drinking habits.

We are hitting the bottle like never before and David Cameron has said he plans to take action. He is considering everything from a minimum price per alcoholic unit to Drunk Tanks; places where the inebriated can be chucked into until they sober up.

But no-one seems to be asking the obvious question: why are people drinking so much?

The way we drink has changed. When I started going to the pub, my mates and I would drink pints of beer. We would take it in turns to get a round in and by the time the evening was over, four or five beers each would have been consumed. With bellies bloated with ale we would leave the pub and totter home.

These days, and I notice it more with the younger generations, drinkers consume the kind of concoctions designed to get them to destination oblivion within the hour. Lurid blue mixtures or shots are downed at such a rate that drinkers are legless before the evening has really begun.

And it’s not just the kids whose boozing has accelerated. Behind closed doors the middle-aged are, apparently, swigging wine in a manner worthy of Bacchus himself.

I do not think for one moment that a minimum price per unit of alcohol or tougher laws to combat the behaviour caused by excessive drinking will make the slightest difference.

Before resorting to knee-jerk over-reactions, David Cameron should consider that people are drinking to excess because they are unhappy, fearful and in need of a means of escape.

In our over-regulated, over-taxed and overcrowded country, the nation is being driven to drink. People are finding life tough and unforgiving, with the pressure and stresses of modern life leaving them anxious for something to blunt the edges of reality.

Be it fear of unemployment or losing a home, relationship problems, not achieving perfection or failing to live up to the expectations of others, the never ending pressure to hit targets, deadlines and quotas or the feeling of inadequacy because you don’t look like the models in the glossy magazines or on TV – it all fuels our insecurities and piles on the misery.

These are not in any way excuses for excessive and dangerous drinking, but I think people are increasingly using alcohol as a crutch. I enjoy a drink and freely admit to opening a bottle to counter the stresses of a long day or the mundane commute. I don’t believe I’m alone.

Britain has a drink problem, no doubt about it, but none of the proposed measures will provide a solution. The reasons for excessive drinking run a lot deeper and it is something that a politician chasing votes won’t sort out until he looks at the causes rather than the effects.

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