THE shocking truth about Wales’ love affair with alcohol can be revealed today.
An exclusive online poll conducted by Wales on Sunday makes worrying reading, with its findings leading to urgent warnings of the damage that Welsh drinkers are doing to their health.
Our survey found:
- Nearly a quarter of drinkers admitted they regularly mix alcohol with illegal drugs;
- One in 14 of our respondents needed medical help following a drinking session;
- Nearly 90% of those questioned admitted they had started boozing before the age of 18;
- Around 3% admitted being addicted to drink or drugs, with three respondents claiming to have drunk more than 100 units during a night out;
- Some drinkers in Wales are spending up to £250 a week to fund their alcohol intake.
Doctors and substance abuse experts today warned the habits revealed by our survey showed a worrying number of people doing “irreversible” damage to their bodies.
Andrew Misell, Alcohol Concern Cymru’s policy manager, said that the level of intake described by some in our survey was frightening.
“If we assume that there are three units in a pint of strong beer, then 15 pints is around 40 units,” he said
“The thing about drinking is that people do not necessarily feel the health consequences straight away.
“There are obviously short-term risks linked to drinking – getting into accidents, fights, and going anywhere near a car. But long term, there is a risk of irreversibly damaging the liver, strokes and of heart disease.”
While some drinkers said they enjoyed little more than a festive tipple, scores of people questioned said they routinely mixed alcohol and drugs – abusing stimulants like cocaine and amphetamine and taking ecstasy pills.
Dozens of respondents to the anonymous survey said they smoked cannabis while drinking, while others admitted that they use mood-altering “magic” mushrooms and psychedelic LSD.
Out of our survey respondents, said they had been hospitalised with blackouts and/or injuries following a drinking binge. One confessed to becoming an alcoholic by the age of 40.
Dr David Bailey, chairman of the BMA’s Welsh GP committee, said that taking illegal drugs added to damage already caused by drink.
“Consumption of illicit drugs frequently exacerbates the physical damage to the body and almost invariably further exacerbates impairment of performance and alertness,” he warned.
Three respondents claimed to have drunk more than 100 units on a night out.
Such a figure would mean drinking up to three bottles of whiskey, or nearly 50 pints of lager.
While this is possible for some heavy drinkers, such an intake could prove fatal for someone less used to drinking.
“It’s a huge amount of alcohol – but people have died from drinking this much,” said Dr Bailey.
“The only way a person could tolerate this is if they were totally conditioned to alcohol.”
In the run-up to Christmas Tesco, Asda and Morrisons were accused of helping to continue the country’s love affair with booze after it emerged that the price of alcohol was less than that of bottled water.
The major grocery chains were all found to be selling beer for just over five pence per 100ml, with eight pence charged for 100ml of branded mineral water.
Chief Medical Officer for Wales Tony Jewell outlined proposals to petition for a change in tax policy on alcohol in March this year.
A spokesman for the Assembly Government said that there is ongoing work to improve initiatives to curb Welsh alcohol misuse, which would ultimately lead to pricing restrictions.
He said: “About 45,000 hospital admissions and 1,000 deaths every year in Wales can be described as alcohol-attributable.
“We need to educate people about the health risks associated with exceeding safe drinking limits and empower them to resist peer pressure.
“Within our power, we are investing in better prevention, education and treatment initiatives.
“Our strategy for alcohol misuse makes the case for stricter rules on the promotion of alcohol, increasing taxation and the introduction of minimum unit pricing, and restrictions on advertising.
“However, the main levers to make these changes remain with the UK Government and we have written to them to make the case for stronger action in these areas.
“The chief medical officers across the UK are working collaboratively on these changes, which can best be delivered at a UK level.”
Our anonymous questionnaire found that weekly booze spends in Wales ranged from £5 up to £250.
Just over 18% said they regularly drank doubles – ordering them every two to three rounds on a night out. About 3% bought triple-measures after every two or three drinks at the bar.
Wynford Ellis Owen, from the Welsh Council on Alcohol and Other Drugs, told Wales on Sunday that although combined alcohol and drug abuse is not new, it was normally only found in relatively few cases.
He said: “It has always happened in the extreme cases, but for it to become normal practice is concerning and needs to be condemned.”
He added that while binge-drinking was a much-talked about problem, the effects of combining alcohol and drugs are less well known.
“We don’t know how it affects people on an individual basis – those people are taking a gamble,” he said.
Mr Owen said he believed the pressure of modern life was responsible for the increase in alcohol and illegal drug abuse.
“We live in an X Factor society where everybody HAS to feel special and perfect.
“Failure is not accepted and doing your best is not OK,” he said. “People have to learn to be human.”
344 people responded to our online survey
Wasted Wales: the facts and figures
Of those questioned, 8% said they down doubles in every drink, with nearly 3% regularly consuming triples;
Nearly a quarter – 23% of people – mix dangerous drink and drug concoctions. They take amphetamines, ecstasy and cocaine as well as alcohol, with nearly 40% of those abusing drugs saying they did so at least once a week;
Around 7% of respondents said they have needed medical help after heavy sessions. One was admitted to hospital overnight, while others suffered blackouts and painful injuries as a result of their inebriation;
A shocking 3% admitted to being addicted to drink or drugs;
The amount people spend on drugs varies, with some paying out up to £100 on ecstasy a week – though it was not known if this was purely for personal consumption – and others £40-50 on a gramme of cocaine;
86.8% of survey-takers started drinking alcohol under the age of 18, with 14% claiming to drink more than 20 units per week at that time;
2% of respondents claim to drink more than 60 units a week, with an astonishing three participants claiming to have drunk more than 100 units on a night out.
Case study: My endless battle with the bottle
January 3, 2010
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Wales and alcohol: Shocking results of our nationwide survey