Using measures of blood alcohol concentration, self-assessed and observer-assessed drunkenness, a study in the North West of England has confirmed the overwhelming prevalence of extreme alcohol consumption in UK nightlife. Researchers writing in BioMed Central's open access journal Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention and Policy interviewed and 'breathalyzed' revellers, finding that one in ten intended to drink more than 40 units by home time, with those using extended licensing hours having the most extreme alcoholic intentions.
Mark Bellis, from Liverpool John Moores University, worked with a team of researchers to carry out the study on 214 people in the city centers of Chester, Liverpool and Manchester. He said, "The UK has a well established culture of heavy drinking in nightlife settings. Despite this, there is relatively little information available on drunkenness with laws restricting sales of alcohol to drunk individuals being largely ignored. Using new techniques we examined the amounts people had drunk at interview and planned to continue to drink before going home. Combined with blood alcohol concentration measurement this provides a method for examining even extreme levels of alcohol consumption without exposing researchers to highly inebriated consumers who cannot remember how much they have drunk".
Just over half (51%) of the people who reported feeling drunk at interview said they intended to drink more alcohol that night. The researchers also found that when individuals were informed about their blood alcohol level, it was more likely to encourage them to drink (nearly 1 in 4) than to reduce their alcohol consumption that night (less than 1 in 25). Bellis said, "Commercial use of breathalyzers to encourage individuals to drink more has already been attempted in some bars in the UK. As such technologies become more easily accessible there is a real danger it will further increase alcohol consumption."
Speaking about these results, Bellis added, "Cities in the UK have adopted costly nightlife policing strategies aimed at protecting patrons from immediate alcohol-related harms by controlling violence and other anti-social behavior. Implementing safety measures in nightlife environments is crucial to protecting public health, yet without reasonable efforts to reduce nightlife alcohol consumption, such measures may simply result in safer environments for drunks".
Cross-sectional measures and modelled estimates of blood alcohol levels in UK nightlife and their relationships with drinking behaviours and observed signs of inebriation, Mark A Bellis, Karen Hughes, Zara Quigg, Michela Morleo, Ian Jarman and Paulo Lisboa, Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention, and Policy (in press), www.substanceabusepolicy.com/