A sobering reflection of Britain’s obsession with drinking

·3 min read
<span>Photograph: Reuters</span>
Photograph: Reuters

Prof Julia Sinclair is one of the most thoughtful doctors I have ever known (Millions in UK drinking harmful levels of alcohol at home, experts warn, 17 January). She reports a change to longer sessions of drinking in many more people during the pandemic. That is a sobering judgment. An alarm really rang for me, in relation to hospital care, when Sinclair said that there have been more patients going into “delirium tremens”, because that is an indication of alcohol dependence.

For vulnerable people who are now drinking too much, introducing changes to the alcohol culture, such as Scotland’s minimum unit price, would pull some back from the cliff of addiction. But for those who have became dependent, clinical care and community support are essential for recovery. In the past 50 years, I have seen too many lives distorted by alcohol-related diseases to accept an extra 2m cases in the next decades as inevitable.

The new integrated care systems will need to plan and mobilise services for this vulnerable section of the population and offer better support to their families and employers.
Prof Woody Caan
Former chair, special interest group for alcohol, Faculty of Public Health

• Zoe Williams is right to point out that the tolerance of alcohol consumption at work has declined, if not disappeared, in recent times (Office drinking culture slowed down in the 90s. But not for journalists – and now they are running the country, 18 January). But even in the days of employees routinely going to the pub at lunchtime, they would have been paying for their drinks. One has to assume that Boris Johnson’s “wine-time Fridays” and other boozy shindigs were not all BYOB events, but were paid for out of expenses – in other words, by you and me.
Isabella Stone
Sheffield

• I must dispute Zoe Williams’s statement that “a couple of pints at lunchtime, even in reputable careers such as teaching, was still commonplace in the 80s”. My husband and I began teaching in 1968 and, in our 40 years of working in a variety of schools, never saw workplace drinking. In the 1980s, my husband was deputy head of one of the largest comprehensive schools in the country. If anyone had been drinking he would have known, but it did not happen. Most teachers could not find time for a decent lunch and a cup of tea.
Catherine King
Palau-del-Vidre, France

• It was not only journalists who enjoyed a workplace drinking culture during the 1990s. As a civil servant in London in the 1980s, I often felt obliged to partake in long working lunches. And I would swear on oath that this way of doing business persisted into the 1990s after I moved to Cardiff. But things gradually sobered up as more enlightened management in Wales brought staff to their senses and alcohol-free ways of working were adopted.
Mike Pender
Cardiff

• How fascinating that as a town councillor we have a rule that there must be no alcohol at meetings and even that “meetings shall not take place in premises which at the time of the meeting are used for the supply of alcohol”. Meanwhile, our lords and masters may, apparently, drink all day at work.
Owen Wells
Ilkley, West Yorkshire

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