Seeking Innovative Ideas for Reducing Community Alcohol Problems

Baroness Helen Newlove is a remarkable person. After her husband was beaten to death by drunken yobs in front of her children, she became an advocate for victims of crime. Unusually for someone from a modest class background, she was subsequently ennobled and now sits in the UK House of Lords.

I am helping her on her latest initiative, and am now asking the innovative minds of the RBC community for their best thoughts on how it might succeed. In collaboration with Communities and Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles, Bns Newlove has launched a fund to support innovative projects that reduce underage and binge drinking, which are damaging public health, public safety and quality of life in much of the UK.

You can read the criteria here, but to summarize the key points, imagine you were a community facing alcohol problems and had a shot at a grant of about 50,000 pounds to help you respond. You would be required to bring in multiple collaborators: teachers, pub owners, parents, teenagers, doctors, law enforcement etc. But beyond that there are few constraints on what you could propose as long as it seemed to stand a chance of reducing underage and binge drinking.

What would you propose to do?

Author: Keith Humphreys

Keith Humphreys is the Esther Ting Memorial Professor of Psychiatry at Stanford University and an Honorary Professor of Psychiatry at Kings College London. His research, teaching and writing have focused on addictive disorders, self-help organizations (e.g., breast cancer support groups, Alcoholics Anonymous), evaluation research methods, and public policy related to health care, mental illness, veterans, drugs, crime and correctional systems. Professor Humphreys' over 300 scholarly articles, monographs and books have been cited over thirteen thousand times by scientific colleagues. He is a regular contributor to Washington Post and has also written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Monthly, San Francisco Chronicle, The Guardian (UK), The Telegraph (UK), Times Higher Education (UK), Crossbow (UK) and other media outlets.

6 thoughts on “Seeking Innovative Ideas for Reducing Community Alcohol Problems”

  1. Lower the drinking age. It’s success in reducing underaged drinking is pretty much guaranteed.

    Ok, seriously: We have learner’s permits for driving, with the early driving supervised by an adult. Why do we expect people to jump straight into drinking at some magic age, never mind where you happen to set it?

    Set up a program to accept that people are going to drink, and ease them into it in a proper social setting, before they’re legally able to at will.

  2. No really, lower the drinking age.

    The more freedom people have to make their own decisions about drinking, the more responsible those decisions will become. Let them drink early and in the context of family activities and they’ll make much better choices later on. “Teachers, pub owners, parents, teenagers, doctors, law enforcement etc.” sure whatever, but there’s no need to make this all that complicated.

    1. The drinking age in the UK is only 18 for purchase, 16 to drink alcohol purchased by others (even less if you are drinking at home with your parents), and even that isn’t widely enforced (Less than 10 outlets *in the entire country* are fined for selling to underage drinkers each year) so plenty of young people are drinking before that with no legal sanction. And yet the UK has one of the worst alcohol abuse problems in the developed world.

  3. I think it’s cultural. In the US and the UK, drinking is considered fun but also sinful. There’s a lot of “all use is abuse” in our culture. By contrast, in continental Europe, drinking is a normal part of life. Little kids get a drop of wine in their water at dinner, and as they age, more wine and less water. By the time they reach adulthood, they know how to drink responsibly, and it’s no big deal. But it’s hard to change the culture.

    I would propose a minimum price per drink and a ban on two-for-one specials at bars. And other things I don’t have time to think of now. 🙂 But I do know that if something is considered a big no-no but also really fun, nothing good can come of that.

  4. Compulsory alcohol treatment for alcoholics who run afoul of the law. From public intox to DUI to urinating in public, if you were busted while drunk that should trigger a court-ordered evaluation that (if positive) triggers court-supervised rehab.

    In my little experience (as a nurse treating addicts in acute rehab), most people who need treatment for alcoholism have already come to the attention of the police, and a lot of pain could have been prevented if they’d been forced into treatment earlier. We know that the effectiveness of treatment is the same for voluntary and involuntary patients, so there’s very little reason to hesitate.

  5. That doesn’t sound like very much money, but, you might try creating some activities programs. Something where they need to show up, sober, maybe early-ish in the morning? Get them hooked on coffee instead! (Speaking of which, is caffeine actually bad for teenagers? Or is that a myth?)

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