This week a new study has found that the average under 25 year-old has experienced a memory blank five times after drinking alcohol since turning 18, with 17 per cent experiencing a "blackout" ten times or more. Perhaps more significantly 54 per cent said they would probably repeat their antics within a month. So is this just good fun or a worrying finding that we should take seriously?
First, anyone who has opened a newspaper or read an online article in the last decade will be aware that nowadays everything is bad for you. I am anxiously waiting for the day when someone suggests that oxygen is making people fat. In this information age where we are given so much information to digest a day it is hard to separate fact from fiction. When it comes to alcohol I think what we have to remember is if it were invented today there is no way that governments would allow shops to stock this giggle water. It's not good for us, messes with our brains and has a lot of health risks. It's a culture thing, but if non of us are predicted to live forever I'd rather have fun than be too scared to do things while alive.
I will always remember a few years back an expert on a news programme saying that 'In the UK you never have to explain why you are drinking, but you always have to explain why you're not.' Wise words and it is very true, if I go for drinks after work tonight and order an orange juice I will have to explain why I'm not drinking alcohol. Whereas if I go for dinner after work tonight and order a bottle of wine to the table there will be no questions asked.
Now I'm certainly no saint looking over the drunken masses here, I've been there. Most of the pictures of me from the first year of university are of me in gutter after a night out. As I turn 25 next week I tried to think back to see how many times I could count where I had blacked out and not known what had happened the night before. I counted three times - my friends may beg to differ. Two were in University when I had just started to drink so I don't feel bad about it.
So is drinking too much alcohol simply a rite of passage for our young people? Think about it, when a child learns to walk how many times do they fall over before they figure out how to use their legs? Whether it be right or wrong alcohol is a part of life in the UK and people sometimes have to get their tolerance wrong before they get it right.
The worrying part for me is that 54 per cent said they would do it again. It's one thing to get it wrong a few times but for that to be what you're hoping for on a night out? That is worrying. I started thinking about my attitude towards alcohol, do I know my limits? How much wine? How many beers? How many vodka shots? I realised, I'm not really sure, the thing that has been stopping me from drinking to excess is that I just can throw the sambuca shots back like I used to. I have a job now, I can't be out all night and what's more after a few hours of drinking my body has enough and I start to feel sick. I realised my gut and my job stop me from drinking too much, not that I know in my head how many drinks I can have before waking up in a strangers bath tub.
So what could the result of blacking out drunk on a regular occasion be? As with a lot of issues this subject is apparently best explored through television. A new Sky Atlantic show called 'The Night Of' is set to explore what could happen when you get black out drunk. The drama follows young student Nasir Khan (played by Riz Ahmed) who faces a real-life "blackout" nightmare when he's accused of murder and can't remember the night it allegedly happened. This got me to thinking, what are the legal ramifications of blacking out drunk? Is it acceptable to stand up in a court of law and say 'I was so drunk I don't really remember' as a valid statement?
A good way to get perspective on this is to look at other countries drinking habits. If I went to America tomorrow and drank like I do here in London they would encourage me to go to an AA meeting (and I really don't drink that much by London standards). I think in London one of the main issues is that no one here drives, we get the tube so we never have to worry about being over the limit. Many people in London have also moved here and don't have their families around so going out with friends is what they do to fill the time an for some reason that usually means drinking alcohol. When I was in Barcelona last month one thing I noticed is that they don't measure the spirits when they make a drink. The bartender just pours until he thinks that's enough. When I asked my friend why they did that he replied, 'because they don't drink like we do over here, if they did that in the UK we'd all be dead.' With that in mind, perhaps the UK does have a drinking problem.
The truth is as with everything it's all about moderation, I think its fine to have a few wild nights as long as it's not every week. However I do think for your sake and the polices there is a difference between letting go of your inhibitions and actually not knowing where you are when you wake up. If you're the later and you want something to scare you straight why not give 'The Night Of a look? It's on Sky Atlantic, with every episode available on Sky Box Sets.