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Wilkommen to my blog - my name is Karin Purshouse, and I'm a doctor in the UK. If you're looking for ramblings on life as a junior doctor, my attempts to dual-moonlight as a scientist and balancing all that madness with a life, you've come to the right place. I'm currently a doctor/research trainee in oncology after spending a year doing research in the USA. All original content is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Friday, 15 March 2013

Look after the pennies and the alcohol will take care of itself

I'm pre-nights.  I've spent 3 out of my 5 days off at some sort of work related teaching/course etc.  I'm a little bit cranky secondary to this.

BUT

I just wanted to have a wee chat about this whole minimum price for alcohol issue that is rather a hot topic in the UK.Read more here...

Genuine confusion from me about why this is so controversial.

I feel before I start, I should lay out my own drinking habits.  I tend not to drink much alcohol, or anything, during the week.  If I went out for a meal, I'd probably share a bottle of wine with someone.  If I go to the pub, I'd have a pint and a half maybe.  I'm no Saint, particularly back in my student days, and occasionally now if I have a really awful day, but I'm generally not that bothered by alcohol.  If prohibition was back tomorrow, it'd be no biggie.

So the main statements against minimum pricing for alcohol seem to circle on an attack on personal liberties and the feeling that this won't make any difference anyway.

On the former - I find this... surprising.  Apparently moderate drinkers will be punished - really?  Under the proposals, the cheapest a bottle of wine would be is still less than a fiver.  I think most discerning drinkers would say that's still unbelievably cheap for 12 units of alcohol.  As one of said moderate drinkers, I do not feel this infringes my personal freedom.

What I see is very much the end that Sarah Woollaston is on about - the bit where people come into hospital and have had their entire lives ruined by alcohol.  In my current work environment, this can be as pancreatitis, bleeding ulcers in the stomach, liver failure... but it can also be an 'aside' part of their health problems, where they have family or employment problems as a result of alcohol.  Withdrawal effects can also be severe and life threatening.  Many have argued that increasing the cost of alcohol won't make a difference and that people will still drink.  I'd argue two things for this.  First, we cannot predict that it will stop people drinking; but surely if there's a chance it will reduce it, that's a start and worth trying.  Second, at the very least, there will be more money to provide the drugs and services people need as a result of excessive drinking.  It also frustrates me that excessive drinking is seen as a 'bad choice' made by trouble makers.  Addiction is an illness that can affect anyone from any background, and as a society we have a responsibility to supporting these people as we would those with any other illness.

I always get a bit depressed when people bemoan a change that might benefit the minority in society.  If this change was going to financially penalise people in a more active way - i.e. more money out of someone's pay cheque or increasing council tax - I would understand.  As it is, I stand to 'lose' as much as anyone in society, and yes, perhaps I'd think twice about that pint at the end of the week.  But for me, that is a price well worth paying. 

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