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Cheers - AE

Monday, 31 October 2011

Questions to which the answer is "Fuck off"

Yes, I know there are lots of these and that anything on an official census probably qualifies, but the one that's uppermost in my mind at the moment is this:

How much do you drink?
A report to be published on Monday will say eight million professionals are routinely drinking too much alcohol, and endangering their health, even though they do not binge drink or get drunk.
It calls for new checks, so that GPs quiz all patients about their drinking habits, first at the age of 30, and again as part of general health checks which occur every five years from the age of 40.
And even though it's a non-issue for me and my honest answer would score maximum healthist brownie points, my inclination would be to choose from a range of replies starting with "Why are you asking?" and finishing with "Go fuck yourself." Aside from the intrusiveness I hope everyone can see in this that the concept of no-safe-level-every-drop-is-killing-you-a-bit has taken one more jackbooted step from neo-puritan idealism to policy. You don't have to binge and you don't have to get drunk, but you can still be drinking too much. How much is too much? Who can possibly know when, as pointed out on Devil's Kitchen a couple of years back, the recommended consumption levels for alcohol were pulled out of the collective arse of a working party of the Royal College of Physicians (the article is only available to people who pay The Times as even archives are behind the paywall now, so the rest of us have to put up with seeing it for free on Wayback - fuck you, Rupes).
Guidelines on safe alcohol consumption limits that have shaped health policy in Britain for 20 years were “plucked out of the air” as an “intelligent guess”.
The Times reveals today that the recommended weekly drinking limits of 21 units of alcohol for men and 14 for women, first introduced in 1987 and still in use today, had no firm scientific basis whatsoever.
The disclosure that the 1987 recommendation was prompted by “a feeling that you had to say something” came from Richard Smith, a member of the Royal College of Physicians working party that produced it.
He told The Times that the committee’s epidemiologist had confessed that “it’s impossible to say what’s safe and what isn’t” because “we don’t really have any data whatsoever”.
Mr Smith, a former Editor of the British Medical Journal, said that members of the working party were so concerned by growing evidence of the chronic damage caused by heavy, long-term drinking that they felt obliged to produce guidelines. “Those limits were really plucked out of the air. They were not based on any firm evidence at all. It was a sort of intelligent guess by a committee,” he said.
I'm not sure how a guess can be both intelligent and plucked out of the air, but really it's by the by. The point is that they have a number based on fuck all evidence and a vague feeling that the medical profession really ought have an answer, and if you exceed that number then you're drinking too much, end of discussion. Doesn't matter whether you're an enormous flanker type with the capacity to out-drink a small Moscow suburb or a five foot nothing woman who can get pissed on a glass of wine, you're drinking an amount which is officially unhealthy, and since a large glass of wine is three units on its own you certainly don't have to get sloshed to get there. Small wonder that some healthist think tank can found that 8 million people - about a fifth of the workforce overall and so a good chunk of the number of white collar jobs I suspect they mean by "professionals" -  are drinking too much. Christ, even if you just get tipsy once a week and that's not the only time you drank then you almost certainly had more than 21 units, although the current article implies that they've been raised slightly at some point.
Government advice states men should drink no more than four units a day and women no more than three.
Which despite being more over the course of a week is actually a subtle move towards further puritanism - it's still no more than a large glass of wine or a pint of medium beer per day for the ladies and a pint and a half of the same beer or maybe two pints of coloured water variety beer for the fellas. Even your openly teetotal and increasingly lightweight Exile could probably still drink two pints of piss-strength without being what anyone would really call drunk, and if I was going to make them last all day I seriously doubt I'd even feel it. That the goalposts have quietly been made so wide seems a little suspicious, and so I had a little Google and almost immediately I found a BBC article from August 09 that mentions the reason for the low daily limit rather than an even lower weekly one.
The 1987 sensible drinking limits, which set the bar at 21 units per week for men and 14 units per week for women, remained in place until 1995.
It was then that the government decided to switch the limits from weekly to daily in a bid to curb binge drinking and emphasise the harms of saving up a week's limit to blow in one or two sessions at the weekend - a decision it stands by today.
Which should be surprising only in that it was the previous Tory nannies rather than the Labour nannies or the current Cobbleition nannies who were behind the move. It certainly shouldn't be any surprise that after three different governments under four different PMs British drinkers are still being told to restrict themselves to the equivalent of two pints of fizzy piss a day in case they choose - and how dare, how very bloody dare they even think of choosing for themselves - to lay off the sauce during the week so they can make merry, or at least a little less miserable, at the weekend. Oh, except for British drinkers with breasts, who are to have no more than a pint and a half of fizzy piss, probably not even that if they've got children. Jesus, these days you could probably heave a brick at an Alcohol Concern meeting and hit half a dozen people who'd tell you it should be less even if someone hasn't got children but was in a slightly wistful and broody mood for half an hour or so around mid-afternoon. Yes, of course I'm being sarcastic but I'm afraid to Google again in case I also turn out to be right.

As an aside before returning to the current nannying there's one other thing in that 09 BBC article I'd like to draw attention to, which is that it was basically about neo-puritans getting their cocks in a knot because - you'll never guess, oh, fuck me sideways with a beer barrel, you just did already - the guidelines aren't tough enough and are fooling everyone into drinking too much.
Daily limits on alcohol consumption are meaningless and potentially harmful, experts have warned.
The government says men should drink no more than three to four units per day and women no more than two to three.
Liver specialist Dr Nick Sheron, of the Alcohol Health Alliance UK, says these limits were devised by civil servants with "no good evidence" for doing so.
Why should there be? There was no good evidence for the previous suggestions either, remember?
He says the advice runs the risk of people taking it to mean that it is safe to drink alcohol every day.
And the older advice risked people not drinking daily and having what the puritans doubtless regard as a skinful and what everyone else would think of as a few drinks at the weekend. Heads the nannies win, tails the drinkers lose.
Dr Sheron's comments follow a report by MPs on the Public Accounts Committee which suggested public confusion about safe drinking levels was fuelling problem drinking.
Of course it is. On Planet Righteous where the public naturally deals with any confusion by getting throughly shitfaced nearly anything can fuel problem drinking. Certainly anything that doesn't make it absolutely crystal clear that no level of alcohol... come on, everyone, you all know the words by now.
Dr Sheron says we should go back to using the old weekly limits, which are based on sound research.
Sound research? Do us a fucking favour, they were based on two fifths of fuck all. Calling it sound research is either ignorant of the Times article less than two years before in which someone who was actually there admits that they were made up, or is simply bullshit.

And from misleading, ah, sorry, confusing the public with arbitrary limits based on nothing much and other policy based evidence it's now suggested that GPs have yet another set of boxes to tick, along with a financial incentive to tick 'em, in the form of interrogating patients about their alcohol consumption and having a regular schedule of opportunities to do so. All backed up by a report with some numbers to make it sound justified, natch. And don't go thinking this is lefty do-gooders at work here (my bold).
The report, by 2020 Health, a centre-right think tank, says many middle class drinkers are not aware of the risks of their evening tipple...
See? This is nudge stuff. That (mostly) unspoken assumption that you don't know what's best for you, are incapable of finding out for yourself and understanding, and therefore can't be trusted make your own decisions on the matter. It's old style rightist paternalism of the kind the alleged Tory PM, David Cameramong, is absolutely in fucking love with, the supercilious prick. In the minds of these people failing to comply with recommendations cannot possibly mean that an individual has simply weighed and accepted the risks - it can only mean that they didn't understand, that they're in a state of confusion and must be helped and guided and steered, and if need be cajoled and bullied and forced.

It's denormalisation, folks. Come now, you didn't think that was just something to be used on smokers, did you? The "normal" amount of alcohol consumption has been determined to be as near to nothing as makes no odds, and you will be questioned to see if you comply and nagged if you don't. And in case you're wondering who did the determining, here's a familiar name.
The Royal College of Physicians said the current guidance was 'extremely dangerous' because it implied that drinking every day was safe.
This is presumably the very same Royal College of Physicians that not so very long ago more or less sat around a table making up some very similar sounding guidance. There isn't an actual question in there, not as such, but all the same the answer to that is also "Fuck off."
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