NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


October 13, 2005

Britain's drinking problem is undeniable: Britons drink a quarter more alcohol than they did 10 years ago. Last year, the average Briton consumed 9.4 liters of pure ethanol. Moreover, binge drinking among young people has greatly increased, says the Economist. Lastly, deaths from chronic liver disease among people aged 25-44 are nearly ten times higher than in 1970.

Meanwhile, other forms of hedonism are declining as young people become more aware of the dangers of illegal drugs and switch to legal ones, says the Economist:

  • The proportion of 16- to 24-year-olds who used amphetamines in the previous 12 months fell from 12 percent in 1996 to 4 percent last year.
  • Ecstasy has also become less popular, which is surprising given falling prices; in many places, a pill now costs less than a pint of beer.

New government policies, like licensing reforms, will speed up the trend toward old-fashioned intoxicants, says the Economist. The 2003 Licensing Act will permit pubs to stay open later; until now, most pubs were forced to stop selling alcohol at 11 pm, forcing revelers to move on to the sort of venues where drink is expensive and loud music and pills are to be found.

Even though longer licensing hours will probably mean more drinking, fewer pills will be popped, thus allowing Britain to begin to win the war on drugs, says the Economist.

Source: Editorial, "Drink and Drugs: Teenage Kicks," Economist, September 3, 2005.


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