When is drinking too much our fault?

Last week, we wrote about drinking culture  raising the issue of is it really our fault if we drink too much?

What do the experts say?

The experts look at three things, they call Structural, Community and Individual.


What’s the structural issue?

Structural looks at stuff like legal systems and regulations. So in Ireland, we licence pubs and we allow alcohol advertising. Until the new Public Health Alcohol bill is actually implemented alcohol can be sold below cost as a loss leader by big supermarkets. Makes it very cheap and easy to buy.

What the bill won’t do is stop sports accepting alcohol advertising. So we’ll still have the ridiculous situation of leading sport heroes like Johnny Sexton accepting the “Heineken Man of the Match award”

So in Ireland, structural factors are still stacked in favour of drinking alcohol.

What’s the Community issue?

The community aspect is how people as a society actually work and live together. The GAA is a big part of our community. They’re more aware of the damage alcohol does as they don’t accept alcohol sponsorships and they train club staff to provide help for people who drink too much. (Click here for details)

So they are well ahead of the rugby gang. However so many of the local clubs depend on alcohol sales to stay afloat and the range of alcohol free drinks in club bars is generally poor.

Communion and Confirmation season

With communion and confirmation season on us, we can really see how everything resolves around drink. So often the Communion party is the bouncy castle in the garden, where all the kids play outside while the adults sit around for hours drinking. Not just one or two glasses of wine, but a bottle or two. Kids grow up to see this as normal and then repeat the cycle when they are adults.

So the community we live in is still very much stacked in favour of drinking alcohol.

Does the individual have a part to play?

So is it any wonder we drink too much given the pressures to drink all the time? Is it our fault? This is where it’s useful to separate out fault versus responsibility.

Fault versus Responsibility

So if your partner cheats on you, it’s not your fault. If you grew up in a household where drinking too much was normal, it’s not your fault.
However it is your responsibility to figure out how you are going to deal with it. Because as the actor Will Smith says it’s

“Your heart, your life, your responsibility to be happy”.

So as we wrote last week, knowing the game is rigged against you helps. It is not your fault, drinking less is so difficult. It however your responsibility to decide how you are going to deal with the obstacles placed in your way.

It’s not your fault, but it is your responsibility

So when things go wrong, like you discover your partner is cheating, or just a really rough day in work and anxiety levels are through the roof, it’s your responsibility to choose how you will deal with this.

Have a bottle of wine, or just a glass, or maybe just head out for a walk? It’s not your fault, you’re having a rough time, but it’s your responsibility to choose how you will deal with it.

Will’s video is well worth watching and you can see it here.


Irish Drinks meter now available allowing you to compare your drinking to other people

Drinks meter is an online tool for finding out how risky your drinking is. It’s being used in a lot of countries and now the Western Region Drug & Alcohol Task Force have commissioned an Irish version of Drinks meter.


Online trackers

We’ve mentioned before a very useful tip of tracking your drinking which helps get your drinking under control. (Click here  for more details and how to get started)

There’s plenty of online apps and websites. We particularly like Drinkcoach as it’s very easy to use. The trouble with this though is it uses English drinking units. These are different from Irish measurements. Ireland uses standard drinks according to WHO organisations rules which are easier to understand.

This is why we’ve never recommended Drinks meter before, because it uses English units. But now there’s an Irish version, it is worth looking at.


Drinks meter

Drinks meter has been developed by a well-known addiction psychiatrist Dr Adam Winstock who is worth listening to. Although  based in England he does present at events in Ireland

Drink meter is pretty unique because it allows you to compare your drinking to other people.  Other nice features include

  • It looks at your body weight and height (this influences your risk)
  • It looks at other factors such as family history and ethnicity (these also influence your risk see here )
  • It looks at other medications you may be taking  (see our blog here for more details)
  • It allows you to calculate how much you can reduce your drinking risk by different actions e.g. one drink less each day or not drinking on one day.
  • You don’t have to give an email address to get your results
  • It gives great advice on how to reduce your risk based on your drinking pattern
  • You can save your data using a unique anonymous ID. (Though this feature did not work when I used it- I was using google chrome  on windows 10)


Allow 15 minutes to complete

You will need to have your weight and height handy to complete Drinks meter.  It’s also handy if you have the alcohol volume of your favourite tipple handy, though you can use the “average” estimate on Drinks meter.


Stick with it

The first screen is irritating as it looks for information to help Drinks meter rather than letting you get straight in. But I’s worth sticking with it as it does give you some valuable information which is personal to your situation.


Which one is better?

If you’d like to see how your drinking compares to other people than Drinks meter is better.

If you don’t mind using English drinking units and want an app on your phone then Drinkscoach is better The screens are easier to use and there’s some extra help such as meditation guides to help with cravings for alcohol.

if you’d like to find out more about reducing alcohol harm, you’ll find our free lesson here useful.