“Grey-area drinkers” aren’t falling-over drunks, but nor is their relationship with booze healthy. In recent times, many have been giving up or cutting back – being sober is the new black.
Few would fit the cliched profile of an alcoholic. Most are closer to what American nutritionist and TEDx talker Jolene Park has dubbed "grey-area drinkers", people who have come to live somewhere between "an end-stage, lose-everything drunk" and someone who, as she says, drinks "a glass of champagne at a wedding and never drinks again for weeks". A wellbeing expert and one of the first people Kristen Allan found online when she gave up, Park has said of her own pattern of drinking, where a glass of wine tended to turn into a bottle: "What people didn't know was how much I loved the 'off' switch that wine provided to my 'on' – and often-anxious – brain."
Significantly more teenagers abstained in 2016 than in 2013 (82 per cent compared to 72 per cent), while the average age among 14- to 24-year-olds trying alcohol for the first time increased (from 15.7 to just over 16 years of age). Of course, that trend is neither uniform nor universal – young people are more likely to binge-drink, for instance. At the opposite end of the spectrum, those aged 70 or more are the most likely to drink daily.
As for what lies between: "In 2001, the peak age for long-term risky drinking (more than two drinks per day) was 18 to 24. That has now moved to 40 to 49," says Matthew James, deputy director of the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, which releases the NDSHS report. "There is evidence of an increase in lifetime risky drinking among people in their 40s and 50s, and the peak age for men is their 40s and for women is their 50s."
University of Texas at San Antonio researcher Dr. Dylan Jackson and his team studied data from 8th and 10th graders between 2010 and 2016. Teens that drank an energy everyday are “125 percent more likely to fail to perceive any risk in trying to consume cocaine,” compared to their peers. And when it came to heroin, they were 143 percent more likely to not see the risk of trying that drug when compared to other teens.
Vaping can damage vital immune system cells and may be more harmful than previously thought, a study suggests.
Researchers found e-cigarette vapour disabled important immune cells in the lung and boosted inflammation. The researchers "caution against the widely held opinion that e-cigarettes are safe".
However, Public Health England advises they are much less harmful than smoking and people should not hesitate to use them as an aid to giving up cigarettes. The small experimental study, led by Prof David Thickett, at the University of Birmingham, is published online in the journal Thorax.
"I do feel a sense of freedom from not drinking anymore, because it took up so much brain space," said Laura Willoughby at London's Mindful Drinking Festival, an event founded to suggest that you don't need to be paralytic to have a good time. "It's been the best decision of my life."
Check every alcohol statistic from the last couple of years and you'll see I'm not alone: lots of people seem to believe that regularly poisoning yourself for fun isn't such a good idea. In a survey by Drink Monitor, almost a fifth of respondents said they were changing their drinking behaviours, while at least two-fifths have utilised planning methods to cut down, with older drinkers sticking to old-fashioned restraint and millennials being more likely to avoid alcohol altogether.
In fact, there's been a sharp rise in teetotallers generally. According to the Office of National Statistics, there are over 2 million teetotal adults in London – 30 percent of the adult population – while nationwide it's 20.9 percent. This trend only seems to be catching on, as you'll know from the endless reports of Gen-Z (16 to 24-year-olds) supposedly swapping Stella for sobriety
A decade ago, an event like the Mindful Drinking Festival (MDF) might have been derided as some kind of puritanical love-in. But today, in this climate, in makes perfect sense. Run by Club Soda – which describes itself as a "mindful drinking movement" – the festival at Spitalfields Market this past weekend was busy with people trying the various alcohol-free drinks on offer.
Research studies (see Stoové et al, 2009) have long associated surviving a drug overdose with the increased likelihood of a future non-fatal or fatal drug overdose. In a 2017 Massachusetts study of opioid overdoses, 10% of those who survived died within the next year from a drug overdose or other causes. In one of the most rigorous U.S. follow-up studies, Dr. Mark Olfson and colleagues compared the mortality rates of people who had survived a non-fatal opioid overdose to demographically matched members of the general U.S. population. They found that those who survived an opioid overdose died in the next year at 24 times the mortality rate of those in the general population, with most deaths attributed to drug-related diseases, subsequent overdose, circulatory disease, respiratory disease, cancer, HIV, viral hepatitis, and suicide. In another study that might be christened an investigation into lost opportunities, Dr. Linn Gjersing and colleagues found in a retrospective analysis of people who died of a drug overdose that 61% had previously sought emergency medical care and that 18% were frequent users of emergency medical services. The reasons for seeking past emergency care included somatic complaints (48%), injury (44%), alcohol and other drug-related medical problems (32%), and drug overdose (26%).
This is just one of the reasons why it is vital to divert drug users into recovery programs, not simply enable and equip them to continue self-harming with substances – These drug use endorsing mechanisms only increase the risk of harm that the same so-called ‘harm reduction’ strategies are supposed to lessen! (D.I. Comment)