BMA Scotland called for new legislation to introduce compulsory labelling on all alcoholic products to help people understand and manage their drinking habits better. The call comes on the eve of Scotland's first Alcohol Awareness Week (21 - 27 October 2007).
Binge drinking is usually used to refer to heavy drinking over an evening or similar short time span - sometimes also referred to as heavy episodic drinking. Binge drinking is often associated with the intention of becoming intoxicated and with drinking in large groups (1).
Binge drinking is a social problem that is affecting people of all ages. Although typically associated with youth culture, a recent study in England found that more than a quarter of adults in the most prosperous parts of the country were drinking at 'hazardous' levels (2). Meanwhile there are reports of a growing number of 'Saga louts', elderly people who regularly binge drink and who may not fully understand the impact it is having upon their health (3).
Binge drinking and severe intoxication can cause muscular incoordination, blurred vision, stupor, hypothermia, convulsions, depressed reflexes, respiratory depression, hypotension and coma. Death can occur from respiratory or circulatory failure or if binge drinkers inhale their own vomit.
As well as the detrimental impact binge drinking has on the nation's health, there are wider societal implications. It can result in people being more likely to undertake risky behaviour, such as having unprotected sex, criminal and antisocial activity and violence (including domestic violence). There are also economic impacts through the loss of productivity and working days.
Dr Peter Terry, Chairman of the BMA in Scotland, said:
"This week provides us with an opportunity to raise awareness about dangerous drinking levels. Binge drinking and alcohol misuse have serious social, psychological and physical consequences. BMA Scotland believes that much more should be done to promote sensible, moderate drinking and to move away from the cultural norm of drinking to get drunk.
"The only way that individuals can keep a check on their own drinking patterns is to have access to clear information about what they are consuming. Consistent information on alcohol content and units along with guidelines on the daily drinking limits would help people to better understand their own drinking habits.
"By legislating for standardised labelling on all alcohol products, we can avoid mixed messages and help people to make informed choices about what they drink.
"This approach would be a valuable addition to the Scottish Government's plans to tackle Scotland's drinking problem."