Time to change attitudes to alcohol?

Cultural attitudes to alcohol and its effects could have greater bearing on how people behave under its influence - more so than its chemical properties. This is according to social anthropologist and director of the Social Issues Research Centre Kate Fox, who told the BBC that different nations regard drinking in different ways.

She claimed in the UK, people consider alcohol as a disinhibitor - something that can encourage aggressive or amorous behaviour - and this has been proved in studies using placebos.

Chartered Psychologist Richard Hammersley from Glasgow Caledonian University acknowledges that the British do see alcohol as a disinhibitor, but notes that a placebo experiment cannot make people pass out, vomit, or lose short-term memory and so the full effects of alcohol are not truly experienced. He says:

"In the lab it has been extremely difficult to simulate the effects of alcohol on aggression. This is because alcohol most often makes people aggressive when they are really drunk, often to the point they remember little or nothing the next day.”

Ms Fox noted that for some cultures, drinking is morally neutral and is as much a part of daily life as tea or coffee. She explained that scaremongering alcohol awareness campaigns are not having the intended impact - and recommended such efforts promote the notion that drinking alcohol does not lead to a loss of control and that “even when you are drunk, you are in control of and have total responsibility for your actions and behaviour.”

Professor Hammersley says: “The cultural change needed is to drink better, which means drinking less."

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