I came to a similar conclusion when I read the minutes from these meetings in February. The decision to reduce the drinking ‘limits’ to 14 units for men has been controversial, and with good reason. The Chief Medical Officer’s report departs from a wealth of international evidence and instead relies on a modelling exercise from the same researchers who developed the flawed model that was used to promote minimum pricing.
Those of us who expressed scepticism about the scientific basis of the guidelines when they were published in January were told not to worry. They’re only recommendations, they said. We are free to ignore them, they said. But the far-reaching implications of the change are already becoming clear.
The Scottish government recently told medical professionals to give a Brief Alcohol Intervention to any man who drinks more than 14 units of alcohol a week. This is a waste of NHS resources and an insult to doctors and patients alike. Medical professionals are capable of identifying problem drinkers without being given orders from on high.
There is good evidence that targeted brief interventions work, but alcoholics are unlikely to take them seriously if everyone they know has had one. It is generally accepted that consuming 50 units or more is indicative of problem drinking. By lowering the benchmark to 14 units, the Scottish government is medicalising millions of people for no good reason.
No good can come from making millions of people who exceed the stingy new guidelines but drink moderately by any other measure feel as if they should be in the Priory. There is an epidemic of the ‘worried well’ in Britain. Doctors tell me about healthy young people demanding full body scans because they fear they have contracted some disease or other as a result of not living the obsessively clean lifestyle that society demands. These are the people who are most affected by ‘public health’ messages. Those who are genuinely at risk tend to ignore them.
Successive governments have used doctors as mouthpieces for their hectoring. It is virtually impossible to get through a routine appointment with a GP without being cross-examined about one’s eating, drinking and smoking habits. Countless hours are being swallowed up lecturing healthy, responsible adults about the bleeding obvious. This is time that could be spent helping people who have a genuine drinking problem.
Perhaps the day will come when the guidelines are dropped to zero and medics are forced to interrogate anybody who has ever had a wine gum. We are constantly told that the NHS does not have enough money to heal the sick and yet it seems to have an unlimited budget for harassing the healthy.