Our unhealthy view of drink is a pain for A&E

  • Post category:News

A friend of mine is known as Johnny A&E. He doesn’t drink much or very often, but once or twice a year when he gets properly hammered ”” he’s a birthdays and Christmas kind of drunk ”” he always ends up in A&E.

From the Irish Examiner

Either he has passed out in a doorway and been mistaken for dead, or does something cartoonish like walk into a lamp post and is subsequently staggering around bleeding from the head. Either way, concerned passers-by invariably call an ambulance. This has been going on for years, hence his name.

British nurses are calling for drunk people to not be allowed into A&E, but to be treated elsewhere – maybe in mobile field hospitals in city centres. Booze buses, drunk tanks ”” but not hospital. That being drunk does not constitute an accident. Is this reasonable? Would it work? The nurses say that what was previously a weekend problem ”” drunk people weaving around incoherently, amidst other A&E visitors, is now a constant thing. Is it fair to other A&E admissions to have to deal with pissed people falling around the place, being annoying?

Because drunks are really annoying. I say this as an ex drunk ”” we bring nothing to the party, and even less to the public hospital. Alcohol takes an ordinary person and turns them into loud, repetitive, maudlin, potentially aggressive individuals with poor motor co-ordination and no sense of balance who may or may not throw up all over you. You’re in A&E because your four-year- old has a clothes peg up their nose, or you are 85 and have cracked your ankle. Do you want to sit next to one of us? Probably not.

Zoom out for a moment and consider the absurdity. Around one third of all A&E admissions are alcohol related. We consider this normal, because we consider the effects of alcohol normal ”” slurred speech, loss of co-ordination, lack of inhibition, heightened aggression. All normal. All part of how we socialise. Shouting, fighting, falling, puking, not remembering ”” normal, normal, normal. Having regrettable sex ”” normal.

Imagine if any other substance did this to us. Imagine the outcry, the hand wringing, the demands for action. The stiff legislation, the knee jerk reaction, the campaigning. And yet with booze, we have normalised the abnormal.

I am not anti-anything by the way. What I cannot figure out is the absurdity of one messy drug being approved and encouraged, while all other less messy drugs are banned and socially taboo. It makes no sense. All drugs are bad for you. All drugs have the potential for physical and psychological harm. Why the massive imbalance in attitude? Legalise everything, or ban everything. But stop making alcohol special and different. It’s preposterous.