What Does “Drink Responsibly” Mean?

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Drink Responsibly – it’s a phrase that has become as much of a part of the Christmas lexicon as the latest must-have tech and “More vegan nut roast, Gulliver?” And just as hard to fathom…

Statement-of-the-obvious klaxon! British people like a drink in December. In not unrelated news, this is also the time of year when the “Drink Responsibly” message is at its most visible, yet a survey quoted by the NHS says that “Britons drink 41% more in December than the annual monthly average”, and another one from Public Health England says that 53% of people drink alcohol over the holiday period even when they don’t want to. So are people hearing the “Drink Responsibly” message and choosing to do the opposite? Or is it too complicated? Coach asked some industry figures to explain how this drinking responsibly business is done.

James Watt, Captain and Co-Founder, BrewDog

Good beer is to savour – the expertise, effort, creativity and carefully chosen ingredients that go into every sip of BrewDog beer are worth taking the time to taste properly. We’ve produced some of the highest ABV beers in the world, such as End Of History, but we sell these in small measures, and we encourage all our beer buffs to subscribe to the quality-over-quantity ethos.

BrewDog is built on the idea of savouring good beer, not consuming as much as possible, and this message is woven through everything we do… We’re driven to make people as passionate about beer as we are and take the job seriously. Educating people on good beer is key, which is why every single one of our staff is Cicerone trained (the gold-standard certification for those in the beer industry). Drinking craft beer is about appreciation and knowledge.

Dr Seth Rankin, The London Doctors Clinic

Responsible drinking just means “don’t drink enough to make you act like an idiot”. Most of those things that make a good story about the night before are caused by drinking irresponsibly. Try not to be the headline act in someone else’s “hilarious” story about stupid behaviour.

The truth is that a very large percentage of us are irresponsible with alcohol at times in their lives. Unfortunately, exactly the effect that many are looking for from alcohol is only achieved with irresponsible levels of intake. Take some time to think about that and work out healthier ways of having fun before your liver explodes and brain rots.

Cindy Tervoort, Marketing Director for Heineken UK

It’s about quality over quantity. It’s our role to help make moderate drinking aspirational. We’re in the business of entertainment, fun and good times – and there is absolutely no advantage to drinking too much.

The research we conducted showed that the number one reason 21-35-year-olds wanted to moderate their drinking was to stay in control. And one in three admitted to have suffering “social shaming” by being tagged in photos where they are drunk on social media. People want quality experiences, to stay in control for themselves and the people they’re with, and be able to get up the next day and go for a run!

Eddie Gershon, JD Wetherspoon Spokesperson

We are continually looking for new ways to ensure that the facilities and promotions offered in our pubs do not encourage the excessive consumption of alcohol and the health harms and anti-social behaviour that can go with it.

We are currently working with Club Soda, which is an organisation set up to support individuals who wish to either drink less alcohol or none at all. Club Soda has been studying ways in which the industry can make pubs more inspiring places for low, moderate and non-alcohol drinkers. It is developing an online tool which it hopes will rate venues according to their low and non-alcoholic offerings.

JJ Goodman, Founder/Creative Director, The London Cocktail Club

Responsible drinking can be taken two ways. Number one: don’t drink until you drop. If you want to celebrate, then go for it! And if you’re having a tough week then I think “sod it”, have a few. Both reasons are legitimate and I don’t see why one should be given a hall pass and the other shouldn’t. But booze should not become a crutch.

And number two: think about what you’re drinking and where it’s from. Supporting your local business is responsible too. Love thy neighbour. Putting your cash back into your local economy is as responsible as you can get. Think before you drink either way!

Coach’s Christmas Campaign: Make Drinking Nothing But A Pleasure

When it comes to drinking, who decides how much is too much? Everybody is familiar with the medical profession’s barely believable quotas, and even though the numbers ping pong about over time and between countries (the recommended weekly intake in the UK currently stands at 14 units per week for both men and women), the doctors and their colleagues from Holby City are not just grabbing numbers from thin air. They’d like you to stay within the drink limit because they believe by not doing so you are exposing yourself to unnecessary health risks.

For all their knowledge, sincerity and compelling data, however, you know you are almost certainly going to ignore them. Especially in December. Partly because just getting out of bed in the morning supposes a risk, so why should drink be any different to say, crossing the road? But also because alcohol, when handled appropriately, is a wonderful thing. Love potion, confidence builder, truth serum, social lubricant, Dutch courage and hilarity – alcohol has one of the greatest CVs in history.

At the same time you don’t need reminding about the havoc it can cause in the wrong hands. You may need reminding, though, that those hands are sometimes yours. So Coach urges you to take steps towards having an adult relationship with alcohol by deciding for yourself how much is too much. Make that frontier the point at which you can enjoy the wondrous benefits, but beyond which you know the bad stuff starts to happen.

Some of you have no problem putting the brakes on early or are quite happy not to drink at all. Others have done the sums and bravely concluded you need to dispense with alcohol altogether. Most of you, though, are somewhere in the middle – enjoying a drink, but from time to time finding yourselves with an additional, non-monetary cost to factor in. So, ask yourself if any of these scenarios ever describe you:

  • Do you suffer from hangovers, especially ones that last the whole day?
  • Do they cause you to miss time at work?
  • Do they cause you to be unproductive at work or unable to concentrate in meetings?
  • Do they cause you to feel morose or troubled with self-loathing or self-pity?
  • Have you said or done something that you wouldn’t ordinarily and which has caused you to feel ashamed?
  • Do you find yourself being grumpy or off-hand with people who have done nothing to merit such antipathy?
  • Is your memory a little out of focus when attempting to summon the details of the night before?

If you find yourself handicapped by any of these tedious and time-consuming symptoms, then it’s time to reconsider your frontier and reduce your consumption by whatever means work for you. There are no shortage of methods – start later, drink more slowly, alternate with soft drinks, buddy up with a colleague who also wants to cut back, go for quality – a small number of high-end drinks to savour rather than glug – or employ the “Irish exit” (leaving without saying goodbye) when the social pressure to join in a session is becoming too intense.

Then in the longer term, work out exactly what you want from alcohol – if anything – and decide how to get it. It’s almost certainly not going to be a sore head and a patchy memory. In time, you may even come to the seemingly eccentric conclusion that the doctors were right all along. In the meantime though, remember that the answer to the question of who decides how much is too much is you. That’s what I think it means to drink responsibly.

Ed Needham
Former editor-in-chief

Ed Needham was the founder and editor-in-chief of Coach magazine, a free health and fitness magazine published between 2015 and 2016. He now edits the magazine Strong Words.