Let’s talk about ‘safe’ drinking
Binge drinking is on the rise among the young, so families and social groups should speak up when they see signs of alcohol abuse
It is 3am on a Saturday morning and the taxi stand outside Clarke Quay is packed with people heading off after a night of partying.
Despite the glamorous outfits, some of them are sprawled on the ground, some are sitting in their own vomit while others are barely able to hold their heads up as friends try to hold their hair back.
I have seen and heard of friends and acquaintances here and abroad ending up in hospital with alcohol poisoning. Others have had cuts, some serious, or concussions
All because they had one drink too many.
I have had friends call me the next day after a night on the bottle, waking up in someone's home or even on the street. And having no recollection of how they got there.
The phenomenon of binge drinking is not as uncommon as one might think.
According to statistics from the Singapore Mental Health Study, one in 19 adults aged 18 to 34 suffer from alcohol use disorders (that is, abuse and dependence).
Experts tell me binge drinking among young people is an often overlooked phenomenon because of how normal it has become. One expert said it is seen as a phase or rite of passage - just something the young do.
As they become more desensitised to its effects, the amount of drinking slowly increases.
Mr Lawrence Tan, a psychologist, told The New Paper: "It is a gradual and insidious process, where there is a steady increase in alcohol intake."
Ms Evonne Lek, a counsellor, said that often, young people who are heavy drinkers socially might not even think of themselves as alcoholics.
The problem with social drinking is how entrenched it has become in youth culture.
In the past month, for example, more than 80 per cent of social gatherings I have attended featured alcohol or drinking in some capacity.
While not every social circle is identical to mine, I can imagine that many are, especially in Singapore among young corporate-types.
Whether for fun or to entertain clients, drinking has become a part of everyday life.
While I am aware of the dangers of drinking, I , like many of my peers, try not to think about it. (Until the morning hangover or when my editor asks for a report on binge drinking.)
But that is where the danger lies - the fact that so many of us do not think or talk about it, let alone recognise the need to manage our intake of alcohol .
After all, it is just a drink. Until it leads to 10 or more.
An observation echoed by experts I spoke to is that people become alcoholics because friends and family members do not tell them when they see the warning signs.
Perhaps if we start thinking about alcohol as an addictive drug instead of "just a drink", it would change the way we look at what may seem to be an innocuous glass of champagne.
As Mr Tan said: "It is about ensuring people are given the right information to know the limits and what could happen if they cross them."
Ms Lek said that schools, families and social groups should talk about safe drinking.
She said: "Not every young person studies biology or knows what alcohol actually does to their bodies.
"Perhaps schools should have a programme to educate the young on safe alcohol use."
Telling the young to stop drinking altogether is not a solution. It might have the "forbidden fruit" effect of making alcohol seem even more attractive.
Feel like a drink?
Go ahead. But make sure you know your limits.