With the recent death of Amy Winehouse and the acknowledgement (somewhat belatedly) that liver problems amongst the 20 and 30 year olds are on the increase, we must ask ourselves whether society has really learnt anything over the last 120 years about tackling alcohol and drug abuse.
We need to look at the causes of these problems. Some are social – alcohol and drugs can be an easy escape route from the daily grind of life. So we need to look at the problems that people wish to escape. Can treatment ever be effective if the person continues to face their same problems?
We also need to ensure that people have others to whom they can talk – so we should be supporting telephone helplines and counselling services.
Back in the 1890s, Lady Henry Somerset recognised that women in particular were best treated away from their normal environment and that during their rehabilitation they should be assisted to gain the mental strength to resist tempation when they returned to their homes. Meaningful occupation during their rehabiliation was also important. This was the philosophy underpinning her village at Duxhurst.
But Lady Henry and her temperance colleagues also recognised the harm done by the vested interests within the liquor trade. Can we honestly say similar interests today do not have a big impact on policy?
To paraphrase Lady Henry and her American colleague Frances Willard, the goverment should make it less easy to do wrong, easier to do right.
With alcohol on sale 24/7, should we really be surprised at the problems amongst the younger generations? This has a huge cost, not only to the individual and their families, but to society as a whole – and the taxpayer!
Moderation, moderation, moderation! Perhaps this should become society’s new motto, and not just for alcohol consumption.