Britain's Hidden Alcoholics Panorama

Britain's Hidden Alcoholics

Similar Content

Browse content similar to Britain's Hidden Alcoholics. Check below for episodes and series from the same categories and more!



I thought it was the normal to have a couple of glasses of wine to


unwind. In the end, it took over. Britain's middle class


professionals are drinking more and more. I just ripped the tubes out


of my arm and ran out of the hospital and went to find the


nearest place to buy more alcohol. Doctors are increasingly concerned


about an epidemic of drinking- related deaths. From the


perspective of a clinician we are in the middle of a crisis. But how


much is too much? Could you be an alcoholic? I think a lot of people


who have a drink problem are very good at hiding it. I'm Alastair


Campbell, I know from personal experience the high cost of


excessive drinking. I used to lie in bed and wait for her to go out


so I could throw up. Tonight I venture into the world of


Britain's hidden alcoholics. stopped. I stopped living. I nearly


died. I ask whether all of us, individuals as well as Government,


need to reassess our relationship It's the run up to Christmas,


office parties are in full swing To relieve the stress on A&E


they've set up field hospitals to deal with some of those who've had


too much. Out with friends apparently. She's got herself


absolutely smashed. Unfortunately she's been vomiting. She's lying in


her own vomit and she's defecated herself. Tackling binge drinking


has become a national obsession. Every morning 200,000 of us go to


work with a hangover. Hello. How are you doing? 30 years old no.


History. Teenage excess preoccupies the media and successive


governments. Many people being treated tonight don't fit that


stereotype. Mat jort of them are intelligent professional people.


Last night the 30 patients through the treatment centre, all of them


worked in the City, all of them had highly paid professional jobs.


need to list ton my colleague because we're trying to help you.


We're trying to get you home safely. I'm just asking you to sit there on


the chair. Figures from the Office for National Statistics show the


professional classes are the most frequent drinkers, some are


Britain's hidden alcoholics. I should know. I was one of them.


My name's Alastair Campbell. Before working at the heart of the


Government as Tony Blair's right- hand man, I had a serious problem


with alcohol. Even if I wasn't getting drunk every day, I was


certainly drinking every day. Some days I was drinking to excess. Some


days, which might run into a succession of days, I'd be drinking


to really serious excess. I held down a good job and a steady


relationship. I was a functioning alcoholic. I think a lot of people


who have a drink problem are very good at hiding it. I think I was


good at hiding it for quite a long time. I think that becomes part of


what you do. For years, I was in denial, both to myself and my


partner, Fiona. I was waking up every morning feeling really bad,


ill and I used to lie in bed to wait for her to go out so I could


go and throw up. When it got combined with heavy stress levels


and his behaviour became quite erratic, irrational, cruel, almost


aggressive, at times, he didn't like being told, challenged on his


behaviour. My drinking reached its peak while I worked in Fleet Street


in the '80s, where the pubs were just an extension of the office.


There were many casualties of this culture, one was a colleague of


mine, when I started at the Daily Mirror, Anne Robinson. Your


drinking got so bad you stopped. stopped. I stopped living. I nearly


died. What quantities were you drinking that took you to on


livion? Bottles and bottles? No. I think less than a bottle of spirits


would have me completely knocked out. Do you feel at that time there


were lots of people around who you would say, had a problem with


alcohol? There were a lot of people around who drank a great deal. It


was just a sea of alcohol. If you were editing the paper, people just


came into your office to empty your drinks cabinet. I also paid a heavy


price. My drinking coupled with depression triggered a mental


breakdown. The word "alcoholic" didn't cross my mind at all until I


was in hospital. I wrote down "I am an alcoholic" and I certainly


remember that being a moment, that meeting with the psychiatrist being


a moment when I realised, you've got a real problem and you've got


to sort it out. It forced me to confront my drinking. I needed help


and turned to my friends. When you did arrive you were in a pretty bad


state. You were smoking like a chimney. You were three packs a day.


After that spell in hospital, I sought refuge with an old colleague,


Syd Young. At one time I had three mates all being dried out at the


same time. I tell you, it was the worst year of my life. We had a


news editor in Manchester once, who used to take four-hour lunches. Go


to the pub for four hours. Somebody said, you can always say this about


him, he never once came back with the smell of food on his breath.


By 1986, I'd stopped drinking. The work place booze culture has now


largely gone. As a nation, we're drinking less, but paradoxically,


more of us are being treated for alcohol problems. 41% of


professional men drink more than the recommended limit at least once


a week. Professional women are also drinking much more than they used


to. Alcohol seemed to be a sort of... Crutch? Yeah. I'd go and meet,


if I met a friend for a drink, before I'd got there, I would buy a


mini bottle of vot ka to give me that oomph before I got there, to


get past the "Hi, how are you?" year-old Harriet is university


educated and is from a middle class family. She's an interior designer.


How much were you drinking when you were really drinking? Getting to


the worst stages, it was half to a litre of vodka a night. Then I just


started on the wine, Iing this -- thinking that would be less bad.


Instead of or as well as? Instead, I'd have two or three bottles a


night. It was ease tkwror drink indoors because you didn't have to


pay for each drink, of course, I could also get myself as drunk as


possible and not to -- have to worry about getting home and making


a fool of myself. Harriet's drinking put her in hospital. She's


now been dry for three-and-a-half years. Recent figures show nearly


9,000 people die each year in the UK from alcohol-related diseases.


Liver disease in general is the only major cause of death in


Britain still increasing year on year. The risk of developing liver


disease related to alcohol starts at round about two bottles of wine


a week. The risk at that level is pretty small. Above four bottles of


wine a week, the risk starts to curve up. When you're drinking the


equivalent of eight or ten bottles of wine a week you have a


substantially risk of developing liver disease. 100 British people


are dying from alcoholic liver disease every week. In terms of why


people are drinking too much, why is it the liver that's the


important organ that you have to worry about? Because your liver


breaks down the alcohol that you drink. Daily drinking can be


dangerous to your liver, which is why Parliament science Select


Committee advises us all to give our liver a break at least two days


a week, if not, it might end up like this. This liver here was


taken from somebody who died from oesophageal bleed. It's a cirrhotic


liver. If I turn it over here, you can see... Spots. There's spots


here. These nodules are fatty and scar tissue. A drink scarred liver


can't filter blood so you die of internal bleeding. And it's not


just liver disease that Britain's hidden alcoholics have to worry


about. Alcohol is to blame for 13,000 new cancer cases each year.


The link between cancer and alcohol is really very strong. Mouth and


throat cancer, particularly strong, but also oesophagus and stomach and


we now know other, such as breast cancer, there's a definite link to


alcohol consumption. I remember they said, you can do anything you


like, the only thing you can't do is drink. I thought that doesn't


leave much. What the helm I going to do? Persistent drinkers who


don't heed the warning signs might end up here. I was so concerned


about my lifestyle in the end, because I'd lost everything, if it


wasn't for this place, I would have been dead by now. Clouds House in


Wiltshire is a leading addiction treatment centre. In almost 30


years its counsellors have treated patients hooked on a number of


substances. But they're treating more and more whose problem is


alcohol. Suddenly I realised, I don't know where it comes from, the


thought that cuts through everything, drink is the one thing


that has caused this, the underlying factor to all my


failures in life. With a six-week stay here costing �12,000, if you


don't get funding, you need to be wealthy. The day I showed up I met


Mark, who's on the board of a pharmaceutical company and Ben,


who's an actor and Theresa, who runs her own business. I suppose it


started off in that, you know, middle class habit of having wine


when I came home from work and opening a bottle to cook and


finding I'd got through that by the time I'd finished cooking and


needing to open another bottle with my partner to drink with the meal


and that would be daily. You had your first drink at 11? I first


drink I really remember was at I shoot. It was plum vodka. It burnt


the back of my throat, down the throat, into my schtum ark, and


like a fire work, I thought it was normal to have a couple of glasses


of wine to unwind. You sit down and you relax, that aahhh moment,


that's when I wanted something, a treat. But it wasn't a treat in the


end. It took over. How bad did things get for you that you ended


up here? Really bad. Really, I was emotionally, spiritually bankrupt.


My life was a mess. I was brought into this hospital by family


members who found me at home and with such a low liver function, my


health was deteriorating very, very rapidly. Tried to go it alone. I


tried not to drink, but I couldn't get past 10am. Hi to have a drink.


I couldn't do it. I just ripped the tubes out of my arm and ran out of


the hospital and went to find the nearest place where I could buy


more alcohol. It's the only thing I knew at that time. There's so much


focus from policy makers, from media on binge drinking, but I


think Britain's drink problem goes much, much deeper. I think you're


talking a lot of people for whom drink does endanger work, health,


relationships and in a very small number of circumstances, their


lives. Traditionally it's been the working class linked to binge


drinking. Towns don't come any more working class than this, Burnley.


It's home to my football team. The ritual of a pre-match drink has


been a rite of passage for the working man for decades. Step


behind-the-scenes and you'll see the professional classes hard at it


in the executive boxes. How many people are in today? 320, which is


maximum for a match day. 500 for a Christmas party last night.


much would you have made last night? With other functions around


the club �10,000 on alcohol sales last night about 14 tons of beer


will come into this place over the next seven days. 14 tons? Yes.


with many businesses, alcohol is key to Burnley's financial survival.


Catering turns over �2 million a year. Of that about 40% is alcohol


or drink sales. All in all, it's crucial to the long-term success of


Last year, the drinks market was worth �36bn in Britain. It also


supports two million jobs. But a million alcohol-related hospital


admissions last year cost the NHS It's important to remember millions


of individuals do not drink to excess. But I think pretty sizeable


numbers of people, many of them working in public services, in


senior positions in the private sector, doing big jobs, they have a


relationship with alcohol that is I just think, because it is such a


big parts of everybody's lives, we're not really looking at it.


The health professionals are looking at it, and they're worried.


If you go back 20 or 30 years, and you look at the mortality for the


whole range of different diseases, the mortality for all of those


diseases has down by between 20, 30, maybe up to 60 or 70% for some of


the smoking-related diseases. For liver disease, mortality has gone


up 400% or 500% over that period of time. Year on year, admissions seem


to rise, the number of patients with severe liver disease from


alcohol seems to rise. So from the perspective of the clinician, we


are in the middle of a crisis. Professor Gilmore believes that


crisis could result in as many as 210,000 unnecessary deaths over the


next 20 years unless the government introduces effective policies to


The rise in wine-drinking coincided with the introduction of cheap


travel to the Continent in the '70s. We began embracing all things


European. The local wine goes with the meal. You drink as much as you


like. It's all included in the price.


The bottle of wine has become the centerpiece of the middle-class


gathering. You're making dinner, you knock


back a few glasses of wine. You're eating dinner, you knock back a few


more. And it's almost like that doesn't count as alcohol


Booze cruises became a part of our culture. I think the wine is very


good, very good value indeed. It's much cheaper than at home, of


course. Our thirst has been unquenchable. Since 1970, our


consumption of wine has gone up fivefold. 80p a bottle.


Wine-drinking, once uncommon in Britain, is now the norm. In 2010,


we drank 1.6 billion bottles of the In the UK, we have adopted a


Mediterranean drinking pattern, so people will frequently drink with


meals and they'll drink throughout the week, but we haven't lost our


feast drinking pattern, so everybody likes to go out and get


completely canned on a Friday night if they can as well. So we've got


the worst of both worlds at the It wasn't just wine that we


imported from Europe. Here I must admit that the Labour government I


worked for might have contributed to our current alcohol crisis. In


2005, we introduced 24-hour licensing.


I never really bought the argument that Britain would suddenly become


a Continental-style drinking nation. I think we've always had this


tendency to...where there's drink, to drink it and to drink it to


Does that make it a mistake? I don't know, it's complicated.


On the one hand, it is quite nice that there is more a sense in the


afternoon of London and other cities being more European.


But I think it is entirely possible to see a link between the increased


availability of alcohol and But 24-hour licensing is not solely


to blame. The big change has been the shift to drinking at home.


If you look at my patients with cirrhosis, we have asked this


question. Less than 5% do all their drinking in the pub. 95% are


drinking at home because that's The derelict pub is a familiar


sight around the country. Every week, 16 pubs call time for good.


Gone with them are the subtle controls they exert over the way we


drink. It's a paradox that the decline of the pub has come


alongside a rise in drink problems. I think what the pub did was it


just had its own checks and balances. Just think through the


cliches, the burly landlord who was able to step in if things were


getting out of hand. And there are other real obstacles to pub excess.


A �10 bottle of supermarket wine can cost you 30 at the bar. And you


can only buy it when the pub is open. In 1970, 90% of pints were


poured in a public house. These days it's only 50%. The other half


are bought much more cheaply in supermarkets and off-licences.


I would regret the fact that pubs are closing down in this country. I


think they do provide a social milieu, particularly in rural areas.


And drinking is controlled to some extent, and those controls aren't


there at home. Women, on the whole, tend to drink


at home much more than guys. So you would go home, finish work, go home,


drink. Yeah. On your own? Yeah, probably. As many women as men are


now being treated for alcoholic liver disease, according to the


doctors we've met. Despite the alcohol industry's promotion of


responsible drinking, health campaigners believe greater


restrictions are necessary. In France, a country which likes a


bottle or two, there are strict controls. If you go across the


Channel to France, there's a complete ban on broadcast


advertising, there's a complete ban on sports sponsorship. We really do


have a very liberal attitude, and that's fine if we are living in a


healthy way with our favourite drug. But the evidence is overwhelmingly


Alcohol companies in Britain spend �800m a year on advertising, and


these days their products routinely bear Drink Aware labelling designed


But the contents of this orange file show the marketing industry's


approach can challenge those These are, erm...strategy documents,


basically. What we are seeing here is the thinking that goes behind


the ad. We see the ad out on the billboards or on the TV, this is


the thinking that's gone into the making of those ads. These


advertising-agency documents were examined by Professor Hastings as


part of a parliamentary inquiry into the alcohol industry. This


takes you through a day, so 5.30, pop to the shops on the way home


from work, buy some shots on impulse. 6.30, get ready for night


out, get in the mood. 7.30, drinks at home to start night off, cheaper


than a round in the pub, neck a few shots between beers or wines.


beer and wine? With beer and wine, so they've already had what is way


beyond the recommended limit at this point. The documents were


submitted to Halewood International, producers of Sidekick Shots, and


the alcohol giant Diageo, who make Smirnoff.


This is about this whole shots thing. I think what's interesting


here is the clear recognition that shots are used in a very functional


way just to intoxicate. "What are pub man's needs at this point?"


don't think you need to go further than the graphics on this, which


shows the development of man from an alcohol industry point of view.


They're trying to work out how that they can position their product so


that it will encourage the process of consumption. And you might say,


if this was a completely harmless product, so what? This is a


psychoactive drug that causes immense harm. Professor Hastings


believes the industry presence on the current government's Alcohol


Working Group is ill-advised. It is akin to putting the fox in


charge of the hen coop. To get our drinking as a nation down to


healthy levels would involve a massive cut in the sales of the


alcohol industry. They are never going to co-operate with that


objective, never, they can't. I showed the documents to an


industry spokesman, Gavin Partington. Let's be very clear,


these papers were suggestions made by marketing agencies who are


pitching to brand owners for work. It's not unusual for marketing


agencies to put forward materials that frankly, on reflection, the


brand owners judge to be inappropriate and unacceptable, and


they get binned. The truth of the matter is that it is not in the


industry's long-term interests to have products marketed in a way


which brings the industry into Halewood International told us,


"Any suggestion that the documents examined by Professor Hastings are


representative of Halewood International's attitude and


behaviour at any time is groundless, having been created some years ago


by an external marketing agency to The Government are conducting a


major strategy review on alcohol and this month launched a campaign


to highlight the damage excessive If we think there's a problem, then


the best way to deal with the problem is to admit it, face up to


it. You can't expect the government to run your lives, and nor would


you want them to. So ultimately it is about people coming to their own


arrangement with alcohol. The patients at Clouds have come to


their own arrangement, total I said no myself for 13 years, but


then I started having the odd drink again. I feel as though I'm more in


control this time around. But I still wonder if I'm doing the right


thing. When I've had a drink, because I


stopped for a long time and then occasionally do have a drink, and


for me it is that feeling about, "Can I be normal like these other


people are, who do seem to be able to have a couple of drinks and then


that's it?" For example, Fiona, my partner, I have never, ever seen


her drunk. I have never seen her drink more than a couple of glasses


of wine, and I kind of think, "Why can't I do that?" So you have two


large glasses of wine. Is it an effort to say, "No thank you"?


it is. After the two. It is, and then I like... I like the feeling


of being able to say no. I think people's perceptions of what is an


alcoholic is interesting, because actually it's not the guy with the


brown paper bag and the strong cider or the cheap vodka or


whatever it is. It can be two glasses of wine a night, if it's


what you need. And you'd only know, and I'd challenge anybody I know to


say, "Well, stop for a month, go to the same places, do the same things,


interact with the same people and just remove the alcohol from the


equation and see how you feel." And then ask yourself the honest


question, "Well, maybe I do have a problem." I see a psychiatrist


about my depression, and he thinks it is a bad idea. To drink?


drink at all. Because it's depressive. It is interesting, see,


because since we started to do this There's a place for rules and


regulations, and the government has to get them right. But we need to


look to ourselves. If you can't take at least two days off a week,


you might just have a problem. I feel my own relationship with


alcohol is secure. But I've probably just traded one addiction


for another. I didn't start running till I


It's true that when I get into something, I do tend to really get


into it. I think I found another addiction. But it was an addiction


Alastair Campbell meets some of the increasing number of Britain's middle-class professionals for whom one glass of wine after work is never enough, and asks if we all need to reassess our relationship with drink.

Alastair, Tony Blair's former closest adviser, knows from bitter experience the true cost of excessive boozing: his alcoholism contributed to his nervous breakdown.

With nearly 9,000 people dying from alcohol-related diseases every year and leading medical experts describing it as a health crisis, Campbell ventures into the world of Britain's hidden alcoholics and asks how much is too much.

Download Subtitles