Binge drinking has been synonymous with a big night out in boozy Britain for decades. But data collected from paramedics who pick up the pieces from the most severe cases suggest that London may be getting over its love of inebriated excess.
London’s relationship with alcohol is part of its history and culture. From Hogarth’s hellish 18th century depiction of Gin Lane to rowdy groups swaying and shouting through the West End on the average Saturday night, drink has been a feature of life in the capital.
The latest figures from the London Ambulance Service show that in the 12 months to January 2015 they dealt with 31,000 incidents of alcohol poisioning caused by binge drinking. That’s a fall of 7% year on year and continues a slow but steady downward trend of the past 4 years.
In some boroughs the fall is much sharper. Call outs are down by 25% in Redbridge. Sutton, Waltham Forest, Hammersmith and Fulham, and Greenwich have all seen falls of 20% or more. The call out figures are down in 26 of the capital’s 33 boroughs.
It’s a different story in Barking and Dagenham where there has been a 15% rise in ambulance call outs for drinking. Hounslow, Hillingdon, Havering, Richmond and Brent have also seen a rise in the number of incidents.
Dealing with binge drinking is a huge draw on ambulance service resources. At the same time there has been a sharp rise in emergency calls for heroin and cocaine overdoses. In the last year there were 700 calls. But alcohol is still the so-called recreational drug that takes up the bulk of the time of hard-pressed ambulance crews.
Note: The figures are based on retrospective reports by paramedics/ambulance staff and 999 call handlers who defined a call out as binge-drinking related. Incidents involving people over 40 are not captured in this data.