Functioning Alcoholics – When Did You Last Break the Law?

Having read that headline, you’re probably casting your mind back right now. You’re racking your brain. You’re trying to pinpoint exactly when it was all those years ago that you got that parking penalty. Or when was it that you were sent a strong letter by TV Licensing threatening you with prosecution and a fine of up to £1000? (Yikes!).

If you are a functioning alcoholic (an educated, financially secure professional), and your regular alcohol consumption is above the recommended amount*, chances are that you break the law more often than you think – especially if you drive regularly.

According to Government guidelines, the current recommended limits are 21 units of alcohol a week for men, and 14 units a week for women. A unit is roughly half-a-pint of beer or cider, a small glass of wine, or a single pub measure of spirits.
Alcohol-related crime stats
At its simplest, alcoholism-related crime usually involves two parties: the perpetrator and the victim. But the misery caused by alcoholism-related crime can be incredibly far-reaching. As a direct or indirect consequence of a crime being committed, marriages can break up, kids can end up in care, jobs can be lost, homes repossessed, people can find themselves in a mountain of debt (that they could never hope to pay off), personal and professional reputations can be ruined… the list is virtually endless, and all because an individual (or in some instances, more than one person) drank too much alcohol – it really can be as plain as that.


An alcohol-related crime is when, somewhere, alcohol has played a role in someone committing an offence. Some typical examples include:

  • Aggressive/Anti-Social behaviour in public places (both indoor and outdoor)
  • Reckless driving (and other driving offences, which can sometimes lead to fatalities)
  • Being the aggressor in a neighbourly dispute (as a single isolated incident; or a long- running feud)
  • Vandalism and other types of criminal damage to property
  • Attacks on members of the emergency services
  • Theft
  • Rape, and
  • Murder

About drink driving
At the end of the day, alcohol is a mind altering substance; that makes it extremely dangerous when consumed to excess. With Christmas drawing ever closer, the police and other emergency services are once again preparing themselves for a sharp increase in road accidents and other traffic offences where drivers have drunk too much wine, beer and/or spirits at Christmas parties, e.g.

Which brings us to this question: How long should you leave it ‘from bottle to throttle’? That is: when should you drive after drinking? When is it safe to do so?

There is no definitive answer to this. When seeking to control your drinking (and your related alcohol-fuelled behaviour), it isn’t about how much you drink, but about how the quantity you drink impacts upon you. If a single glass of wine slows your reflexes and blurs your vision, it is hardly a good idea to climb behind the wheel of a car (a potential death machine) in that state, is it?

According to DrinkAware.com, alcohol’s effect varies from person to person, and can depend upon your:

  • weight
  • gender (men tend to process alcohol faster than women)metabolism
  • current stress levels
  • whether you’ve eaten recently
  • age (younger people tend to process alcohol more slowly)

Across the UK, people are drinking more and more
Thousands of moderate (‘social’) drinkers are increasing their regular alcohol consumption. Rather than enjoying alcohol, they are abusing it. It is perhaps surprising then that over the past three decades accidents on the roads caused by drink driving have gradually decreased. In 2011, 250 people in this country died in alcohol-caused road accidents. In 1980, that figure was closer to 1000.

Nevertheless, road accidents caused by drink drivers (and other crimes where alcohol has played a significant role) is still a massive drain on police budgets and resources. For anyone who drinks, the key thing to remember is that even small amounts of alcohol can affect your ability to drive, so the only safe advice is:

If you are planning to drive,  AVOID ALCOHOL ALTOGETHER

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