The results of the Global Drug Survey 2020 are in, and one big – but entirely unsurprising – takeaway is that 70 percent of respondents regretted getting drunk over the last 12 months.
In the UK – the country that gave us Cheeky Vimtos, “Peak Booze” and 7,551 alcohol-specific deaths in 2018 – we’ve often worn drinking shame like poppies on our chest. Was it really a Proper Night Out if you remember getting home?
While a health-savvy Generation Z is showing encouraging signs of bucking the trend, drinking regrets will surely continue to cloud many of our stinking mornings, afternoons and Suicide Tuesdays. I’ve personally weaved a rich tapestry of these horrors over the years, so dived into the recent Global Drug Survey stats and, with the assistance of some high-functioning drinkers, compiled an A to Z rundown of alcohol-related laments.
Anxiety is now so twinned with hangovers that “hangxiety” has surely usurped the 1990s’ “alcopop” as the most relatable alcohol-related portmanteau. Research from 2018 suggested that bone-crunching hangxiousness could be related to increased SAD (social anxiety disorder), while 55 percent of English Global Drug Survey respondents reported increased anxiety after a night getting battered.
See also: Aggression
While it might be a convenient excuse for repeatedly calling your married boss “Señor Sexy Bum” at the Christmas party, getting blackout drunk is fraught with physical dangers – especially for women, who are more prone to the effects of alcohol.
See also: Beer fear, Beer goggles, Barred
Actions, famously, have consequences. Case in point: consuming two bottles of Deliveroo’d wine on a Tuesday night is going to have a detrimental effect on the rest of your week. However, research from 2018 suggests that high-risk young adult drinkers – mostly male in that specific sample – actually do not regret their “bad” post-drinking experiences. Which is… troubling.
See also: Cirrhosis
In 2020’s Global Drug Survey, 22.3 percent of respondents said that using other drugs was a regretted consequence of drinking.
In the era of social media dealers and drugs arriving faster than pizza, cocaine is a particularly conductive lightning rod for regret, with supposedly quiet nights concluding with you sweating in bed, trying to ignore your clattering heart as the ever-brightening sky pokes through your curtains.
See also: “Drunchies”
Photo: Bob Foster
E IS FOR EMESIS
While writing this article I asked about vomming on two Facebook groups and my Instagram. Turns out loads of you have hurled while drinking, and – no surprises here, given the British drinking mentality – they were generally recounted following these metrics: 60 percent shame, 20 percent humour, 20 percent pride.
See also: Expensive taxis
Fear of missing out (FOMO) was a regretted drinking-related behaviour among 15.8 percent of the Global Drug Survey respondents. Research from 2018 on college students from New Zealand found that people with higher levels of FOMO experienced more negative alcohol-related experiences, while a number of studies have highlighted the connection between excessive social media use and FOMO.
Don’t want to be tempted into drinking? Keep your phone off, apparently.
See also: Fighting
Drinking guilt, a spiritual sibling of hangxiety, can stem from many tangible things – cancelling a Sunday lunch Zoom with your mum; smoking cigarettes again; spending too much money on effectively poisoning yourself; sleeping with a friend – or something harder to define.
“When I got drunk, I would frequently wake with a sense of guilt,” says one former drinker. ”Not necessarily because anything bad happened, but because my night was foggy. I worried I did something to make a fool of myself, but couldn’t remember.”
See also: Gassy
Hangovers are a bit like old lovers: some make you sad, some are actually weirdly quite nice, some prevent you from ever getting out of bed.
See also. Hatred (self)
A 2012 study in the British Medical Journal found that 27 percent of 18 to 24-year-olds had injured themselves while drunk. Climbing up that scaffolding is a surefire way to end up in A+E, with a hangover and the prospect of a demoralising chat with your parents about your life choices.
See also: Idiocy
JUMPING OFF, INTO OR UNDER THINGS
See also: Jackass (being a)
One recent study of American students found that alcohol increased the likelihood of giving into unhealthy food cravings from 27 percent to 57 percent. This might go some way to explaining why you consistently go back to that takeout that always, always makes you shit yourself.
A 3,000-person survey conducted by the Laguna Treatment Centre rehab clinic in America found that drinkers lost $192.55 (£140) of possessions per year while drunk. But it wasn’t an even spread: North Dakota, which had the country’s highest binge-drinking rates in 2018, had the highest average loss, at $380 (£278).
The 2019 Global Drug Survey found that the UK was the world’s biggest binge-drinking nation, with respondents getting drunk an average of 51 times a year, as opposed to the global average of 33. Moral of the story for the active British drinker? Don’t skip the insurance.
See also: Lost wallet, Lost dignity, Lost brain cells, got Lost somewhere in south London
Of the Global Drug Survey’s respondents, 38.6 percent cited mixing drinks as a regretted drunk behaviour. While we don’t know conclusively that “mixing drinks” gives you a worse hangover than sticking to one tipple, some German research from 2019 refuted the old souse’s tale that the order in which you drink beer or wine has an effect on one’s hangover. It makes zero difference! Drinking a lot of anything just makes you feel shit!
See also: Maggot drunk
Photo: Bob Foster
NOT EATING BEFORE DRINKING
There’s something inherently infantilising about having to tell your flatmate that you “just forgot to eat” as you turn away from the delicious and depressingly thoughtful weekend brunch they’ve prepared because the smell of the eggs is making you wretch.
See also: Not calling it a night when you should
I once started performatively crying among a large group of amused friends when the DJ played “Where Is The Love” in my local Luminar nightclub, IKON. The reason? My then-girlfriend was going to university the next day. That, friends, is a decades-long drinking regret of mine, and an early example of the softboi genre.
You can broadly scythe humanity into one very large camp – those who have zero stories about drunk-pissing in non-lavatorial environments, like beds or cupboards. or on TV sets or in boyfriend’s parents’ bedrooms – and one much tinier but far more entertaining camp: those who have several.
QUITTING DURING LOCKDOWN
Not a regret, but Q is hard, so have this instead.
While The Lancet released a study in October expressing concern about the lockdown’s effect on high-risk drinkers and recovering alcoholics, data from Nielsen showed that the volume of booze consumed in the UK between the 23rd of March and the 11th of July, 2020 was 1.3 billion litres, compared to 2 billion for the same period in 2019. The Wine and Spirit Trade Association also reported that British drinkers drank 10 percent less beer and 5 percent less wine in 2020 until October.
“Lockdown gave me a chance to step away from the culture of social and workplace drinking,” says Clive. “And I could just do it quietly without making a big deal about it.”
There is plenty of research linking alcohol to risky sexual behaviours – from anal intercourse to inconsistent condom use. The conversation around consent, alcohol and sex is thankfully becoming more prevalent, but it’s still a fraught area.
“It’s my biggest regret,” says Tizzie. “Waking up in someone’s bed, unsure if we had sex, or protected sex, if it was good, or if it was consensual or sexual assault... then trying to figure out where my clothes are and how to get home.”
Three minutes to last orders, solo Uber booked and you’ve just ordered tequilas. You’re still wincing on the lemon as the driver arrives, while the realisation begins to set in that you’ve never wasted £18 in such a short amount of time.
UNDER THE TABLE
See also: UTI
Talking out of your proverbial litter tray is both the gift and the curse of alcohol use; 42.1 percent of Global Drug Survey respondents revealed that saying something unusual was a regretted drunken behaviour. “I always tell people my truths and give my thoughts on matters they perhaps don’t want,” says Michael. “I’ll then over-analyse everything the next day. That’s an insane fear-giver.”
See also: Vodka (straight)
WISHING YOU WERE DEAD
It’s 5PM. You’re still in bed, heroically unclean. Your parents are arriving in an hour and you have eaten precisely three Bacon Fries and half a satsuma – all of which now float, undigested, somewhere out at sea. It’s the first week out of lockdown and they’re taking you to dinner because they’re worried you haven’t been eating. You think, right then, lying with the curtains shut, head still underwater, that, actually, you wish you were dead.
See also: Walk of shame
Photo: Bob Foster
A 2019 study by alcohol education charity Drinkaware found that 61 percent of drinkers over-indulged over the Christmas season. While returning like a triumphant astronaut to your local on Christmas Eve was one of the great joys of the pre-COVID cosmos, having to skip lunch the next day because you couldn’t control yourself is one of its unrivalled shames.
‘YEAH, GO ON THEN’
35.6 percent of Global Drug Survey respondents said they regretted hitting the booze with Big Drinkers. Historically, I would be categorised as a Big Drinker, and am therefore well-versed in the unenthusiastic and rueful, “Yeah, go on then” uttered by a Normal Drinker when you’ve just suggested 3-for-2 shots. Sorry, everyone.
According to the British Liver Trust, deaths due to liver disease have risen by over 400 percent since 1970. Thankfully, Gen Z is rolling their eyes at their Britpop-adoring, Trainspotting-quoting parents and putting health – and online image – before hangovers.
While 21 percent (1.3 million) of 16 to 24-year-olds used an illegal drug in 2019/20, drinking was on a downward curve pre-coronavirus: in a 2018 10,000-person survey, the number of those who had never drunk alcohol rose from 18 percent to 29 percent since 2015. Let’s raise a glass of low ABV lager to a future free of hangover horror shows.
See also: Zoom-drunk