Drinkers in the UK get drunk more than any other nation in the world, findings from a global survey suggest.
Britons reported getting drunk an average of 51.1 times in a 12-month period – almost once a week – the report featuring 36 countries found.
On average, respondents said they got drunk 33 times in the last year. This number was 50 times in the US and 48 times in Canada. The rate was much lower in countries such as Chile, where they got drunk 16 times a year.
The Global Drug Survey, of more than 120,000 substance-users worldwide, also found that England has the highest rate of people having tried cocaine in the world.
In England, 74% of participants reported having used cocaine at some point in their lives, compared with 43% globally. Use of the drug in the past year among people from England who responded went up from 43% in 2018’s survey to 64% this year.
More than 70% of participants also said they would support a free-trade regulated cocaine market, with 85% of these individuals willing to pay more for the drug, on average 25% more.
Researchers based in London surveyed 5,670 people from England, 566 from Scotland and tens of thousands worldwide between 29 October and 30 December last year. The report did not provide a breakdown of the number of people surveyed in Northern Ireland and Wales.
Those behind the report believe it may be time to introduce guidelines on how to get drunk safely, which would reach binge drinkers who may view upper limits as “irrelevant”.
The study comes amid an overall downward trend of drinking levels in the UK, with abstention on the rise, particularly among young adults.
Prof Adam Winstock, the founder of the Global Drug Survey, said while more people were abstaining from alcohol, many of those who were drinking are doing so in a potentially harmful way.
He said: “We get told too much is bad, and it is, but current guidelines fail to accept the pleasure of intoxication and give little guide on the difference between being a little drunk and a lot drunk, and doing it three to four times a year versus weekly. We need to have that conversation.
“In the UK we don’t tend to do moderation, we end up getting drunk as the point of the evening.
“Until culture changes and we become more European and moderate in our drinking, we might have to bite the bullet and think about how to advise people to get drunk drinking less.”
Current NHS guidelines say there is no safe level of drinking and that men and women should not drink more than 14 units of alcohol a week on a regular basis – about six pints of beer. It is understood officials have no plans to amend advice at this stage.
English-speaking countries lead the way for how often their citizens get drunk, with the US, Canada and Australia closely following the UK at the top of the global rankings.
The report also highlighted the fact England had a high rate of cocaine use. It comes as 43% of respondents said they would like to use less cocaine next year, and 1.5% of 2018’s users sought emergency medical treatment after taking the drug, up from 1.1% in 2017.
Meanwhile, the number of hospital admissions in England for mental health disorders linked to cocaine use has almost trebled in the past decade, official figures show. NHS Digital data has shown that between 2017-18 there were 14,470 admissions where patients were experiencing mental and behavioural disorders due to use of cocaine. The number was up year on year, substantially higher than the 5,148 between 2007-08. The figures did not distinguish between powdered cocaine and crack cocaine.
The report also suggested that people would be willing to pay more for fair trade cocaine.
Harry Sumnall, a lecturer in mental health at the University of York, said: “There are also still health risks associated with cocaine use … It can be a harmful drug, especially when mixed with alcohol.
“[The idea of fair trade cocaine] stems from a lot of broader discussions around culpability and the ethics of using drugs. It is impossible to use drugs like cocaine because of the nature of the international market. It is impossible to use it without having a detrimental international impact.”
James Nicholls, the chief executive of Transform Drug Policy Foundation, said: “Not only is cocaine use growing in the UK, it is also becoming purer and cheaper. Meanwhile, producers continue to suffer because they operate completely outside of the law, including employment and trade law. They can only dream of fair trade arrangements.
“Not only has prohibition failed to stem demand, as this data clearly shows, it has created a violent and exploitative market. If we are to have any chance of getting a better deal for farmers and suppliers, we must first legally regulate the market in order to get it under some level of control.”