WTF? Drinking in Books

Oh my goodness, People in books drink so much it makes me shudder. Yes,I do drink and have been known to over indulge.

girls drinking in a club

Two or three women who are young and thin get together for a girls’ night and drink a couple of bottles of wine and then shots. How is it that no one ends up in an ambulance and only rarely does a character spend the night talking on the big white phone? Rarely does the drinking binge result in a pledge of temperance.

For example, several entries in Bridget’s  journal in BRIDGET JONES’ DIARY at the beginning of the book point to an over consumption of Alcohol Units:

“January 1,…. Alcohol Units 14 (but effectively covers 2 days has 4 hours of part was on New Year’s Day.)” (page 7, BRIDGET JONES DIARY by Helen Fielding Paperback edition (1999) from Penguin Books,

Two days later she reports a consumption of six units, by the next she reports five until (including that it is an improvement). She occasionally reports having consumed none or two.

Have you ever noticed that when you are reading about someone having wine or cocktails it seems like having one yourself would be a great idea? I have also seen this with friends who smoked while watching movies.

In health class in high school, umpteen years ago, we learned how much one could drink. Of course, by the time we were allowed to drink legally we all forgot those numbers.

I cringe at the amounts of alcohol ascribed to characters in books. I do drink though.

If people in books have to practice safe-ish sex, why are they allowed to practice unsafe drinking? After all, drinking too much is just as, or possibly more, dangerous than sex without a condom.


According to

Alcohol is a poison
It may not seem like it but alcohol is a poison and can sometimes have lethal consequences.
Your body can only process one unit of alcohol an hour. Drink a lot in a short space of time and the amount of alcohol in the blood can stop the body from working properly.
It can:
* slow down your brain functions so you lose your sense of balance.
* irritate the stomach which causes vomiting and it stops your gag reflex from working properly – you can choke on, or inhale, your own vomit into your lungs. 
* affect the nerves that control your breathing and heartbeat, stopping both.
* dehydrate you, which can cause permanent brain damage.
* lower the body’s temperature, which can lead to hypothermia.
* lower your blood sugar levels, so you could have seizures.


The British and US authorities recommend different “safe” amounts of alcohol per person per week:

In the UK:
The government advises that if you drink alcohol, there’s no safe level. The Chief Medical Officer’s (CMO) alcohol unit guidelines say both men and women shouldn’t regularly drink more than 14 units a week.   
The more alcohol you drink the greater the risk to your short and long-term health.   
Saving up your weekly units so you can drink them all on a Friday night is not the way to interpret the government’s advice.
If you do drink as much as 14 units a week it’s best to spread your intake evenly across the week. If you want to cut down your drinking the best way is to have several drink-free days a week.


In the US:

According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans,2 moderate alcohol consumption is defined as up to 1 drink per day for women and up to 2 drinks per day for men. Know that even if you drink within these limits, you could have problems with alcohol if you drink too quickly, have health conditions, or take medications. If you are pregnant or may become pregnant, you should not drink alcohol.

Heavy or at-risk drinking for women is the consumption of more than 3 drinks on any day or more than 7 per week, and for men it is more than 4 drinks on any day or more than 14 per week. This pattern of drinking too much, too often, is associated with an increased risk for alcohol use disorders. Binge drinking for women is having 4 or more drinks within 2 hours; for men, it is 5 or more drinks within 2 hours. This dangerous pattern of drinking typically results in a BAC of .08% for the average adult and increases the risk of immediate adverse consequences.


Now, this makes almost everyone I know, probably even me, seem to have an alcohol problem.  Maybe we all do and it is just that the societal norms differ from what science, and the government, recommend.

Perhaps this is why in contemporary romance novels sex without condoms (prior to testing and monogamy) has become the norm — after all that is pretty much accepted in science and society. But, still we have difference between society and science in regards to alcohol.

Plus, attitudes towards drinking and being drunk, have changed over time and differ across cultures. In the days before an understanding of bacteria and public hygiene, drinking water could kill you. But even then, it wasn’t as if people didn’t know it was not healthy to drink too much as this piece by Cruickshank, “The Gin Shop” (1829) shows.


In some cultures a drunk man is seen as an okay thing, but a woman is a “drunk,” sloppy, or something worse; for men it is a slight flaw, for women it is a moral and character failing.

Here’s what the US government calls a drink (with the proviso that common servings may be greater and that alcohol contents vary)


I highly recommend that we take note that we cannot drink as much as characters in books do without SERIOUS health risks, and danger to others. Heck I can’t even drink as much as my friends without being ill.

FMI on How much it is relatively safe to drink, and how to get help for yourself and others, here are the two sites I noted above: