Not surprisingly, the Charles Kennedy crisis has prompted an endless stream of articles on "How to tell if you are drinking too much". There is nothing quite as unsatisfactory as the inevitable attached questionnaire. Even the famous CAGE test - C: have you ever felt you should Cut down on your drinking? A: have people Annoyed you by criticising your drinking? G: have you ever felt Guilty? E: Have you ever had an Eye-opener (drink) first thing? - seems too wishy-washy by far.
I accept that the drink-in-the-morning question is pretty telling, as is the one about getting annoyed, but answer yes to the C and G questions, and that already puts you officially in the at-risk bracket, which surely can't be right.
It seems to me that there is a far more effective questionnaire to test potentially dangerous drinking - HAZARDOUS, which I am happy for the authorities to pick up on and use as they see fit.
H is for Hangovers. If you find yourself having these frequently enough to start lying about them (preferring to blame food poisoning, flu or a night of insomnia) it's not a good sign.
A is for late-night Arguments and Anger. As my GP says, you know you have a problem if you keep getting into fights in the wee small hours. About anything.
Z is for Zigzagging. Obvious one, this, but worth pointing out that bouncing off the parked cars as you walk home from a party suggests more than high spirits.
A is for getting irrationally Annoyed about other people's drinking. The less secure people are about their own drinking, the more they tend to vilify alcoholics.
R is for Ribena. Are you buying it, and cans of Coca-Cola, purely for those parched morning-afters when nothing else will do? Do you sometimes breakfast on Coca-Cola because it's the only thing you can cope with?
D is for Driving. When was the last time you drove after a night out? Is it, in fact, not possible for you to go out, drink, and stay under the limit?
O is for Ohmigod - where did I leave the keys/wallet/crucial confidential file/kiddies' presents that I was entrusted to deliver and then must have left in a bar somewhere?
U is for Unkempt. Three tell-tale signs that you are in trouble: you are wearing last night's clothes; you keep mouthwash/ mints in your house, your car and your office; you never get around to making your bed.
S is for Sex. Was that really such a good idea?
See? So much more to the point.