THE POISON GARDEN website      Arum maculatum berries on a Cannabis leaf 


This free script provided by JavaScript Kit

Pontifications on Poison

Being some ramblings on events associated with poisonous plants.

Tuesday 2nd August 2011

BBC TV’s current affairs programme, ‘Panorama’, tonight reported on the extent of alcohol related illness in the under 50s. It quoted a variety of statistics about alcohol use such as liver disease being the fifth biggest killer in the UK and that liver disease in under 30s has increased 50% in just ten years.

What struck me was that when statistics were quoted a small graphic at the bottom of the screen gave the source. I don’t know if I’m just sensitised to it because of all the recent talk about the trustworthiness of the media but it seemed to me a good move to reassure people that the programme wasn’t pulling numbers out of the air for dramatic effect.

It’s leaping ahead but the conclusion of the programme was that it seems possible that the government is too close to the alcohol industry for real action to be taken to change our habits.

As with all such TV, the programme picked a few stories to tell about the effects of drink and with over one million hospital attendances each year for alcohol related problems there must have been plenty to choose from. Easily the most-heartrending story was of the mother who is forced to watch her 35-year old daughter destroy herself because her heavy-drinking as a teen did not moderate itself into adulthood and she faces total liver failure.

It is six years, now, since I drank any alcohol. I was never a ‘problem’ drinker but I realised that I could not speak about the harms plant-derived substances can do while continuing to use one of the most common myself. I hope I haven’t become an evangelical non-drinker but I do believe that every drinker has to have a change of attitude in order to benefit the heaviest drinkers.

I don’t think there is anything funny about drunkenness and I believe that it should be as repugnant to depict drunkenness in comedy as it is, these days, to depict racism. There should also be a break between the idea of celebration and drink. Personally, I’d like the government to go so far as to stop serving alcohol during government hospitality events but that may be rather too radical at the moment.

Panorama showed some footage of a typical A & E unit on a busy night when nearly every case had some connection with alcohol. It reminded me of one of the first talks I gave outside the Poison Garden. It was to a group of anaesthetists and, talking before the start, one of them was saying he’d just come from a day shift in A & E. He’d been asked to assist in twelve cases, that day. Eleven were alcohol related and the twelfth was a drug mule whose packets of heroin had burst in her stomach.

Artemisia absinthium, wormwood

Artemisia absinthium, wormwood

The scientific world is clearly getting to grips with the reality of the harm that alcohol can do. In the latest edition of ‘Addiction’ journal, for example, there is more coverage of alcohol than cocaine and heroin combined. The rest of the world needs to catch up and stop blaming other things for the harm alcohol does. I am sure that the harm attributed to absinthe comes not from the extracts of Artemisia absinthium, wormwood, but from its high alcohol content.

I said that it is time to take the comedy out of alcohol. In 1973, Michael Green in ‘The Art of Coarse Drinking’ defined a drinker as someone who wakes up the morning after downing a dozen gins and tonic feeling dreadful and concludes there must have been something wrong with the tonic. It was funny then but now, I believe, it is a serious indication of the problems we face in dealing with our dependence on alcohol. We have to stop thinking that alcohol is all right and the only trouble comes when people ‘overdo it a bit’.


Full Entries


Tuesday 25th October 2016
Saturday 20th August 2016
Sunday 6th March 2016
Wednesday 3rd February 2016


Saturday 28th November 2015
Friday 27th November 2015
Monday 17th August 2015
Wednesday 15th July 2015
Friday 26th June 2015
Thursday 25th June 2015
Thursday 30th April 2015
Wednesday 29th April 2015
Wednesday 11th March 2015
Tuesday 3rd March 2015
Saturday 28th February 2015
Sunday 22nd February 2015

November 2014

Monday 24th November 2014
Saturday 8th November 2014

October 2014

September 2014

Wednesday 24th September 2014
Monday 1st September 2014

August 2014

Tuesday 26th August 2014
Saturday 16th August 2014
Tuesday 5th August 2014
Friday 1st August 2014

July 2014

Sunday 27th July 2014
Wednesday 23rd July 2014
Sunday 13th July 2014
Sunday 6th July 2014
Tuesday 1st July 2014

June 2014

Wednesday 25th June 2014
Tuesday 24th June 2014
Sunday 22nd June 2014
Monday 9th June 2014
Wednesday 4th June 2014

May 2014

Monday 26th May 2014
Sunday 18th May 2014
Wednesday 14th May 2014

April 2014

Sunday 13th April 2014
Saturday 5th April 2014
Thursday 3rd April 2014
Tuesday 1st April 2014

March 2014

Monday 31st March 2014
Tuesday 25th March 2014
Friday 21st March 2014
Monday 17th March 2014
Sunday 16th March 2014
Tuesday 11th March 2014
Tuesday 11th March 2014
Thursday 6th March 2014
Wednesday 5th March 2014
Saturday 1st March 2014

February 2014

Thursday 27th February 2014
Monday 24th February 2014
Wednesday 19th February 2014
Monday 17th February 2014
Thursday 13th February 2014
Monday 4th February 2014
Monday 3rd February 2014
Saturday 1st February 2014

January 2014

Thursday 28th January 2014
Thursday 23rd January 2014
Friday 17th January 2014
Wednesday 15th January 2014
Monday 13th January 2014
Thursday 9th January 2014
Tuesday 7th January 2014
Wednesday 1st January 2014

December 2013

Monday 23rd December 2013
Friday 20th December 2013
Tuesday 17th December 2013
Friday 14th December 2013
Thursday 12th December 2013
Sunday 8th December 2013
Wednesday 4th December 2013
Sunday 1st December 2013

November 2013

Friday 29th November 2013
Wednesday 27th November 2013
Tuesday 26th November 2013
Friday 22nd November 2013
Monday 18th November 2013
Friday 15th November 2013
Thursday 14th November 2013
Sunday 10th November 2013
Thursday 7th November 2013
Wednesday 6th November 2013
Friday 1st November 2013

October 2013

Thursday 31st October 2013
Sunday 27th October 2013
Wednesday 23rd October 2013
Monday 21st October 2013
Friday 18th October 2013
Friday 11th October 2013
Wednesday 9th October 2013
Tuesday 8th October 2013
Monday 7th October 2013
Tuesday 1st October 2013

September 2013

Monday 30th September 2013
Saturday 28th September 2013
Friday 27th September 2013
Monday 23rd September 2013
Sunday 15th September 2013
Monday 9th September 2013
Tuesday 3rd September 2013
Sunday 1st September 2013

August 2013

Sunday 8th September 2013
Tuesday 3rd September 2013
Sunday 1st September 2013

Tuesday 27th August 2013
Sunday 25th August 2013
Monday 19th August 2013
Friday 16th August 2013
Tuesday 13th August 2013
Friday 9th August 2013
Friday 2nd August 2013
Thursday 1st August 2013

July 2013

Saturday 27th July 2013
Sunday 21st July 2013
Wednesday 17th July 2013
Monday 15th July 2013
Saturday 13th July 2013
Friday 12th July 2013
Thursday 11th July 2013
Wednesday 10th July 2013
Tuesday 9th July 2013
Saturday 6th July 2013

June 2013

Friday 28th June 2013
Tuesday 25th June 2013
Friday 21st June 2013
Thursday 20th June 2013
Wednesday 19th June 2013
Saturday 15th June 2013
Sunday 9th June 2013
Saturday 8th June 2013
Saturday 1st June 2013

May 2013

April 2013

March 2013

February 2013

January 2013

December 2012

November 2012

October 2012

September 2012

August 2012

July 2012 blog

June 2012 blog

May 2012 blog

April 2012 blog

March 2012 blog

February 2012 blog

January 2012 blog

December 2011 blog

November 2011 blog

October 2011 blog

September 2011 blog

August 2011 blog

July 2011 blog

June 2011 blog


The POISON GARDEN website is not connected with Alnwick Garden Enterprises Ltd and/or The Alnwick Garden Trust.