Here's my take on it; sometimes life in Britain felt so awful and crowded that getting absolutely off your face was the only sensible option. Had a bad day at work? Row with your best beloved? Boss on your case? Feel hemmed in? In debt? Your team lost? Weather awful? Depressed by all the moralisers and holier-than-thou timewaters, the Malvolio's of our society? - Have a couple of drinks to take the edge off your misery.
Sometimes you need more than a couple or simply forget to stop. It's sometimes the only way you can relax or escape from the ravages of life. Alcohol is a mood altering chemical after all.
Thinking about it, wanting to escape from Britain's dreary reality does seem like a good idea. Until the morning after of course. I remember my eldest's first real hangover when she turned 18, plenty of water, vitamin C and a little sugar helped after the painkillers took hold. Then we let her sleep the rest of the day.
Over here in BC no one seems to mind so long as you don't make a nuisance of yourself. They seem admirably free of that 'But what would the neighbours say' paranoia that plagues England. Even if the liquor stores over here are heavily regulated and controlled. Maybe that is it; the attitude of the people. Bar fights are not unknown here, but you rarely seem to get the mass aggro I've seen after the pubs close in the UK. The peer group structures are different, as is the attitude towards authority figures like the Police. Generally speaking, people are more relaxed, and don't feel the need to get off their faces.
Just my observation; but the reason the British have a history of over intoxication may be for one reason only; they feel they, individually speaking, haven't the ability to make a real difference in their lives. When you feel the restrictions are removed and you no longer feel threatened, the desire to drink alcohol is greatly reduced.
For me, I used to have a glass or two of wine or beer after a heavy shift on the streets just to take the edge off the day before hitting the keyboard, which might account for some of my more rabid blog entries. Since I moved over here to BC I have had the odd Whiskey, glass of wine or bottle of beer with friends, but for the most part, I've simply not felt the desire to imbibe as I once did.
Wouldn't it be ironic if the root causes of modern drunken debauch lay with the purveyors of moral panic and heads-up-their-arse puritan brigade themselves?