Tag Archives: alcohol

The Problems with Problem Drinking

alcohol drinksWhenever the topic of drinking laws or, more recently, marijuana laws comes up in my writing classes, I will hear a simple pronouncement against prohibition based on the historic Prohibition effected by the 18th Amendment. These students will say something like this: “More people drank during Prohibition than before or after.”

Of course, my highly knowledgeable freshmen have no evidence to back up this supposed fact. Perhaps since everyone in the movies based in those times (but not so much in moviesmadein those times) seems to be spending all their free time in a crowded speakeasy, they assume that everybody was slamming back the booze between the 18th and 21st Amendments. I typically point out that if the Sinclair Lewis novel Babbitt is any real indication, procuring alcohol was possible but far from easy in those days. They’re not impressed.

All of this is a long journey to introduce a new study on the significance of problem drinking in the United States.

Researchers from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism asked 36,000 adults during 2012 or 2013 about lifetime drinking habits, including current or within the past year. About 14 percent of adults were current or recent problem drinkers, or nearly 33 million nationally, and 30 percent almost 69 million had been at some point in their lives.

I’m neither a smoker nor a drinker, but I am continuously mystified at how our culture absolutely vilifies smoking, placing smokers perhaps one step up from those who waterboard nuns, while drinkers pretty much receive a pass on any blame.

The last time I checked, smoking did not have a connection with domestic violence, did not cause fatal automobile accidents, or otherwise immediately and significantly harm people other than the person lighting the cigarette. (Yes, I know about the second hand smoke research, but since the worst of that happens within families to children, none of the recent smoking restrictions have made much progress on that front.) Why then do we take smoking so seriously and make only passing criticism of all the bad stuff that alcohol does to our society?



Moderate Drinking is Good, No, It’s Bad

alcohol drinksDon’t you love it when the experts can’t seem to determine whether something will save our lives or kill us? Cholesterol has been one of these topics. Twenty years ago, it was just bad. Then it was good and bad cholesterol. And now researchers are leaning toward not particularly worrying about the LDL.

In recent years, a series of studies have suggested that moderate drinking might have some heart-friendly effects. Now a new study pushes back the other way, pointing out a correlation between moderate drinking in older people and damage to the heart.

“Moderate” drinking might harm your heart if you’re a senior citizen, a new study suggests.

And women appear to be at greater risk for alcohol-related heart damage than men, the researchers found.

“In an elderly population, increasing alcohol intake is associated with subtle alterations in heart structure and function, with women appearing more susceptible than men to the toxic effects of alcohol,” said lead researcher Dr. Alexandra Goncalves. She is a postdoctoral research fellow at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston.

So if this study has it right, then alcohol might prevent a heart attack until it causes one. I’m frankly not sure how to feel about that.

A couple of months back, I shared Steve Gaines’ six reasons why he doesn’t drink. Granted, this seventh reason not to drink might be overturned by some study showing that alcohol actually multiplies brain synapses, but I’m not going to bet on it.

The Earliest American Temperance Advocate?

Dr. Benjamin Rush was not only the most esteemed medical man in the earliest days of the United States, but he signed the Declaration of Independence. In 1790, Rush sounded one of the first calls against excessive alcohol consumption. Can you believe that in those days a non-drinking person couldn’t buy life insurance?

Check out Rush’s attempt to demonstrate the relative risks and rewards of various beverages. Will you opt for the “serenity of mind” offered by milk or “small beer,” or will you instead risk “melancholy, madness, despair” with a constant dosing of “Gin, Brandy, and Rum”? Dr. Rush would have you choose wisely.

Six Reasons Not to Drink Alcohol

What’s wrong with a glass of wine at dinner? Perhaps nothing. For every Biblical argument against the use of alcohol, there seems to be one that permits it.

By coincidence, I was thinking through this very question just yesterday. Then my pastor posted a link to this video. I cannot argue with Steve Gaines’ logic here.

You can disagree with Gaines and with me. The arguments can be made, but I would insist that the decisions on what we put into our body should be conscious and prayerfully considered decisions.