Drinking and Drugging

This is an interesting contribution to the debate on drugs be they legal or illegal and alcohol. The point is made very clearly that “We too often forget that alcohol can be as destructive as any pill.”

The platform for the debate in this article is the death of Whitney Houston. This article took me back to the days I was a bartender in the lounge at Pensacola Beach, Florida owned by the Tiki Motel. I was working the day shift when a couple of customers came in towards the end of my shift celebrating who knows what. One customer ended up drinking more than a couple of rounds of a drink called a Moscow Mule which was equal parts of Vodka and Kalura. At some point his buddy took him upstairs to put him to bed where he later rolled on his back and died in his own puke.

“….No. By many accounts, Houston also drank. More than a little. In fact one early, leading theory about the cause of her death, which won’t be known until toxicology tests are finished, was that a mix of prescription drugs and alcohol did her in.

But while the drugs leapt immediately to the foreground, with questions raised about which doctors and pharmacies had provided them, the alcohol receded from focus, as it too often does. Wrongly, perilously, we tend not to attribute the same destructive powers to it that we do to powders, capsules and vials….”

Then again: “…That’s not to mention all the injuries, emergency-room visits, disabilities and missed work days. Brewer calculates that for those reasons and others, heavy drinking costs the United States about $224 billion annually.

“There is a huge societal burden that we’re all bearing,” he said.

But is there a commensurate societal concern?

States have raised the legal drinking age to 21 over recent decades, and there has definitely been extensive public education about drinking and driving.

But I can’t recall much alarm about drinking’s other perils. From antismoking ads, I have pictures of blackened lungs and amputated fingers seared into my memory. From antidrug ads, I remember an egg in a skillet as a metaphor for a brain on amphetamines. Where’s the analogous image for the ravages of too much booze?

And where are the taxes? Many studies have shown that pricing is a surefire way to control consumption, and taxes on tobacco have risen accordingly, so much so that in New York, a pack of cigarettes now costs upward of $10.

But excise taxes on alcohol have gone down over the last few decades, when adjusted for inflation and measured in terms of the percentage they represent of the wholesale and retail price of a bottle or a can. The federal government and many states long ago set those levies in terms of a certain dollar amount per gallon — and then didn’t tweak them much as the cost of living went up.

Because Congress last revised excise taxes on distilled spirits in 1991, the real value of those taxes has declined more than 35 percent, said Alexander Wagenaar, a professor at the University of Florida’s College of Medicine who specializes in alcohol research….”

For the entire article Drinking and Drugging

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