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Alcohol in America: A historical, self-destructive enigma

alcohol


Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise. (Proverbs)

FOUNDING FATHERS

“There can not be good living, where there is not good drinking.” (Ben Franklin)

FACTS

“Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.” (John Adams)


◊ The early colonists in America drank over 3 times more alcohol per year than current Americans.  

  • Thomas Jefferson was absorbed in wine production/consumption.
  • George Washington got wealthy operating the nation’s larges whiskey distillery at Mount Vernon.
  • John Adams was considered the heaviest drinker of all the Founding Fathers: starting each day of morning-to-night drinking with a pre-breakfast glass of liquor.
  • Ben Franklin wrote a dictionary listing 200 different terms for being drunk.

The Daily Meal, 6/27/14. “The surprising drinking habits of our Founding Fathers” 


◊ Thomas Jefferson wrote part of the Declaration of Independence as he sat in a Philadelphia bar where he regularly drank: the Indian Queen Tavern.


◊ Two-thirds of all adults in the US average 4 alcoholic drinks per week.
Gallup, 8/17/12. Saad, Lydia. “Majority in US drink alcohol averaging 4 drinks per week” 


◊ Primary reasons why people drink alcohol include: to medicate themselves, to relieve stress, avoid social isolation, and deal with peer pressure.
West Virginia University School of Public Health. “Alcohol Awareness – Why people drink”


◊ There are 88,000 alcohol-related deaths annually: the 4th leading cause of preventable death in the US.  The average person whose death was alcohol-related, shortened their life by 30 years.
Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 7/25/16. “Alcohol and Your Health” 


◊ 40% of violent crimes each year, involved alcohol use by the offender, including 183,000 rapes and sexual assaults.
National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence. “The role of alcohol in crime”


◊ Alcohol is a major factor in 90% of the one-million+ cases of child abuse each year.
Livestrong.com, 9/04/15. Green, Martin “Alcohol and child abuse” 


◊ Regular alcohol use in the home increases the likelihood of divorce by 20%.
Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 1/4/15. Cacas, Harford, Williams, Hannah. 


◊ Alcohol use kills more teenagers each year than all illegal drugs combined.
MADD, “Statistics”.


◊ The alcohol industry’s gross INCOME is $220 billion annually. Alcohol use COSTS the national economy $249 billion per year in lost/unnecessary goods, services, healthcare, and litigation.
Statista, 9/8/16. “Facts on the alcoholic beverages industry”
Center for Disease Control. “Fact Sheet: Alcohol and your Health”. 


◊ The sale of ALL illegal drugs in the US grosses $100 billion annually.
Rand Corporation, 2014. Kilmer, B. “How big is the US market for illegal drugs?”


◊ Alcohol is a leading cause of over 200 diseases and injury conditions.
World Health Organization, January 2015 “Alcohol – Key Facts”


◊ And yet… heavy alcohol consumption in the US has INCREASED by 17% in the last 10 years!
Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, “Heavy Drinking and Binge Drinking Rise Sharply in US Counties”


SUMMARY

Despite unarguable proof regarding its devastating effects on human life and the economy, America’s fatal attraction to alcohol has continued unabated since before our nation was established. Alcohol use crosses all social, religious, economic, political, and racial lines. Habitual alcohol consumption has become so accepted and integrated into America’s cultural fabric, that our citizens seem oblivious to: the moral hypocrisy it encourages, the social damage it wreaks, and the physiological/psychological threat it poses to our nation’s future.  

POSSIBLE SOLUTION

Cigarette smoking in the US did not really decrease until its serious health threats were taken up as a national crusade, and tobacco users were essentially scared into abstaining. Short of that situation occurring with alcohol consumption, it’s hard to envision a moral campaign for abstinence that would have any more success than the failed Prohibition laws of a hundred years ago.  

Brief #18A – October 28, 2016

Alcohol in America infographic

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