Thursday, November 4, 2010

Study schmudy...

A recent study performed in England discovered that booze does more harm to humans than do drugs. I hope the Brits did not spend millions of pounds on this one. The United Kingdom recently announced some serious cutbacks in almost every social program across the nation, and in this case, the researchers could have gone to any Alcoholics Anonymous meeting in the world and probably come up with the same findings.

Here’s the deal: Heroin, crack cocaine, crystal meth and methamphetamines may be more lethal to individual users than alcohol, but the latter so suffuses families and societies as a whole that the harm done to groups trumps that caused by other chemicals. And since alcohol has a negative effect on every organ in the body from the skin in, the liver, brain, kidneys, the stomach and digestive track, all take a hit. Continued use, as they say, leads at best to the emergency room and at worst to the grave or the asylum.  Even if the disease is caught in time, unless it is professionally supervised, alcohol withdrawal can be fatal, which can’t be said of any other drug withdrawal.

The study also found that alcohol is connected to higher death rates and is involved in more crime and fatalities than any other drug, because drunks do stupid things. They drive and kill people; they hunt and kill people; they get mad and kill people; they get depressed and kill people… And of course hospitals spend unreimbursed millions of dollars treating end stage alcoholics, even as clinics and community-run rehabs are the first to lose funding when budgets run low.

Is there a solution? No, not really. Prohibition failed, and future attempts to ban alcohol will never succeed. Drinking is a part of social mores, and the alcohol lobby is easily as powerful as the NRA. Additionally, it would be completely unfair to remove from society something that gives harmless pleasure to a majority even as it may be fatal to a minority. Education makes a difference, and the acceptance of alcoholism as a disease that is treatable may, in the long run, mitigate the effects. More studies are unnecessary. Most of us know where alcohol abuse leads and many of us come from disintegrated families that were victimized by drunks.

Now a lot of us simply don’t drink, and in this way at least try to stay sane, connected and useful. It’s a small number, probably no higher than one or two percent of the people who shouldn’t drink, but it’s a start…

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