It was a Packers game, and the alcohol flowed, per usual.
When my buddies and I exited to the parking lot, we realized our designated driver had fallen off the wagon, and hard. He staggered toward his vehicle, fumbling with the keys, muttering — you get the picture.
We made it clear he was unfit to drive and that someone sober (yours truly) should have the wheel, but alcohol makes many people stupid. So, he lumbered into the driver’s seat and, with slurred speech, yelled at us to get in. We refused, prompting him to speed off, cursing.
Thankfully, all involved returned home safely. But that’s often not the case.
According to the World Health Organization, alcohol kills about 3 million souls every year, mostly men. The damage doesn’t stop there.
Crime, domestic violence, accidents, health issues, job loss, families torn asunder — the list is long and disturbing. One example? Over 40 percent of violent criminals committed their offenses while under the influence.
The carnage wrought by alcohol eclipses that of all other psychoactive drugs combined (yes, booze is a drug). Yet, the failed “war on drugs” focuses on less destructive compounds humans use to self-medicate.
Do some folks drink responsibly? You bet, but even moderate drinking is far from harmless. A large study from the University of Washington shows as little as two drinks four or more times a week increases your risk of premature death by 20%, regardless of your age.
Previous research extolling the cardiovascular benefits of moderate alcohol consumption ignored other detrimental impacts, including an elevated risk of cancer. So, in terms of damage to personal health and societal well-being, alcohol is the most dangerous drug. Period.
Now, many folks don’t want to hear that. Alcohol is popular and it’s big business, prompting many to ignore its perils and, instead, misdirect their concern to drugs like marijuana, LSD, cocaine and heroin.
Yes, these substances do their share of damage, particularly with young people, but when it comes to illicit drugs, most of the havoc stems from treating their use as a criminal justice issue rather than a public health challenge. And if you evaluate all potential drugs of abuse based on toxicity, lethality and damage to individuals, families and society, marijuana is the least harmful, but still illegal in many states, including Wisconsin.
Booze is frequently pitched in advertising, including to young people, heralding it as a source of pleasure, coolness and camaraderie. No other drug with this level of toxicity and risk potential is legally promoted over mass media.
No, I’m not advocating prohibition, but many of our ill-informed leaders continue to wage war on the wrong enemies and in a manner guaranteed to fail. Ignorant ideas die hard in government, and legislating based on the fallacy that alcohol is less dangerous than other psychoactive drugs is proof of that.
Perhaps our lawmakers should contemplate this quote about booze from Shakespeare’s Othello:
“I would not put a thief in my mouth to steal my brains.”