Alcohol's history has not been an easy one. Its
popularity is universal, but its damaging potential is familiar to everyone who
ever had a hangover.
Our relationship with booze colors our view of other drugs. Because it gives
us, as individuals and as groups, so much trouble, we automatically think that
other drugs will do the same. Which is very true in some cases, and not so true
in others. |
In moderation, alcohol is convivial enough. Because it reduces inhibitions and lowers defences, it's useful for bringing together groups of disparate people. A party without any drugs is acceptable, but a party without beer would be no party at all. But it is surprisingly easy to get very screwed up, very quickly.
Alcohol's prestige in Western culture has meant that, unlike other drugs, it has proved impossible to ban. Not that they haven't tried - the notorious Great Prohibition lasted a whole thirteen years before politicians had to admit it was a disaster. Unfortunately, the lessons learned from this debacle were never applied to other drugs, so the narcotics trade is now dogged by the same problems of public health, violent crime and corruption.
Health-wise, the main problem with alcohol is the dose in which we ingest it. Because we consume it in grams (instead of milligrams, as with most other drugs) it exists in our bodies in higher concentrations. When we drink, we consume empty calories, which have no nutritional value. A high concentration of alcohol in the bloodstream over a prolonged period, or frequent heavy drinking, is known to cause organ damage. This makes it potentially much more toxic than some so-called "hard drugs".
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