I definitely don’t want to come across as a prohibitionist, a nanny lecturing adults about the evil of alcohol. For those who drink socially and enjoy the experience, that’s fine by me. There should be no confusion between the treatment of alcoholism and drinking alcohol in general. If John Barleycorn is your social friend, a la votre! If John Barleycorn is slowly killing you, though, we can help. Most people think of alcohol as a social beverage, because they’ve never had a problem with alcohol and don’t understand people who “can’t hold their drink” – however, alcohol is more than a social lubricant.
It’s been theorized that the stigma placed on alcoholism is partly because normal drinkers don’t want one of their only legal pleasures restricted. We all hear in the news about the harmful effects of sugar, cigarettes, fried chicken, etc. — and even sex can cause diseases. So, it’s understandable when there’s pushback when someone starts warning about alcoholism. What? I can’t even have a beer without worrying about addiction and liver disease? I also understand that for around 8-10% of the people who drink alcohol it becomes a problem. It helps to discuss alcoholism and get the facts out — this only clarifies the misconceptions and avoids confusion. Discussion of alcoholism has nothing to do with social drinking or enjoying a few beers watching football or just lounging around a pool relaxing. These are two separate things, so hopefully the stigma will vanish and we can deal with alcoholism responsibly.
You can easily look up the statistics on alcoholism. Alcoholism is a serious health problem and a drain on our economy. In order to fully understand that alcohol is more than a social lubricant, it helps to realize that chemically speaking alcohol is a drug. If we just discovered alcohol today, you’d have to have a prescription to buy it. Alcohol is simply the drug we chose as a society to sell legally without a prescription (not counting the years of Prohibition). Morphine was once sold over the counter, but all such drugs are now regulated so that prescriptions are necessary, except alcohol (marijuana in some states, now, although with greater restrictions).
Alcohol when used in excess over a long period of time does more damage to the body than narcotics you have to buy with a prescription. Just because the great majority of people can drink responsibility with no negative consequences doesn’t mean that alcohol is just a social beverage — to the alcoholic, alcohol is poison. It changes the structure of the brain and creates an insane obsession over time. I don’t really think that alcoholism throws a damper on the enjoyment people find in alcohol — it’s a separate subject about a health issue, sans moral judgment. My main concern is that with all the damage caused by alcoholism, the medical response and the social concern are totally inadequate, but that’s another subject for another day.