mysteries of the universe

Why Do We Continue Drinking Alcohol? Because We Like Drinking Alcohol

It’s not exactly 100-proof scientific research, but here’s a handy way to explain to your roommates, spouse, or labradoodle why you stumble home at at 3 o’clock in the morning and knock over the lamp.

“Socialising with alcohol is fun and we should not pretend otherwise,” writes Suzy Dean. “We also shouldn’t fool ourselves into thinking that young adults won’t eventually discover this and want to do it themselves. There is a reason why a taste for alcohol is not specific to a single demographic in society; why it is not something we “grow out of” and why, no matter how many times the NHS warns of it detrimental effects, we won’t stop drinking the stuff. That’s because chatting with friends over a pint or a bottle of wine is an enjoyable cultural tradition: the fuel of conversation, intimacy and the exchange of ideas. We should be encouraging young adults to drink sensibly, but to do this we need to be honest. We do regularly drink more than the government’s daily recommendation of two pints or glasses of wine and there’s nothing wrong with that. There’s also nothing wrong with a drink to unwind, relax and forget about our stressful day at work. More people need to stand up and say this in order to combat the moralising of anti-alcohol campaigners.”

Or, as I like to call them: prudes.

But for all your teetotalers out there? Whether by choice or alcoholism? Stay strong. And pass the Patron, won’t you?

[Independent, via]

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  • EdWoody

    The phrase is “fool-proof.” Ironic, really.

  • Dallas David

    Never liked the taste of alcohol, although I have been commode-hugging drunk 3 times. Give me a steaming hot cup of java anytime with a bit of chocolate ice cream floating in it — works much better for me.

  • Vman455

    @EdWoody: I think the pun was on purpose.

  • hotone2me

    It is true our society place a heavy importance on drinking that is why it is such a grand spectacle when someone turns 21. But really, alcohol is a drug, a socially acceptable one no doubt. One that many people are struggling with. I don’t think it is appropriate for those out there who is in recovery to minimize the damage that this drug has caused them and others. Prude or not, it has some very negative side effects and let’s see it as a disease mind for those suffering from its control.

    It’s easy for those of us who are not addicts to minimize our encounter with this drug, but it is one and let’s start looking at it as such.

  • Ian

    Why do we continue drinking alcohol? Duh, because pot isn’t legal. Alcohol only dulls my motor skills but my brain stays pretty much at 100%. Only with pot does my body and mind BOTH truly relax.

  • Jeffree

    Pot = no calories unless you get the munchies.
    Alcohol= empty calories, often combined with over-eating.

    Compare the US attitude on alcohol to some European countries (e.g. Netherlands, Switzerland & France, etc.) where alcohol is often served with dinner, where parents seem to model appropriate drinking. Te.ens in many familes are allowed a glass of wine or a beer on occasion.

    In the US it seems like tee.ns learn to drink from each other, usually with beer/booze taken from mom or dad and smuggled! When the big 21 arrives, it’s free reign at the bars, no limits. Not a great system to teach about drinking responsably !

  • reason

    [email protected]Gorbeh: When they list 30% of all suicides, I wonder if they mean overdosing on alcohol or merely having alcohol in the system. The 60% of homicides number is a bit scary also. I drink a bit less than what would be considered moderate drinking.

    A relatively new study out found that moderate drinkers had the lowest risk of total mortality in middle aged and older adults compared to heavy drinkers and abstainers. Even after controlling for a number confounding variables the results held true that abstainers and heavy drinkers are at an elevated risk over moderate drinkers. The full text article can be found:

  • eagledancer

    Here’s a useful distinction in American English*–a “prude” and a “prig.” A prude is someone who insists you conform to his or her standards. A prig is someone who insists on conforming to his or her standards regardless of the social situation.

    Just so, if I tell you that you are not allowed to have alcohol because I think it’s wrong–I’m behaving as a prude. If I sip tea in a gay bar, thinking I’m superior to all the others around me with cocktails, then I’m a prig. As a prig, I’m not confronting them with the idea they shouldn’t be drinking, either.

    *British English can define “prig” as a thief.

  • Adam

    I feel like sometimes people subconsciously think that drinking is wrong and that the only way they can be validated is by having others drink with them, I think this is why there is such a cultural push to drink, almost as if something’s wrong with you if you’ve made it to eighteen without getting drunk at least once.

  • Robert from ATL

    Wow, I am amazed that I am not the only person who doesn’t drink. And no it isn’t for any moralistic reasons.

  • Terry Dock

    @Adam: I strongly agree with you. I’m a recovering alcohol abuser and you wouldn’t believe the shit I get from friends. First, they deny that I am an abuser (for rather obvious reasons). Second, they pressure me actively into drinking. (And smoking, BTW).

    It’s reached a point where I think I might lose them. But I’d rather be sober than comply with social pressure.

  • scott ny'er

    @Robert from ATL: You’re not the only one. I couldn’t even if I wanted to.

  • Freeman

    @Ian: How often do you smoke pot? I worry that it may have long term effects but that may be because it’s demonized in our culture.

  • Gorbeh

    They do say a majority of the abstainers had a previous history of heavy drinking and came from demographics where health problems are more prevalent.

  • Dallas David

    @Robert from ATL: Ya, I’d say the primary reason I don’t drink is simply because I just don’t like the flavor.
    I don’t like buttermilk either, so I don’t drink that. Same for V8 juice, and canned soda.
    The secondary reason is that I’m cheap. Why spend $7 for a drink in a bar when 7-11 will give me 2 cups of pretty good coffee the way I like and a walnut brownie to split with someone who makes good conversation, and we can sit in the park and make music or feed the ducks in the meanwhile?

    I may need to find a way to work in some wine from time to time, since drinkers seem to live longer than teatotalers. I won’t like it, though.

  • reason

    @Gorbeh: If you read the present study section you will find that one of the main hypothesis was ruling out those factors and still finding an elevated result for abstainers. Materials and methods goes through all of the factors that they corrected for including demographics and drinking history. If you read full predictive model after controlling for all covariances (which includes the variables you brought up) you get the results correcting for 11 confounding variables. You can get to the most pertinent part by reading under table 4 of that section which basically said that abstainers and heavy drinkers still have a elevated mortality risk over moderate drinkers, but in mortality between moderate and light drinkers there was no significances.

  • Robert from ATL

    @Dallas David:

    The fact that we have to explain in detail why we don’t drink is pretty amazing to me. It is as if not drinking is some kind of social taboo. I don’t go around preaching or acting condescending to people who do drink. It boggles me.

  • Gorbeh

    One survey isn’t definitive. And adjusting data to try to match someone who used to drink a lot and had a lot of problems going on with someone who never drank at all is unruly at best. Even the best statistician can’t account for all the variables and try to adjust them out.

    Anyways, length of life aside, alcohol is also being linked to birth defects and mutations even if it is the father doing the drinking. While that may not be a problem for many of us on this site, alcohol has a much larger impact than just yourself. And from the statistics I posted earlier, 60% of homicides are linked to alcohol.

    And let’s not forget the cost of alcohol:
    (yes, results are from 1998, couldn’t find more recent ones this comprehensive, so the costs shown are higher now)

  • Queynte

    @Gorbeh Alcohol is a natural substance, probably occurring even in the diets of paleolithic man, which is why humans have the mechanisms to metabolize it. Please qualify that “excessive” alcohol consumption is the problem, not alcohol itself – otherwise, the human race wouldn’t have survived the resulting “birth defects and mutations”. Similarly, homicides and suicides may be alcohol-induced; but I’d argue that it just lubricates (disinhibits) pre-existing mental health problems, many of which are apparent even before that first drink, and denotes a failure of our society to help improve mental health in the first place.

    @Reason I think the outcome of that study was that, eliminating all the other variables they could think of, alcohol was found to increase social interaction and bonding, which is an essential part of human health, allowing people to live longer, healthier lives. Obviously, if you drink excessively such that alcohol isolates you from friends and family, then alcohol is a problem for you. I would argue again that the problem is not due to alcohol, but to pre-existing mental health issues (e.g. social anxiety, PTSD, etc).

    Alcohol and drugs have existed since prehistory. I think it’s about time America grows up, eliminates the arbitrary drinking age, takes the wisdom learned from useless prohibition policies (e.g. War on Drugs) and responsibly guides and educates children to the cons and pros of alcohol and drugs.

    But then, when drugs aren’t prohibited (and alcohol IS a drug), they’re no longer as desirable, which would impact those who have a stake in the economic benefits of binge-drinking (e.g. Spring Break destinations, booze cruises, Superbowl tailgating etc).

  • scott ny'er

    @Queynte: Not all humans have the ability to metabolize it. Just a small correction.

  • reason

    @Gorbeh: It’s a research study not a survey. Of course one study is not definitive but it is a data point that will lead to more studies that will build upon it, I am looking forward to follow up studies. The downside is they take a very long time, they were following these individuals for two decades. Your argument against statistics would knock nearly every study in history.

    Alcohol defiantly has a cost to society, but it is inevitable. If alcohol was not available people would find something else to abuse. Look at cigarettes, the dangerous to ones personal health are clear as day; people are still out their smoking a pack a day.

    @Queynte: I agree that the methodology behind the war on drugs is deleterious to society in a number of ways. I still don’t think that drugs, especially the ones that are at an elevated risk of abuse, are a good thing to let ones citizens consume. Alcohol is not prohibited to people over 21 and it is still huge problem. I spoke with a bar owner, that serves an older clientele, not that long ago that said if they didn’t cut people off people would die right on the bar room floor. There is a myth that only underage people abuse alcohol which could not be further from the truth, grown men pour their lives away on a daily basis. Your connection of alcohol abuse with other mental health issues, is a fascinating area of research; this study found that 37% of people with alcohol disorders have co-morbid mental disorders. You could imagine that the influence goes both ways, that is excessive drinking can lead to mental disorders, and mental disorders can lead to excessive drinking.

  • Kelly Drews

    I completely agree with this, people shouldn’t be criticized just for wanting to have a couple drinks. If I want to come home from a long day (say the now-typical 3 hours of school and 8 ½ hours of work) and open up a bottle of wine and have a few glasses while I do the 6 hours of homework ahead of me…that should ultimately be my decision, and NO ONE ELSES. And after a long tough week, stumbling home from the bars around 3am is the best way I can think of to unwind and catch up with friends I hardly get to see anymore.

  • Jason

    Not to knock you, but not everyone who doesn’t drink fits into your “prude” category. Talk about trying to make yourself sound more superior for drinking. I don’t drink at all and it’s not because I’m a “prude” as you would deem me, it’s because my father was a alcoholic. He would always come home shit-faced, always. He drank from the moment he woke up to the moment he went to bed. I look at drinking in a whole different way. I have no problem with people drinking, could care less, but when you try and fit us non-drinkers into the “prude” category, you might as well be a jackass. I don’t judge anyone, to each their own. I don’t put people in to small, tiny categories so I can feel superior. I don’t knock down people for not doing something that I’m doing.

  • MikeE

    and lest anyone here be under the illusion that alcohol use is a human-only trait: there are MANY observed instances of wild animals seeking out specifically fermented fruit, which contains a high degree of naturally fermented alcohol.

    Americans do have a strange relationship with alcohol..
    But then, Americans seem to have a strange relationship with anything that brings pleasure.

    It seems to be an underlying Puritanism.

Comments are closed.