Should we pay more attention to this crisis than the other crisis that’s dominating the headlines?
The opioid crisis in America is real and serious, but we forget about how dangerous alcohol is. Likely, alcohol deaths are still under reported because people are still ashamed. There are of course other issues with America’s drinking problem. Death by suicide is among them. Men in particular are often drunk when that happens, especially veterans. Did you know more than 100 vets a day die by suicide? Most of them are completely wasted when they do it. Those are not classified as alcohol deaths. There are specific cancers, namely of the mouth and throat, that are fueled by drinking adding to the body count.
The one that always gets me is this: 1,800 college students per year die at the hands of alcohol. So while the opiate crisis rages on with little relief in sight we quietly look the other way at alcohol’s wake of destruction.
Wait, 1,800 college kids die doing dumb drunk stuff every year?
None of the presidents of universities handle this particularly well. They act in the interest of the school brand and try to avoid lawsuits, but usually don’t do anything that would reduce the death rates.
So…dry campuses? Is that the move?
Dry campuses actually increase problems and death. That forces clandestine binge-drinking situations with no safety net. That means pre-gaming and shots and rank stupidity run amok. I’m convinced we’d see a nosedive in the mortality rates if there were more school-sanctioned parties that allow for freewheeling beer and cannabis consumption.
There are many crises afoot here, but are we not treating it like one. Does the New York Times need to do an A-1 story “America’s Alcohol Crisis is Horrid, But We Like Our Jim Beam Too Much To Do Anything About It.” That’s a bad headline, but you know what I mean…
Americans love guns and booze. Alcohol is part of the fabric of American life, and truth be told, most people who use it are safe about it. Like having a gun, getting drunk on the cheap is the birth rite of every American. (The 21st amendment.) The other reason alcohol sneaks around consequence free is because it’s the intoxication of choice for those with a voice. There is a simple question that will get anti-drug crusaders on Capitol Hill against the ropes: “Do you drink?” They will seldom answer and if they do they will say “alcohol is legal.”
Alcohol never pays the piper for many reasons, It’s a wealth-amassing, recession-resistant product, that’s taxed minimally and readily available. What do we think is going to happen?
Will alcohol ever be reconsidered, culturally speaking?
Maybe if Bill and Melinda Gates made it their cause, they would have some ability to change cultural thinking on it, but I’m sure they drink wine. America already thinks we have solutions: self-control, “just say no,” and if that fails, we have AA. It’s actually a really bad plan.
Plus, we forget that there are huge lobbies for alcohol. The Distilled Spirits Lobby of America being one of them. They take their summer interns on tours of distilleries and do shots on the bus. They work very hard to expand the laws that allow for the sale of alcohol. They work very hard to expand the hours that bars and hotels can sell alcohol. Here in San Francisco, there was a city initiative to be able to keep bars open until 4am not 2am. They dangled the argument that it was to increase the health for the hospitality industry. There wasn’t anything in the bill to pay for the additional damage these two extra hours of drinking would cause. That’s the alcohol lobby at work. Most states have not raised taxes on alcohol in decades. California last saw a tax raise in the 9o’s, Wyoming hasn’t raised taxes on alcohol since 1935. 1935! The beer and wine lobbies are also incredibly powerful and well funded. So is corn and you need corn to make the stuff so the corn lobbyists have a vested interest in booze. The PR gimmick is to flag wave about how much money they create for the economy. They do, for sure, but we’ve never netted out what the human casualties cost. But, yeah, “drink responsibly.”
Huh. That’s bleak. What does “drink responsibly” even mean anymore?
It certainly means “designate a driver,” but it doesn’t seem to mean “consume less alcohol” or “consider a safer form of intoxication,” or “hey, how about you not get fucked up and see the immense beauty of the natural world for once?”
I think an easy start to waking up the culture a bit would be better warning labels. What if a bottle of vodka had a picture of a liver in end stages of cirrhosis? Or maybe “use of this product increases rape, suicide, certain cancers, and can cause all sorts of heartache for your family.” I watch TV commercials for medicine all the time where they have to state even the most remote of symptoms, just so people realize that there’s a real risk of shitting your pants in public if you take these pills for your chronic fibromyalgia. I have no idea why there aren’t similar warnings embedded into those Mila Kunis commercials, like “use of this product increases violence, death by suicide, certain cancers, and can cause all sorts of heartache for your family if you’re not more careful,” but that’s just me.
Joe Schrank is Executive Editor of The Small Bow. If you’ve got a suggestion for “I’ll Ask Joe” please email us here.