This Article is About
moral judgement
effects of alcohol
human beings
Beyond Cure; Preventing Alcohol Associated Death
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Drinking is as natural to human beings as eating. That is why the question ‘Do you drink’ is technically irrelevant. Of course we drink. However the question itself is commonly held to mean ‘Do you drink alcohol?’, and that is arguably not natural – however I am not going to delve into the nature/nurture debate about alcohol; that is – is it natural to drink alcohol or have we been nurtured into it by society or lobbies within society? Instead I am going to look at the effects of alcohol; or more specifically, the perceived effects of alcohol.

Now some will argue that alcohol diminishes the human being in some way. That it reduces inhibition and clouds judgement for example. Opponents will argue that reduced inhibition can be a good thing; especially if the person has difficulty chilling-out. They will point out that responsible drinkers will not engage in activities that require unclouded judgement – driving, performing surgery, sitting in judgement in court etc – therefore the clouding of judgement is only problematic for the irresponsible. They might be right; they might be wrong. However this is not a moral judgement I am passing. It is as I implied – a reflection upon the perceived effects of alcohol.

One of the effects that is held to be strong in connection with alcoholic drinking is that it satisfies need; specifically the need to overcome shyness or tension. It is often referred to as a ‘social lubricant’ suggesting that it is no more than a facilitator of effective socialising; in the way that oil facilitates the effective running of an engine.

Opponents will point out that alcohol and oil are very different liquids and this can be seen in the breakdown of social harmony when alcohol is imbibed. Ah, but that is only when alcohol is misused or abused cry the other side; again pointing out that responsible drinkers will not engage in (such) activities. You will no doubt be able to discern why I chose not to delve into the nature/nurture debate about alcohol. I do not wish to be the net on a tennis court. Not today anyway.

But let us reflect on the effect that there might be a relationship between alcohol and need. If there is, then alcoholic drinking has a lot going in its favour. If there is not, then alcoholic drinking is more about wants, which dilutes its favour

The leading argument concerning alcoholic drinking seems to be that it facilities social interaction versus it facilities social disruption. One glance at an alcoholic environment will suggest that the arguers don’t have much advantage over one another. Yet there is a potential threat to those arguing for alcoholic drinking combined with responsibility. It is a two pronged threat.

Prong one is that there are countless ways to facilitate social interaction that do not involve alcohol – especially the practice of taking a few deep breaths when tense or indeed talking about your tension with a friend over a cup of tea.  Professional counsellors etc are also available for more extreme tensions and anxieties. Basically, the ‘need’ for social lubrication can be met with non-alcohol based approaches.

Fist two is that responsible drinking is fine as long as responsibility is possible when drinking. The responsible person might not be free from conditions that might negate responsibility or might be unaware of conditions that might negate responsibility.

I am if course talking about medical or psychological conditions that might combine with alcohol to create irresponsible behaviour and/or medical catastrophes – paranoid delusion; allergies, panic attacks,  liver dysfunctions and so on.

It is clear that not all of us are aware of physical or mental alcohol-reactive anomalies that might exist within us; therefore to drink alcohol is often, if not always a risk-imbued activity. And this is my focal point. Drinking alcohol is a risk-taking business.

Anyone and everyone might have an alcohol-reactive anomaly of which they are unaware. Therefore, if we are to be responsible drinkers, as we are being encouraged to be in contemporary society; then we ought to acknowledge that that responsibility begins with an at least cursory investigation into the probability of our having an alcohol-reactive anomaly.

Breast cancer for example is being responded to by encouraging those with a family history of breast cancer to seek examination. It might well be worth encouraging those who have a family history of alcohol-reactive anomalies to likewise be examined or carry out a risk-assessment; preferably before they engage with drinking alcohol itself.

Prevention is as they say preferable to cure; and sadly some of those who have alcohol-reactive anomalies are nw beyond cure. 

Street Talk

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