There’s more nonsense coming from the CDC, the Center for Disease Control (the same government yahoos who refuse to acknowledge mercury’s role in my son Porter’s autism, as well as millions of other children) who is publishing a study in next month’s American Journal of Preventive Medicine suggesting people are more likely to binge on beer than other types of alcoholic drinks. The CDC apparently surveyed 14,000 binge drinkers in 18 states who told them that they like beer best. Of those surveyed, 67% preferred beer, 22% liked spirits and 11% were winos with a taste for the grape or premixed drinks (don’t ask me why they lumped those two types of drinks together) with 74% of “binge drinkers” having beer either exclusively or in combination.
Of course, it all comes down to your definition of binge drinking, which they define as “five or more drinks in a row.” Now let’s just think this through for a moment. Beer has an average alcohol content of maybe 4.5% abv. Wine has around 14% and spirits, while harder to pin down, has as alcohol percentage far above wine or beer. So of those three types of drinks, which one is it most possible for the greatest number of people to drink five or more of in a single sitting? Anyone, anyone? Bueller, Bueller? Even if you don’t compare equal amounts of liquid consumed but just typical servings it’s considerably easier to down a six-pack of beer than six glasses of wine, six shots of whisky or even six mixed drinks. So it shouldn’t take a genius or even a doctorate to predict that the lowest alcoholic drink would be consumed more often by people on a binge. After all, it’s not really much of a binge if you pass out in under an hour. Not to mention beer outsells wine 4 to 1 and spirits by a considerable margin, too, so why wouldn’t you expect that to remain consistent among “binge drinkers,” too?
Why blame the drink? What is the point of this ridiculous exercise? Should beer be treated differently because more people abuse it, but keep wine and spirits untouched, since their drinkers are among the sophisticated upper class? With beer being more popular why wouldn’t it be proportionally involved in instances of abuse. You would expect that to be the case. I can’t help but thinking “yeah … and … so what.” Once alcohol enters your bloodstream your body doesn’t discriminate between what form it originally came in — inside you alcohol is just alcohol — a chemical compound: C2H5OH. It’s merely societal features that determine which drink people choose.
So what possible policy changes might flow from this study? It just doesn’t make any sense. This seems like a case where the statistics don’t really mean anything useful. All the study appears to do is confirm what you’d expect would be the case if you think about it for a few seconds. Good thing our tax dollars were channeled into something anyone with a high school diploma should have been able to figure out. Is the CDC setting up conditions for neo-prohibitionists to promote making beer harder to access than wine and spirits, the way the state of Tennessee recently did? Heaven forbid we suggest ways to reduce “binge drinking” that involves lowering the drinking age in line with the rest of the civilized world or allow parents to educate their children on how to drink responsibly by introducing it in the home. Those kinds of ideas — which should be taken for granted — are rarely, if ever, even discussed by policymakers and politicians.
An article in Forbes, via HealthDay News, stated that the “study also found that beer was the primary choice of binge drinkers who were most likely to cause alcohol-related harm, such as drinking and driving.” Of course, that could just as easily be that someone with five beers in them is in much better shape to drive (not that I’m saying that they should drive) than someone with five glasses of wine or five glasses of vodka. It’s as if they’re targeting beer precisely because it’s not impairing people enough.
The Forbes piece continues:
“This study isn’t looking at alcohol consumed by people drinking responsibly, or moderately; this is alcohol consumed by people drinking five or more drinks in a sitting, so almost all of them are going to be impaired — if not overtly intoxicated,” Naimi said in a prepared statement. “This is exactly the kind of drinking behavior that leads to so many deaths and secondhand problems that inflict real pain and costs on society, not just the drinker.”
What that statement ignores is what it means to “drink responsibly, or moderately.” That idea has changed over the years. People’s attitudes towards drinking — and driving — used to be much more tolerant. Have lives been saved by changes to the law and to its more statutory enforcement? Possibly, but I remain somewhat skeptical of what statistics have been offered and continue to believe that even if that is indeed the case, that the price that our society has paid as a whole is too high. Education and altered attitudes quite possibly could have done the same thing, without the draconian measures MADD undertook creating a world where people are literally afraid to have a good time.
When I was first old enough to drive (and then drink) five beers over a few hours would not have made me impaired by the then standard of 0.10% blood alcohol level (BAC). By my weight, I could consume seven drinks in one hour and still be under that BAC level. Even under our present standard of 0.08% BAC I can theoretically still have six drinks in one hour and be legally able to drive. That means even if I decided to become a “binge drinker” I could legally do so, and possibly even drive. But most binges involve greater periods of time and thus could conceivably involve even more drinks. I would much rather have my five drinks over several hours of conversation, food or games than quaff it down as fast as possible. But that’s what education and being a responsible adult can do for you. I find it highly insulting that if I have five pints of beer over the course of an evening’s enjoyment that I am branded a “binge drinker,” with all the derogatory associations that entails. I hold down two jobs (one paid, the other a labor of love), pay my taxes, am involved in my community and my children’s schools. I vote, I support local businesses and frequent my local library. But for some I’ll always be an unrepentant deviant because on occasion I drink a half dozen pints in one day? Bullshit.
In the modern, post-MADD, world, the bar for drinking responsibly is growing lower and lower and it is quite clear the neo-prohibitionists will not be satisfied until all alcohol is again removed from society. In a recent story (sent in by Seth. Thanks Seth.) from the San Francisco Chronicle, MADD doesn’t even want people drinking on Amtrak trains, even though there’s no driving involved. Is this study more fuel for the neo-probs? If so it’s more than a little unsettling that my government is helping the cause of another prohibition with my tax dollars. After all, it’s my country, too. Love it or drown your sorrows.
NOTE: Davis on Draft also has a nice rant on a different version of this story, his was from MSNBC.