Alcoholic beverages are almost as old as civilization itself, beer has been made and enjoyed as early as 6000 BC by Sumerians and Mesopotamians. and wine dates back just as long. In the middle ages when clean drinking water was scarce many chose to add wine to their water to disinfect it. Alcohol became such an integrated part of the Western culture that when they tried to ban it in the US in the ’20s it gave breeding ground to huge crime organizations to cut enormous profit from from smuggling it. It is a part of social life to most people: going out for a beer or two with friends after work, enjoying a glass of wine with a fine meal or savouring some aged cognac are all everyday things. So what could possibly be the problem with such a common practice?
Well, there are a number of things. First of all there is the nasty thing about alcohol: the more one drinks the more one tends to feel like having “just one more”. Since alcohol raises self confidence and some people make a competition out of who can drink more it is easy to have just too much. This can lead to nausea, blackouts, death, or even making a total fool out of yourself.
Drinking also biases judgement, people feel more self confident, open and friendly after few glasses. This can be a good thing, you could loosen up, get heated discussions, meet new people and get to know some who you commonly wouldn’t have had. It can also, however, be a crucial disadvantage when people find themselves in situations where it is important to have a clear head, such as driving. Also besides the slower reactions the boosted self confidence and fading sense of danger can make a person less likely to know when to just let it go and walk away which can lead to drunken brawls or crazy exploits that one gets informed from the photoes their friends took.
There is also a cultural implication of alcohol. In some countries it is considered lowly or immoral to drink. In India drinking is frowned upon, and considered outrageous if the perpetrator is female. There are also certain “Dry Days” when drinking is prohibited. In Muslim countries it is generally considered as bad behaviour since their religion strictly forbids consuming alcohol while in China it is only considered extremely rude if you show on the streets drunk.
Of course the biggest problem of all is alcoholism. It is hard to define the exact line where social drinking ends and alcoholism begins. If we go with the simple explanation, one might say it is when alcohol consumption causes physical dependency and problems in functioning in everyday life. This, like most addictions, is a very serious problem – though not the easiest to pick up, one of the hardest to end and it has ruined many lives and families.
So what does all this mean? Should people just put down their glasses and have tea instead? No. The keyword is moderation. There is nothing wrong with enjoying a drink every now and then. The people drinking alcohol should just know their limits, it is enough to go over the line once to see where it is.
It is impossible to make a uniform rule since people react to alcohol differently depending on their body mass, mood, tiredness and many other factors. This is why each person should be accountable for themselves – knowing what is the limit before they loose their sense of responsibility. They should also save drinking for the times they know they don’t have any tasks to perform in the near future that requires more focus or decision making.
Of course this is only possible in a perfect world, there will be always people who just take it too far, there will be underage kids tapping into their parents’ mini-bars and not even banning alcohol could change this as history taught us. But this does not mean we shouldn’t take responsibility for ourselves and for those around us – quite the opposite.