drugs and society: alcohol
Date: Mar 10th, 2010 11:10:42 pm - Subscribe
Your head becomes dizzy, and you can’t seem to remember where you put your keys. You’re having a difficult time even tying your shoes onto your feet so that you can leave the party that you’ve been. You’re riding a mild high from the festivities of the night and seem to have very few cares.
The situation just described could have been caused by a number of drugs, but only one could be a legal culprit: alcohol. Alcohol is a depressant classified with other drugs such as the classic date rape drugs of GHB and Rohypnol. Depressants have similar effects as each other in that they lower inhibitions and cause short term memory loss. Why is the sale and consumption of such a dangerous drug still legal then? The answer lay in the history of its use and the various failures and successes in monitoring the use among adults.
Alcohol has been consumed recreationally since the colonists brought it over from England in the early 1700s for its depressant quality and ability to increase confidence and lower inhibitions. It was a common beverage at dinner or during the working day. In 1830, Americans hit a new record for consumption of alcohol at 7.1 gallons per-capita, according to Erich Goode‘s “Drugs in American Society”. Dr. Benjamin Rush began the Temperance Movement shortly thereafter, only hoping to eliminate excessive drinking. The 18th amendment went into effect January 17, 1920 and was the source of a noticeable decline in the consumption of alcohol, but also caused an incline in illegal activity so that people could continue their habits.
As referenced on the Digital History web article on the subject, prohibition failed because it was impossible to enforce, as well as being much more costly to the government than originally budgeted for. The 21st amendment was ratified and repealed prohibition December 5, 1933; nearly 14 years since the beginning of prohibition. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, it wasn’t until the National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984 that the U.S. government established a minimum drinking age of 21 and encouraged all fifty states to adopt in order to receive full funds for roads and highways.
Now that we’ve seen the historically relevant events to the wide use of alcohol on an entire population, it’s important to look at the effects it causes on the individual. As a depressant, alcohol slows the central nervous system
Alcohol is such an integral part of society anymore, that to outlaw it now would cause another prohibition to occur. While there are very few problems solved by the legal use of alcohol, outlawing it could possibly create more problems than it would solve.
Goode, E. (200. Drugs in American Society. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.
Minimum drinking age fact sheet. (1999, December). Retrieved from http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov/people/injury/alcohol/community%20guides%20html/pdfs/publ ic_app7.pdf
Mintz, S. (2007). Prohibition. Digital History. Retrieved 3-9-10 from http://www.digitalhistory.uh.edu/database/article_display.cfm?HHID=441
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