The Case For Intoxicants

Drugs, tobacco and alcohol are (probably) the three most harmful things a person will voluntarily inflict upon themselves. As children we are taught how bad they are, and as grown ups we get to find out for ourselves.

Alcohol is by far the most popular of the three due to the lack of laws regulating it, but it is hardly harmless. If you do some quick Google research on alcohol, it won’t take long to find some worrying numbers. It is a major cause of death, injury and general unpleasantness. The general public is increasingly aware of the dangers due to efforts made by the government (advertising etc) to tackle alcohol use and abuse.

However, this doesn’t seem to reflect at all in the attitudes of many people towards it. Binge drinking is so commonplace amongst university students that many wouldn’t accept that the term as descriptive of their behaviour. For the record, Drinkaware define it as 6 units for a woman and 8 for a man (“three strong pints of beer” or “two large glasses of wine”), numbers that get passed regularly and determinedly by many.

In fact, people are routinely encouraged to drink as much as possible – a behaviour that is frowned upon when it comes to drugs and cigarettes. For some reason, alcohol is seen as safe in a way that drugs and tobacco simply are not. This attitude is harmful – it means that fewer people take the time to find out the potentially specific dangers alcohol poses them, and has led to excessive drinking being normalised.

The fact that we talk about drugs, tobacco and alcohol as three distinct groups is a symptom of this bad attitude, and to me intuitively wrong.

Cocaine, tobacco and alcohol are identical in one important sense: they all make you intoxicated. A chemical enters your brain and has an effect on its function. Of course, they all perform this function in different ways, but that does not mean they aren’t the same. Cars, trains and aeroplanes all operate in very different ways, but they are still the same in an important sense because they are methods of transportation. Because they are all the same in an important sense, they are referred to with a common name: vehicles. Alcohol has been wrongly separated from other drugs.

Despite the fact that in ‘intoxicant’ we do have a common name for cocaine, tobacco and alcohol, no one ever seems to use it. Similarly, it sounds strange to say that someone is ‘high on alcohol’, even though that is a perfectly reasonable way of describing someone who is drunk. Being drunk is the same as being high because both are just different words for intoxicated.

This article is not an attempt to convince people to stop drinking, and it is not an attack on fun. This is simply a statement that our attitude to alcohol is nonsensical, and perhaps hypocritical when we consider common views on other intoxicants.

1 Comment

  1. 18 November 2014 - 13:03 BST

    Those three things; and the lizard king

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