Allowing Alcohol Can Reduce Consumption

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It’s always interesting when a scientific study finds something out that goes against common sense. In this instance, it’s that allowing people to drink led to less drinking overall than restricting alcohol.

The study, out of Seattle, examined a policy there about public housing for formerly homeless individuals. It tracked two conditions and compared the drinking habits of people in alcohol-free buildings to those where alcohol wasn’t restricted. On the surface, one would assume that not allowing people to drink at home should reduce overall consumption – just the opposite was observed.

Residents who weren’t allowed to drink would adopt some of their previous homeless skills in pursuit of their alcoholism. This might include binge drinking or drinking enough outside of the home to last them through their evening hours without alcohol. Meanwhile, those who were allowed to drink at home could use a more moderate schedule and fit it into their lifestyle without worrying about getting caught with alcohol and kicked out of the building.

None of the folks in the study could be considered moderate drinkers. The change given in the paper is from an average of 22 drinks on an average drinking day down to 11. Even the lower number maxes out scoring on alcoholism surveys (which usually only go up to 10). Still, a 50% drop is impressive.

One of the study authors put it this way, “These individuals have multiple medical, psychiatric and substance abuse problems, and housing that requires them to give up their belongings, adhere to curfews, stop drinking and commit to treatment all at once is setting them up to fail. The result is that we are relegating some of the most vulnerable people in our community to a life on the streets.

Apparently, when it comes to choosing between being homeless and drink-less, alcohol wins.

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