NY Times Op-ed Points at Hypocrisy of Alcohol Use in US

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A recent NY Times op-ed asks one question of readers – Why does booze get a pass when it comes to addictive, harmful drugs?

The springboard is the recent death of Whitney Houston and concerns in the media about drug abuse, without concomitant speculation about alcohol. The latest theory (still waiting autopsy confirmation) is that a combination of drugs and alcohol did the singer in.

In our society, and especially among celebrities, drug abuse is scandalous and worthy of endless headlines as we track the latest fall from grace, a series of rehab attempts and sometimes, the tragic overdose death. But, writer Earl Wilson reminds us that alcohol does far more damage in total to society than crack, heroin or even prescription drugs. Alcohol ranks as the number three preventable killer in the US, exceeded only by smoking and the combined effects of a sedentary lifestyle (inactivity, poor nutrition, inattention to personal healthcare issues).

The medical community and government regulators are certainly aware of alcohol’s damage. But we still allow it to be advertised in venues teens view – notably sporting events like the Ultimate Fighting Championship (sponsored, and thoroughly logo-ed up by Anheuser-Busch) and the Super Bowl (another coup for beer manufacturers). The link between sports and alcohol can’t be denied, from NASCAR through Soccer.

After every Bud Light-sponsored NFL game, an estimated 5,000 people leave the stadiums legally drunk,”according to Michael Scippa, Director of Public Affairs at Alcohol Justice.

The association between sports and alcohol seems to be exempt from the distain we hold for other drugs of abuse. For example, there’s a bill in Arizona currently that would allow the sale and consumption of beer and wine at university-sponsored sporting events. This is the real problem – the hidden and largely accepted role alcohol plays in our lives. As the NY Times piece points out, “ From antismoking ads, I have pictures of blackened lungs and amputated fingers seared into my memory. From antidrug ads, I remember an egg in a skillet as a metaphor for a brain on amphetamines. Where’s the analogous image for the ravages of too much booze?

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