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Are You Defending America’s Most Pervasive Drug Problem?

W. C. Fields betrayed the attitude many people in America take to alcoholic beverages. He confessed, "I always keep a supply of stimulant handy in case I see a snake — which I also keep handy." Funny that Fields called it a stimulant — alcohol is actually a depressant that dulls the brain. But "stimulant" is not the only name Americans use for alcoholic beverages. Others include "drinks, booze, brew, hooch, sauce, snort, shot, swill, juice, yak, etc." Here's one I bet you haven't heard lately — "drug." Alcohol is a drug. Matter of fact, alcohol is America's number one drug problem. Before you dismiss that statement as just a fear-mongering argument from a riled-up preacher, consider the following provocative words by Anna Quindlin in NEWSWEEK magazine. Though written more than 12 years ago, they are still worthy of thoughtful reflection. I quote her at length: "Whoops! Sorry! Not supposed to call alcohol a drug.  Some of the people who run anti-drug organizations don't like it because they fear it dilutes the message about the 'real' drugs, heroin, cocaine, and marijuana. Parents are offended by it; as they try to figure out which vodka bottle came from their party and which came from their teenager's, they sigh and say, 'Well, at least it's not drugs.' And naturally, the lobbyists for the industry hate it . . . .When you lump a cocktail in with a joint, it makes them crazy. And it's true: booze and beer are not the same as illegal drugs. They're worse. A policy-research group called Drug Strategies has produced a report that calls alcohol `America's most pervasive drug problem' and then goes on to document the claim. Alcohol-related deaths outnumber deaths related to drugs 4 to 1. Alcohol is a factor in more than half of all domestic- violence and sexual-assault cases. . . Between accidents, health problems, crime and lost productivity, researchers estimate alcohol abuse costs the economy $167 billion a year. . . .Close your eyes and substitute the word blah-blah for alcohol in any of those sentences, and you'd have to conclude that an all-out war on blah-blah would result" (4/10d000, p 88). If you don't believe that last statement by Quindlin, consider recent headlines (Tuesday 10/16/12). Federal authorities raided the New England Compounding Center, a specialist pharmacy near Boston, because 19 deaths nationwide have been traced to potentially contaminated steroid injections shipped from the pharmacy. Nineteen deaths from tainted medicine are tragic, and justify a vigorous response. How, then, should we respond to a drug that destroys thousands on highways and in homes each year, and that contaminates and corrupts and harms millions of people?

Call alcohol what you will. Drink and argue and defend its "moderate" usage if you will. Drink "socially" if you will. But to quote Quindlin again, the story needs to be told, loud and clear, in homes and schools and on commercials that ". . . alcohol is a mind-altering, mood-altering drug." One that is damaging millions of lives. The words of the ancient wise man remain true no matter how many people drink and no matter how many promote and defend drinking: "Wine is a mocker, Strong drink is a brawler, And whoever is led astray by it is not wise" (Proverbs 20:1). Abraham Lincoln said, "Alcohol has many defenders, but no defense." Are you trying to defend America's most pervasive drug problem?

Dan Gulley
Smithville church of Christ