Social drinking is a misnomer. It takes but little power of observation to discern that so-called social drinking often degenerates rapidly into anti-social behavior among its imbibers. However, proponents of social drinking christen their pet with the venerable appellation of moderation. They contend that alcohol ingested with moderation is socially acceptable. Further, proponents of moderate consumption of alcohol join with opponents of social drinking to condemn the proverbial drunk. Irrespective of and additional to what society will allow, for Christians, biblical information relative to alcohol outweighs all other considerations combined.
Alcohol is the great dilemma of Western society; a love--hate relationship. Not only does the liquor industry employ thousands of people and raise millions of dollars in tax, but it is an institutionalised part of our cultural and lifestyle. Culturally, it is often expected that we will have a drink when socialising with relatives, friends, or workmates, and on special occasions. However, if you have too much to drink, or become addicted to alcohol, you are looked down upon and risk becoming a social outcast. Yet anyone can become an alcoholic, and the very next drink could be the one that does it (although it's unlikely that you will realise it at the time) . . . Alcohol is a drug and a poison. Consuming it involves a risk that increases with the amount consumed--the only absolutely safe level is zero. (Mark Davey, The Drug Data Series, An Information Sheet from the National Drug & Alcohol Statistics Unit, Australia, firstname.lastname@example.org, from the internet 2-8-98)
The following quotation defines the use of the word "moderation" as it pertains to various studies and articles based on those studies that attribute a health benefit to drinking alcohol. Doubtless this "moderation" is far from descriptive of the amount of alcohol for which social drinkers welcome these studies. Also worthy of note is the fact that alcohol affects men and women differently, not owing only to weight considerations, but due to singular differences between the physiological make up of men and women. Consequently, not even moderation, but only abstinence from the consumption of alcohol affects both sexes alike. Biblical exhortations regarding alcohol are not gender specific, bolstering the conclusion that the Bible forbids the pleasurable consumption of alcohol. Mere exhortations of moderation in the Bible would require two prescriptions, one each for the man and for the woman.
The current 1995 Dietary Guidelines issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommend that "if you drink alcoholic beverages, you should do so in moderation." Their definition of moderate drinking means no more than one drink a day for women and no more than two drinks a day for men. One drink equals 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1 1/2 ounces of 80-proof liquor. You may wonder why the recommendation for women is less than for men. The reason for this is that women have less of the enzyme that helps break down alcohol in the body, and have higher blood alcohol levels than men after drinking the same amount of alcohol. (Gillian Robertson, MS, RD, "Alcohol and Health: Proof Positive?" August 27, 1998, HealthGate Data Corp., http://www.bewell.com/healthy/eating/1997/alcohol/index.shtml [19 Sep 1998])
Wine, Beer & Liquor
Social drinkers are further disappointed that the studies to which they appeal for some sort of justification for their alcoholic consumption do not favor the more popular drinks, beer and liquor.
Overall, people who drink moderate amounts of wine are less likely to die than abstainers and beer drinkers. (Liquor drinkers are more likely to die than both abstainers and beer drinkers.) (Ibid.)
However, the partiality for wine over other alcoholic drinks may concern the differences between connoisseurs of wine versus beer and liquor. In which case, the genuine health benefits of alcoholic consumption are mitigated, especially in view of non-alcoholic alternatives.
Most of the reported benefits of wine compared with other types of alcohol may have more to do with the people who drink wine than the wine itself. Wine drinkers are more likely to be nonsmokers, to drink only moderate amounts, and to be better educated. In France, people drink their wine mostly with meals, which contain plenty of vegetables and fruits. The French culture also espouses a low-stress lifestyle. In other words, wine drinkers may have a lower risk of heart disease to begin with. (Ibid.)
Alcohol Vs. Appetite & Diet
Drinking alcohol contributes to an unhealthy diet in many drinkers. At every turn, sufficient detrimental effects of alcohol consumption can be discerned to outweigh the purported benefits. Further, it should be emphasized that social drinkers typically consume more than a so-called medicinal gulp of alcohol sanctioned by the studies. Even the so-called proof and basis of rationalization underlying social drinking falls far short of justifying the degree of typical alcohol consumption in America.
If you drink alcohol regularly, you may find you have less appetite for food. This could leave you susceptible to certain nutrient deficiencies. (Ibid.)
Social drinking as well as heavier drinking reflects itself across the spectrum of society and culture mostly adversely. Nothing more than traffic accidents attributable to alcohol resounds the tragic incorporation of alcohol consumption into our way of life.
There is a deadly side to alcohol. Forty percent of all traffic-related deaths (the leading cause of accidental death in the U.S.) are related to alcohol. (Ibid.)
There were 16,189 alcohol-related traffic deaths in 1997, or 38.6 percent of the total, the Transportation Department said Sunday. That was a decrease of about 1,000 deaths from 1996, when drunken driving was responsible for 40.9 percent of the 42,065 traffic deaths. In 1982, 57.3 percent of the 43,945 fatalities were alcohol-related. . . . For the first time since record-keeping began in 1975, alcohol-related deaths were below 40 percent of all traffic fatalities. (Anonymous, "Alcohol-related fatalities in 1997 below 40 percent, Herald-Star, Steubenville, OH, Monday, August 24, 1998, p. 7A.)
Frequently, social drinking deviates from what social drinkers claim is their norm for alcohol consumption. As long as someone else is the designated driver, many social drinkers mistakenly presume that heavier drinking on occasion is relatively harmless. Few social drinkers realize the potential of alcoholic beverages to kill them. "And binge drinking can produce sudden cardiac arrhythmias, even in previously healthy people." (Robertson)
Among others, especially college students, according to a recent survey by the Harvard School of Public Health, are susceptible to binge drinking. "More than half the nation's college students who drank last year did so intending to get drunk." (Robin Estrin, "Survey Shows 'Drunk 101' Still the Norm for College Students, The Intelligencer, Wheeling, WV, Friday, September 11, 1998, p. 12.) College students who drink the heaviest are members of sororities and fraternities. Binge drinking is ". . . defined as five drinks in a row for men and four drinks in a row for women." (Ibid.) By that standard, virtually all so-called social drinking would fall under the classification of binge drinking.
College students who imbibe beverage alcohol typically face increased ". . . sexual harassment, accidents and injuries, loud outbursts in dorm rooms in the middle of the night and vomit-covered bathrooms." (Ibid.) Of course, sometimes the most serious effect of binge drinking is premature death. "High-profile deaths from alcohol like those at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Louisiana State last year sober up their peers, but only until the next party rolls around," said Henry Wechsler. He headed studies in 1993 and 1997. (Ibid.)
Mixing Alcohol & Other Drugs
Most people are probably somewhat aware that imbibing alcohol and prescription drugs increases the deadly potency of alcohol. However, how many social drinkers are equally concerned about mixing alcohol with non-prescription drugs? Simply because a medicine is not or is no longer federally regulated by doctors' prescriptions does not reduce its efficiency or its natural propensity to multiply the effect of consuming alcohol with them.
The effects of alcohol are much greater if you are taking sedatives, sleeping pills, anticonvulsants, antidepressants, antianxiety drugs, or some pain killers. It's best not to drink after taking any medicine, even over-the-counter types, especially if you plan to drive. (Ibid.)
Not only alcohol consumption by heavy drinkers, but moderate drinkers social drinkers risk greater frequencies of cancer attributable to alcohol. The pleasantries associated with social drinking hardly seem to compare to the heartaches, including cancer, that are often multiplied by the pleasurable consumption of alcohol.
If you drink heavily, you are far more likely to get cancer of the esophagus, mouth, pharynx, larynx, or liver. Women who drink three to nine drinks a week are 50 percent more likely to develop breast cancer than women who drink fewer than three drinks a week. (Ibid.)
Yet, the number of recommended drinks to enjoy a supposed health benefit from alcohol for one's heart approaches dangerous levels for other health risks.
The wine can be red or white. Beer or 80-proof whiskey offers similar protection. Two daily drinks for men and one for women suffice. One drink is considered to be 5 ounces of wine, 12 ounces of beer or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof whiskey. (Paul G. Donohue, "Alcohol Consumption Could Help Prevent Heart and Eye Disease," North America Syndicate, Riverton, NJ, 1998.)
Not just heavy drinking, but social drinking is a real and a discernible threat to the unborn when their mothers drink during pregnancy.
When mothers drink even moderate amounts of alcohol during pregnancy, their babies are smaller and shorter. Babies of moms who drink heavily during pregnancy often have birth defects that lower their IQ throughout their lives. Nobody knows exactly how much alcohol is safe during pregnancy. (Robertson)
The adverse effect of alcohol is greatly magnified in children who are given alcohol. For instance, French school children who once were given diluted wine with their meals developed cirrhosis of the liver. Alcohol given to young children also can cause immediate and permanent brain damage, including retardation. (W.D. Jeffcoat, The Bible and "Social Drinking," c. 1987, pp. 112-113.)
Disclaimers for social drinking sometimes would be hilarious if the matter were not so dead serious.
Even moderate drinking is too much if you: are pregnant or are trying to get pregnant; plan to drive or do anything that requires skill or concentration . . . . (Robertson)
Imagine that! One should not drink alcohol if he wants to "do anything that requires skill or concentration." The scope of this warning essentially covers all activities ascribed to intelligent life. What does that say about social drinking?
The following quotations are from an internet article originating in Australia and which demonstrate that the problem of alcohol, even among social drinkers, is not confined to the United States. The series entitled The Drug Data Series, Alcohol begins with this statement: "Alcohol consumption is a major factor in death, disease, accidents and crime." (Davey) Wherever statistics are available, regarding the consumption of alcohol, the figures tell the same dreadful story.
Alcohol is a contributing factor in many types of crime and contributes to increased crime levels--73% of assaults in Australia, 84% of incidents involving offensive behavior and 77% of all street offenses. In fact alcohol is associated with 50% of all serious crime. Murders, burglaries, suicides and rapes are examples of violent crimes where alcohol is often a factor. Alcohol contributes to increased acts of violence, for example arguments, physical violence and sexual assault. Alcohol is a contributing factor to suicides, injuries, road fatalities and accidents. Figures indicate that in 1992 30% of Australian drivers and motor cycle riders killed in road accidents had a blood alcohol level above the legal limit. A driver with a 0.05% blood alcohol content has double the risk of being involved in a road accident; at 0.1% it is seven times; and at 0.15% it is 25 times. Alcohol contributes to family problems such as wife beating, child abuse, arguments and other types of violence. 40% of divorces and separations involve alcohol related factors. (Ibid.)
Alcohol is a key tool to the contemporary moral debauchery of humanity. Even so-called social drinking costs way too much. The destructive characteristics of the pleasurable consumption of alcohol extend beyond the human misery for which it is often responsible to the spiritual and eternal peril in which it places the souls of mankind who engage it. Above all people, professed Christians should avoid its use. No Christian ought to be an apologist for beverage alcohol.