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My Love of Whiskey and the Alcohol Epidemic in the US

I love whisk(e)y. My love knows almost no boundaries. American, Canadian, Indian, Irish, Japanese, Scotch, Texas. Barley, corn, rye, wheat. Neat, rocks, mixed.

To fuel my love I have been reading Reid Mitenbuler’s recent book, Bourbon Empire: The Past and Future of America’s Whiskey.

Early on, Mitenbuler introduces the first alcohol distiller among the British colonists, George Thorpe. Around 1620, Thorpe first distilled alcohol from Indian corn mash in the Berkeley settlement near Jamestown, Virginia. (See another account of this here.)

This wasn’t because without the distilled spirit the colonists would be tee-totalers. Nay. Mitenbuler makes clear that the colonists loaded their ships with beer for their trips across the Atlantic and to sustain them in the colonies.

Alcohol, then as now, was part and parcel of the everyday lives of people living on this continent.

Although I am still in the revolutionary era in the book, I expect that Mitenbuler will discuss the many personal and social ills associated with alcohol use. These, of course, led up to the historic and failed experiment with banning alcohol from 1920 (with the ratification of the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution) to 1933 (with the ratification of the 21st Amendment).

Since the repeal of prohibition, public health scholars continue to document the toll that alcohol takes on individual lives and our society as a whole. According to the Centers for Disease Control, among the short-term health risks of inappropriate alcohol use are:

  • Injuries, such as motor vehicle crashes, falls, drownings, and burns.
  • Violence, including homicide, suicide, sexual assault, and intimate partner violence.
  • Alcohol poisoning, a medical emergency that results from high blood alcohol levels.
  • Risky sexual behaviors, including unprotected sex or sex with multiple partners. These behaviors can result in unintended pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV.
  • Miscarriage and stillbirth or fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs) among pregnant women.

Long-term health risks include:

  • High blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, liver disease, and digestive problems.
  • Cancer of the breast, mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, and colon.
  • Learning and memory problems, including dementia and poor school performance.
  • Mental health problems, including depression and anxiety.
  • Social problems, including lost productivity, family problems, and unemployment.
  • Alcohol dependence, or alcoholism.

Despite this epidemic of alcohol-related problems in America, any person over 21 years of age can walk into most supermarkets, liquor stores, wine stores, beer stores, bars, or restaurants and buy alcohol. No “prohibited persons,” no permit required, no criminal background check, no mental health assessment, no registration, no additional fee beyond the cost of the product.

Read the rest of David's article at the link below and check out his research at Gun Culture 2.0:

https://gunculture2point0.wordpress.com/2015/12/10/my-love-of-whiskey-and-the-alcohol-epidemic-in-the-united-states/
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