Wednesday, March 24, 2010
alcohol: the other drug
There is a really interesting new study out from the CDC on the health behaviors of adults that includes information about the Americans' use of alcohol. According to this study, 61.2 % of us drink, while only 5% are heavy drinkers. So here’s a mind-altering substance that is widely consumed and affects far more people than most illicit drugs but is regulated entirely differently. I’m not saying that there isn’t room for improvement in our policies surrounding alcohol, but they are far saner than many of our drug policies. Alcoholism is a serious problem, but unless someone commits a crime while drunk, we generally don’t lock up alcoholics but refer them to treatment.
One of things that I found most intriguing about the study was the finding about consumption, abstinence and education. Drinking levels increased as education level increased: people with masters, doctorate, or medical degrees are much more likely to drink than those without a high school diploma.
Not surprisingly given the correlation between income and education, richer Americans were more likely to drink than those living below the poverty level. Moreover, poorer people who used to be regular drinkers were more likely to have quit drinking than richer ones. Perhaps, then, it isn’t surprising that alcohol is regulated, while other drugs, which are perceived to affect communities of color, are criminalized. When it comes to our drug policies, it’s hard not to see racial disparities in our approaches.