I Don’t Want You to Drink!

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I Don’t Want You to Drink!

By Stanton Peele 10/28/15

People know alcohol’s a poison, so I don’t want them to drink—let them die early with dementia!

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I’ve given up telling people that alcohol makes you live longer, about which I first wrote for the American Journal of Public Health in 1993.

I feel the same way about telling people that alcohol prevents dementia, about which Archie Brodsky and I first wrote in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence in 2000.

Actually, when the alcohol panel for Dietary Guidelines for Americans announced in 2010 that there was strong evidence that alcohol prevented heart disease (the leading cause of death among Americans) and that moderately strong evidence indicated that alcohol prevented dementia, I thought that the argument was over.

When I date a woman and she sees me mix rum into my morning health cocktail, the relationship often stops right there with this clear evidence that I’m an alcoholic.

How wrong I was! Study after study tries to tease out evidence that alcohol doesn’t really prolong life—showing alcohol is bad for you is a nonstop cottage industry in America.

This stupidity has achieved epochal, official government dimensions. The Dietary Guidelines are produced by the Department of Agriculture and Department of Health and Human Services. Meanwhile, the director of the government’s National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, declared in Time:

According to Dr. George Koob, director of the NIAAA, the current body of evidence doesn’t show whether there are significant differences between someone who drinks at this level versus someone who never drinks. In some cases, there’s strong evidence to suggest that moderate wine consumption could actually benefit the heart. Though Koob says some studies have been controversial and it’s not determined what it is about wine or other parts of a person’s lifestyle that could be at play.

Everything Koob says has been shown to be scientifically incorrect, starting with his identifying wine, rather than alcohol, as the health agent in alcoholic beverages. Research has regularly teased out the effects of lifestyle versus alcohol itself. The Harvard Medical School Health Professionals Study assessed men who didn’t smoke, had healthy diets, exercised, and were not overweight—in this selected group, moderate drinkers still had substantially fewer heart attacks than abstainers.

And, of course, researchers regularly investigate whether lifestyle or illness causes the superior outcomes for drinkers by including only lifetime abstainers, eliminating people who have quit drinking due to illness or alcoholism. I’ll report the conclusions of one such extremely impressive study: “In 9 nationally representative samples of U.S. adults, light and moderate alcohol consumption were inversely associated with CVD mortality, even when compared with lifetime abstainers.”

When I wrote about the overwhelming evidence (now thousands of studies) that alcohol is beneficial for the Huffington Post, a supposedly liberal publication, I was overwhelmed with anti-alcohol propaganda—in particular:

"These reports having been driving me crazy because after working as a nurse for over twenty years I know better. I have to wonder who is on these committees who issue these statements and who they are affiliated with. We know most of the government agencies and committees are staffed with flexians from industry. I tell women to limit their drinking to three drinks a week and men five drinks. When people start doing something that is addictive everyday, they are addicted to it."

There you go—daily drinking is addictive! (The writer is a nurse.) The logic is inescapable: alcohol is addictive, if you do it daily (even moderately), you are addicted. Don’t you know anything?

So I’ve given up telling people they’ll live longer and that drinking is the best way to reduce dementia. Why should I argue?

By the way, drinking alcohol is the only thing that you can do to reduce dementia, according to large data-based meta-analyses. That regular moderate drinking reduces the odds of becoming demented by 25% is now established science. Moreover, drinking is the only proven method for achieving this benefit.  

Recent evidence evaluated in the journal Neurology discounts that exercise reduces cognitive deterioration, at the same time that research disproves the value of dietary supplements for preventing Alzheimer’s.  

By the way, do you know that Alzheimer’s disease is an official epidemic now? “Figures released [in 2013] by the Alzheimer's Association show that deaths from the disease increased by 68% between 2000 and 2010.” And this epidemic is only growing worse—the U.S. now projects Alzheimer’s sufferers will triple by 2050.

But we’re never going to let old people drink, let alone encourage them to!

In 1993, when I started writing about these things, I wasn’t yet 50. I’m 69 now. You can judge for yourself whether I have Alzheimer’s! But I am still alive and, although I could lose some weight, I’m as active as ever.

When I date a woman and she sees me mix rum into my morning health cocktail, the relationship often stops right there with this clear evidence that I’m an alcoholic.

I offer to let the woman speak to my three children, none of whom has ever seen me drunk, as my defense. But most simply spout, “Morning drinking is the definition of alcoholism!” (Not in DSM-5, it isn’t.)

When I hear someone say that about me, I just smile inwardly now. I know I should be a better Christian. But what I think is, “Go ahead and die. See if I care.”

Whenever I debate a public health expert (as opposed to a recovering alcoholism “expert”) on this topic, I always ask them, “Do you drink?” Not one of these anti-alcohol public health advocates has ever told me that he doesn’t drink. 

When I then ask them how they approach alcohol with their children, they always say they introduce their children to drinking at home well before their kids are 21. Hypocrites! They just want you to die prematurely with dementia—not them and their kids.

So, I’ll just let readers of The Fix in on the little secret that drinking alcohol sensibly (as Ernie Harburg and I identified in 1994) is among the best health behaviors a person can adopt in order to age well. How you react to this information is strictly up to you.

Note: Lately, Time Magazine and others are featuring the results of an Israeli study that features red wine as beneficial for cholesterol and blood glucose levels (video accompanying the article is actually accurate in emphasizing alcohol, and not red wine). What is remarkable about this study is that alcohol was actually used as a therapeutic intervention—subjects were told to drink wine, either red or white, but no other form of alcohol was tested.  

Subjects in the study were diabetics, only a small part of the curve who benefit from drinking. This study was funded by the European Foundation for the Study of Diabetes. For Type 2 (adult-onset) diabetics, both forms of wine improved fasting glucose levels for some (slow ethanol metabolizers), compared with those drinking water. Red wine raised HDL (good cholesterol) and lowered overall cholesterol levels.  

Only 195 subjects for all groups in the study together were followed until the end of the research, compared with studies I have cited involving hundreds of thousands of subjects. Other limitations of the study for knowing what, and how much, to drink were that no other form of alcohol was tested, the time frame was only two years (so that long-term coronary heart disease and dementia effects would not be detected), and subjects were “allowed” to drink only 150 ml of alcohol—a standard drink. Nothing can be said about the limits, or enhancements, of the benefits observed with higher levels of drinking.

Stanton Peele, Ph.D., J.D., is the author (with Ilse Thompson) of Recover! Stop Thinking Like an Addict. His Life Process Program is available online. His book Addiction-Proof Your Child is a model for the emerging area of harm reduction in addiction prevention. Stanton has been innovating in the addiction field since writing Love and Addiction with Archie Brodsky. He has published 12 books, and has won career awards from the Rutgers Center of Alcohol Studies and Drug Policy Alliance.

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