WebMD Lists 15 Bad Things Alcohol Does! (My Response)
The American medical establishment hasn’t progressed one iota beyond “This is your brain on drugs.”
The esteemed medical website WebMD featured a piece “How Alcohol Affects Your Body” listing 15 items. Guess how many of them were positive?
I have seven questions for the author and website—along with my guesses at their answers— followed by my conclusions.
What is your purpose in publishing this piece?
Guessed answer: To discourage drinking.
Do you drink? If you have children, what do you teach them about alcohol?
Guessed answer: I do drink appropriately — mainly wine with dinner, an occasional cocktail or glass of Scotch at a party or when we go out. I teach my children there’s a time and a place for alcohol and how to drink appropriately.
Why do you drink?
Guessed answer: I simply enjoy drinking with my family and friends. And I don’t think that my level of drinking is harmful. In fact, the good feelings it produces probably have a positive effect on my life.
And you don’t want to offer, encourage, other people to experience such benefits?
Guessed answer: I’m afraid that a lot of people can’t handle that experience.
What is your attitude about communicating information strictly in terms of negatives to your children and patients? Were you (are you) a fan of “this is your brain on drugs”?
Guessed answer: I try to rely on positives — or neutral information — to teach my children and to convince patients to modify their behavior. I believe that negatives tend to overwhelm people and often cause reaction formation. Negative communications also don’t provide guidelines for positive behavior. I object to the frying pan imagery in anti-drug campaigns on those grounds.
What is “informed consent”? Do you practice it?
Guessed answer: Informed consent is the medical obligation to present all information and options on a decision affecting their health to a patient. It is ethically and professionally required.
Have you ever heard any medical sources express positives about alcohol consumption? For instance, an editorial in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology declared that based on a third-of-a-million patients tracked through the National Health Interview Surveys: “Men and women who engage in light-to-moderate alcohol consumption have a decreased risk of mortality from all-causes and cardiovascular disease.”
Guessed answer. I never heard of such a result (even though that is a highly respected professional body and data source).
Alcohol and drug consumption are ubiquitous throughout American society. Likewise, virtually all public health professionals and bodies reject the drug war mentality. Yet American public health practices remain fixed at the drug war level: that is, announcing that no use of substances is best and scaring people about the effects of drugs and alcohol as the best/only way of communicating about substances.
In the meantime, in terms of the widespread legalization of marijuana and growing acceptance—even encouragement—of the use of psychedelics, along with the decriminalization of drug use altogether, a new approach seems called for.
But we can’t seem to break the traditional American temperance/Prohibitionist approach to intoxicants. However, we will never reduce substance misuse and substantial negative outcomes from this misuse unless and until we accept drug and alcohol use as a regular feature of American life and work within that framework to encourage healthy drug use and drinking.