The Stanton Peele Addiction Website, March 10, 2010.

The Impact of Negative Cultural Images of Alcohol (Posted to the Kettil Bruun Society Listserv)

From: Stanton Peele
Sent: Mar 10, 2010 7:02 AM
To: KBS-LIST@LISTSERV.NODAK.EDU
Subject: Demon alcohol

[In response to Hans Olav Fekjær]

When one considers statements like, "The familiarity of alcoholic beverages in our daily lives should not be allowed to blind us to the fact that alcohol is not an ordinary commodity, but one which carries with it extraordinary rates of social and health harm" (p. 218, summary of ECAS Report "Alcohol in Postwar Europe"), what sort of image does that convey to you, Hans? Sort of negative? Do you feel such images are more commonplace - more inbred almost - in some parts of the world, some parts of Europe, than in others?

When one reads repeated medical epidemiologic findings that regular drinkers (of all forms of alcohol, although more especially wine) have lower obesity (as well as heart disease) rates, does that conflict with "extraordinary rates of social and health harm" caused by alcohol? - just as in the report preceding that comment, alcohol consumption Europe-wide was inversely correlated with alcohol-related mortality, and most especially with social misconduct and harm.*

But, here's the irony. The image conveyed of alcohol as a demonic substance is associated with the worst harms! As Allaman describes the image of alcohol in a separate summary to the ECAS document, "In the northern countries, alcohol is described as a psychotropic agent. It helps one to perform, maintains a Bacchic and heroic approach, and elates the Self. . . .It has to do with the issue of control and with its opposite - 'discontrol' or transgression."

Anders has attempted to account for why, as alcohol controls have been loosened in Scandinavia, there have not been corresponding increases in consumption, but rather declines, along with a self-reported decline in problems not found in a control region where policies affecting supply were not eased. What if, in a pan-European culture, positive images and associations with alcohol, like those Allaman goes on to describe for wine in Italy, spread to regions where they are not indigenous? And what it this reduces alcohol problems?

Loosen your mind up, Hans, and contemplate this possibility. It would help to explain three sets (medical epidemiology, cross-cultural - i.e., ECAS - results, an incremental shift in Nordic drinking habits) of otherwise inexplicable data.

* Table 6.6: Alcohol-related mortality per 100,000 (men): Northern Europe: 17.7, Central Europe 6.9, Southern Europe 3.0
Table 5.6: Drinkers experiencing at least one harmful consequence past year: Finland, 47%, Sweden 36%, France 27%, Italy 18%