Ok, spoiler alert, this is probably not going to be one of my happier reports. I come to this somber discussion quite innocently, though. I was listening to the radio, good old WNCW out of Spindale, N.C. A song came on that just sent my mind a tumbling. The song was, “The Trouble With Drinking, Is, It Ain’t No Trouble At All”. I know that probably all truth can be revealed by listening to country songs, from Mommas, to dogs, to prison, to trains, Jesus and girlfriends. I don’ t think I’ve ever had such truth revealed to me as those simple lyrics, “The Trouble With Drinking, Is, It Ain’t No Trouble At All’.
Now, I realize there’s nuances within the message, like, “it ain’t no trouble” because it is socially acceptable. From the “Mad Men” of the 50’s celebrating their achievements with martini lunches, to the factory workers filing into bars for a few shots at the end of the day, to the average Joe picking up a six pack of beer to drink on the drive home, it is socially acceptable to drink. In fact, one could say that drinking is encouraged.
The alcohol industry spends about $2 billion per year on all media advertising. The beer brewing industry spent more than $770 million on television ads and $15 million on radio ads in 2000, all by itself. That’s a lot of suds. Maybe Budweiser can send the Clydesdales out on a promo tour to all of the hospitals in America where people are dying from cancers of the mouth, throat, voice box, esophagus, liver, breast, and colon-rectal region. I’m sure the folks suffering from cirrhosis of the liver will get a big kick out of seeing the Clydesdales play football in person before going to their final reward.
I know that family attitude has a lot to do with the, “it ain’t no trouble” component of drinking. Even within the rather homogeneous structure of the “average American family”, there are different levels of acceptance of drinking. Some families consider the fact that you can serve in the military at eighteen, but not drink until you’re twenty one, as being odious. Some families see the age of twelve as the time of passage when a child can be “safely” given a “little” wine with dinner. Some folks are so darn happy their kids are away at college so they don’t have to deal with them coming home drunk that they’re willing to turn a blind eye to the activity. “They’re going to drink anyway, I’m just glad they’re not on the roads”, is the mindset.
Sadly, we’re just pushing the solution to the next generation. Study after study has confirmed that the earlier you start drinking, the earlier you will experience problems. Those problems will become chronic, and I’ll just go ahead and say it, the drinker will become an alcoholic. Now, some drinkers won’t become raging lunatics that beat their wives and destroy property, but many will.
In 2013, the number of alcohol related traffic deaths in the United States was over 10,000. In fact, the CDC reports that: “Excessive alcohol use led to approximately 95,158 deaths and 2.8 million years of potential life lost (YPLL) each year in the United States from 2011 – 2015, shortening the lives of those who died by an average of 29 years. Further, excessive drinking was responsible for 1 in 10 deaths among working-age adults aged 20-64 years. The economic costs of excessive alcohol consumption in 2010 were estimated at $249 billion, or $2.05 a drink.”
Think about that, 2.8 million years of potential life lost. That’s an awful lot of taxes that aren’t getting collected due to our collective turning of a blind eye to one of the leading causes of death in our society. Seems like Congress would jump all over that. Of course, they would have to weigh public good against political contributions. Oh well, I guess we’ll just have to wait for the insurance companies to do the heavy lifting, like they did with tobacco.
Until then, “The Trouble With Drinking, Is, It Ain’t No Trouble At All”.