Friday, 4 February 2011

Drunkeness, a modern addiction?

Drunken behaviour in the ancient Mediterranean world led to a variety of consequences from the horrible to the humourous, just as it does today. Notorious  names from ancient times that live on for their drunken excesses include Alexander the Great,  Alcibiades, Attila, Hercules, Mark Antony, Odysseus, etc, and the Banquet of Petronius Satyricon was perhaps the most notorious scene of gluttony and drunkenness ever.
The Bible gives plenty of proof that excessive drinking of intoxicants was as common a vice among Hebrews as amongst ancient peoples, and intemperate drinking was condemned in uncompromising terms by the Old and New Testaments. The New Testament treated intemperance as a grave sin.
The Temperance Movement was  started by Joseph Livesay in 1832 in Preston when he required followers to sign a pledge of total abstinence. Children were instructed  in the perils of drink by the Band of Hope in 1847, and Quakers and the Salvation Army lobbied parliament to restrict alcohol sales. When DORA (Defence of the realm act) was introduced in 1914 beer had to be watered down and subject to a penny a pint extra in tax and  pub hours were licenced.
The danger of drink- driving  that started at the beginning of the century when there was a huge increase in numbers of motor cars has  resulted in legislation in the form of breath testing and sometimes  imprisonment.

The drinks lobby is huge and powerful, and the government take  substantial amounts of tax from the sale of alcohol. In Scotland a multinational drinks company opposed the SNP crackdown on alcohol abuse and minimum pricing for alcohol. In England a very watered down version of minimum pricing is being considered.

 Ill health caused by excessive alcohol is widespread and in particular binge drinking can cause serious brain damage to the young and later on memory loss in adults, women appearing to suffer from this more than men. Other health problems  include liver/heart disease and cancer. Alcohol craving is so great that it suppresses the ability to stop drinking, and apart from the dreadful misery and unhappiness it can cause within families it  is involved in half of all crimes, murders, accidental deaths and

3 mid 19th century lithograph cartoons warning of the dangers of drink!

1 comment:

  1. very interesting - if this were thought of as drug like heroin or cannabis - there would probably be an outcry that it has caused so much illness and misery