Though I’m not a smoker, I’ve seen how its illegality ruins families, and how people who use it are stigmatized while alcohol is not only legal, but promoted on everything from billboards to restaurant menus. We have whole stores dedicated to it, yet people die from it every day. My grandfather died of liver disease from drinking himself to death, and I have many other family members who were or are addicted to alcohol so badly that it makes them sick, interferes with their lives and the lives of their children, and causes a plethora of problems that are not related to marijuana. Yet, people found with the substance are jailed while those who drink every day—putting themselves and their children at risk while driving, operating machinery at work, or even cooking—are not penalized at all.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m not advocating making alcohol illegal. I am asking, however, that we get smarter about our use of it as well as our understanding of it. Having known alcoholics all of my adult life and some of my teen life, I have witnessed alcohol’s impact on families, particularly children. I vowed to never drink while caring for my daughter and to only have alcoholic beverages when she is with the care of a sitter or my husband. Since then, I’ve kept this vow for the most part—I’ve had a flavored malt beverage or a glass of wine now and then, nothing more—knowing that my judgment and care of her would be altered significantly if I were to drink a lot.
Like Melissa McEwan of Shakesville (where I learned of this study) says, “Of course alcohol is a serious drug. And like any other serious drug, it is safe in moderation.” Yet people who drink regularly—even alcoholics—will claim a moral high ground when compared with “illegal” substances simply due to legality—as well as our culture. If only we’d stop embracing it as something totally safe—or somehow morally superior to, say, pot, or even tobacco—and start looking at the whole picture when it comes to addictive substances.