The media and medical profession pay a great deal of attention to the damaging effects of methamphetamine, cocaine, and opioids, but alcohol is a more destructive drug. In 2019, alcohol directly caused the deaths of almost 79,000 people in the United States from illnesses and car crashes. In 2020, the first full year of the COVID pandemic, more than 99,000 people under age 65 died directly from the use of alcohol. That was a 25.5% increase and more lives than COVID claimed that year for those under 65.
There is a widespread belief among many college students that you can’t have fun unless you drink. At the University of Notre Dame, Ted Mandell teaches a class called “Drunk on Film.” The subtitle of the course is “The Psychology of Storytelling with Alcohol and Its Effects on Alcohol Consumption.” Using film clips from movies and alcohol commercials, he helps students understand the problems with drinking and how advertisers and filmmakers seduce them into thinking that excessive alcohol consumption is normal and desirable.
One film that Mandell uses is a 20-minute clip from a documentary by Sut Jhally titled “Advertising at the Edge of Apocalypse.” It shows how alcohol advertising weds drinking to the sports industry and portrays alcohol as an alluring lifestyle. You would think that bright college students could see the indoctrination by the alcohol industry and its role in destructive sex and health issues. However, that is simply not the case. Stress is a part of the problem students face, but peer pressure is a more powerful motivator to drink.
From a Christian perspective, if you believe that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16) and should be cared for both physically and mentally, that should lead you to avoid alcohol. Seeing the results for people who drink alcohol and use other recreational drugs should be a motivator to avoid them. Our culture condemns the use of meth and crack but sanctions the use of alcohol and marijuana. Looking at the evidence should convince thinking people that alcohol is a more destructive drug.
— John N. Clayton © 2022
References: National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reported in The Week, April 8, 2022, and “Under the Influence” in Notre Dame Magazine, spring 2022.