Should the Government Encourage Drinking?

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Although it may seem counter-intuitive, a growing body of research indicates the healthy upsides to alcoholic beverages. In a Los Angeles Times op-ed column, addiction expert Stanton Peele finds even more evidence to advance the gospel of moderate drinking. In fact, he says the government should tone down its long-held proscription that alcohol is categorically bad for you.

Citing recent Harvard Medical School research, Peele notes that "people who have a couple of drinks daily live the longest" and that moderate drinkers have "slower cognitive decline with age." While these findings should be cause for a loosening of state and local alcohol restrictions, the opposite is instead coming to fruition: "States are still passing laws on the sale of alcohol on Sundays, and municipalities and counties are still voting on whether to permit local alcohol purchases."

As it comes time for the federal government to issue new dietary guidelines, Peele says the wording should scale back its hard-line position that alcohol "has no net health benefit." Why not acknowledge that the opposite is true? Shouldn't health professionals be pushing back on this claim?

Despite these proposed additions to the guidelines, the overwhelming burden of the alcohol section is to portray the negative health, psychological and addictive effects of alcohol. But this has not been enough to avoid a sharp blowback from medical, public health and addiction professionals, who have started a campaign to limit these recommendations out of a fear their impact "would likely be to encourage greater daily consumption of alcohol, discourage appropriate caution about using alcohol for health benefits, and open the door for the alcohol industry to misrepresent federal alcohol consumption guidelines to consumers."

Ironically, as the lobby to legalize marijuana has expanded, it appears that "the real war over intoxicants in this country is, as always, over alcohol." While he doesn't explicitly say that the government should actively be encouraging more drinking, Peele appears to be lobbying for a more balanced portrayal of alcohol in government materials.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.