Health Post – Positive Aging – The Drinking Culture


I have had time to reflect after a quick trip to New Zealand for a family event and I must admit to being shocked at how ingrained the drinking culture is in that country! Having lived in a different country for a number of years now where this aspect of social life is no where near as evident, it made me stop and think about what it is doing to people’s health in countries where the practice is normal.

We were brought up in the ‘Rugby, racing and beer’ culture and I remember my parents drinking, but for some reason I never was interested in drinking to excess…even at University? This part of our culture was passed onto our children and hasn’t seemed to have abated. There is less drinking when driving an automobile because of the very strict laws that the country’s Police Department has enforced, but people have got around that by using taxis or organized hired transport for larger groups.

My intent here is not to make an ethical point, but by emphasizing the cost to people’s health. Drinking alcohol to excess not only costs a person to not be able to think clearly, it damages the whole body – but particularly the brain and liver.

We only use a very small part of our intellectual capacity and the use of alcohol kills off brain cells and damages the functioning capacity of the brain. The more cynical point of view is that this drinking alcohol to excess only kills off a small percentage of the brain every time we do it and seeming we use only a small part of our brain power anyway, the damage would be limited. (If you think that I have made that last sentence up, I inform you that I have heard it from people who should know a lot better!) There have been many such excuses for excessive drinking over the years which tend to be accepted because of the general acknowledgement that the use of this drug as part of ‘normal’ culture. But ‘normal’ is not natural and the physical, psychological and social costs should be measured against its normality?

Being sober but not abstaining from drinking alcohol it has always amused me to observe other people’s lack of normal brain and motor function, even when they have not drunk a lot. In this recent trip I was accused of ‘not enjoying myself’ and being effeminate through drinking only minimally (which I found most interesting in that more females were inebriated than the males at this function?) So what level is too much? That depends upon the individual but our livers can cope with a very limited amount (approximately one true measure of alcohol) before they cannot break it down to its usable components. The rest is eventually stored as fat (hence ‘fatty liver’ occurs when this happens and this damage to the liver CANNOT be reversed…even though there is some capacity for the liver to regenerate!)

As I have stated before, it is not my intention to push the ethical standpoint…just to emphasize the cost to health that this socially acceptable pastime has to your health?

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