Alcohol abuse is still problem #1

Two years ago the voters of Oregon approved a measure that decriminalized the possession of small amounts of even the most dangerous drugs, while also mandating that tax revenue from the sale of marijuana (which Oregon legalized in 2014) be used for addiction recovery programs.

Oregon voters recognized that the 50 year War on Drugs has been a total failure that has done nothing to reduce drug abuse and arguably has made the problem even worse, both in their state and nationwide.

However, the shortcoming of the Oregon law is that it ignored the most-abused and harmful drug of them all — alcohol. And even more ironically, the state legislature in 2021 legalized to-go drinks for restaurant take-out and increased the amount of wine that can be shipped directly to consumers — and this is a state that is second only to California for its number of wineries and has as many distilleries as Kentucky.

So it should not be surprising that Oregon ranks among the states with the highest prevalence of problem drinking in the country. Last year, 2153 residents died of causes attributed to alcohol, according to the Oregon Health Authority — more than twice the number of people who died from methamphetamines, heroin, and fentanyl combined. In addition, an Oregon business group estimates that the annual cost in lost productivity because of excessive drinking by state residents is $5 billion per year.

However, alcohol abuse is a nationwide problem. There were more deaths attributed to alcohol (about 108,000) than to drugs (about 106,000) in 2021 in the United States. Here in Massachusetts, we have one of the highest rates of deaths from alcohol poisoning.

Indeed, alcohol abuse is a world-wide problem. Just this past week, a report published by the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA) that followed two years of research and a review of more than 5000 peer-reviewed studies concluded that alcohol in even small quantities can be harmful to our health. The CCSA report recommends that a safe amount of alcohol consumption for adults is no more than two drinks per week. (That’s not a typo — two drinks per week.) The CCSA report is confirmation of the World Health Organization’s designation of alcohol as a Class A carcinogen a few years ago.

It has been well-known for many years that those who start drinking as teenagers are five times more likely to become victims of alcohol abuse disorder (what formerly was referred to as alcoholism) than those who don’t start drinking until they are 21. In addition, it goes without saying that alcohol far exceeds any drug for the damage and tragedy it wreaks upon families, regardless of socioeconomic status.

The time has come for our public officials and our citizenry to recognize alcohol abuse as an immediate public health emergency and to take action to address this growing — and largely-ignored — problem.

What’s with all the coverage of the British monarchy?

The passing last week of Queen Elizabeth II saddened all of us. She was a great woman who epitomized what used to be called noblesse oblige, the idea that nobility extends beyond mere entitlement, requiring people who hold such status to fulfill social responsibilities. 

Queen Elizabeth understood this sense of duty from the very outset of her ascension to the throne at the age of 25 when she said, “I declare before you all that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong.”

On another occasion, she said, “Our modern world places such heavy demands on our time and attention that the need to remember our responsibilities to others is greater than ever.”

But as much as the world will miss Queen Elizabeth, the reality is that the British monarchy is an anachronism that only serves as a reminder of the terrible oppression perpetrated by the British Empire through the ages.

And while a majority of Britons may be content to spend hundreds of millions of their tax dollars to support the royal family (and some say that the tourist dollars generated by Buckingham Palace actually are a net positive), it is undeniable that the majority of members of the royal family are unworthy heirs of Queen Elizabeth’s legacy, especially most of her children.

But while Britain may still be enthralled with the vestiges of a long-gone era, what makes the major American media think that we are? The non-stop coverage of her death, funeral proceedings, and accession by Charles has been ridiculous. This is 2022, not 1772. 

It’s time to relegate (the term used in the English Premier Soccer League when the bottom three teams are dropped down to the minor league at the end of the season) the monarchy to what it really is — an historical footnote that is irrelevant in the world today.

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