This post was originally published on June 23, 2015.
Who’s really boozin’ hard these days? Well, according to the latest report on global drinking patterns from the Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), pretty much everyone. Yes, men with higher education levels and more money seem to come out on top (both in life and, it turns out, alcohol consumption rates), but wealthy adult women and impoverished men aren’t far behind in the binge drinking race. Some other fun facts reported: beer is still the US of A’s favorite beverage (and we’ve got the tummy guts to prove it!) while wine is the top choice in France, Italy and Portugal. Russians like their liquor. So yeah, people are imbibing everywhere.
The Scarier Findings
What’s interesting, specifically for our country, is how the alcohol consumption is affecting the US economy. The medical costs and crime associated with excessive drinking have apparently caused economic growth to take a hit. How much does the OECD claim alcohol’s negative side effects cost us? $6.5 billion! It seems that blacking out comes at a price, both emotionally and financially.
The study also published statistics about how more and more US kids under the age of 15 are drinking and a greater number of high school seniors are admitting to going over their limit. Of course, studies have shown there are consequences for this teenage behavior that go far behind trouble with the law or their school. While those facts aren’t exactly shocking, the drastic percentage increases are pretty disturbing.
The percentage of girls under 15 who admitted to having been drunk went from 26% to 41% and the number of boys under 15 ‘fessing up to drunken spells increased from 30% to 43%. At the risk of sounding soap box-y or making a sweeping generalization, it’s no wonder these kids are drinking. As of the day I am writing this, there was yet another mass shooting at a church of all places. America’s youth are growing up in a culture where racist, hateful gun-related tragedies, instigated by citizens and law enforcement alike, are becoming as common as their intermural soccer games. Violent, senseless crime is increasingly predictable while still remaining extremely upsetting and impossible for the majority of people to fully process. To put it bluntly, I think we are all scared shitless. Children and adults are all subconsciously looking for ways to numb our current reality.
Tax Increase = Band-Aid
The initial solution the OECD proposes to excessive alcohol consumption is an increase in the cost of and/or tax on alcohol. There have been economic publications that support that concept. However, The US Distilled Spirits Council, in an obvious plea to not increase the tax on hooch, countered the OECD’s suggestion by pointing out other numerous studies that insist hiking the price will not stop a heavy drinker from drinking more. It seems the jury is still out on this debate. Whether or nor price increases will curb drinking habits wholly depends on a combination of factors that vary depending on the part of the world, the concentration of entities where one buys alcohol and the individual who’s doing the imbibing.
As I recall from my drinking days—and I had some very opulent drinking days—once you are a few cocktails in, money is not an option when it comes to maintaining your intoxication level. You’ll deal with the consequences— like a three-digit bar tab, a monstrous headache and severe memory loss—in the morning. Still, there are some who argue that the higher cost of booze will be a deterrent for those who are just chronic binge drinkers as opposed to straight-up alcoholics, which is not always easy to decipher. And at what point does one develop into the other, if at all? I still think this needs to come back to acknowledging the greater consciousness, or lack thereof, with what’s going on in our country right now. Raising the tax on liquor is treating the symptom, not the cause.