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History of Alcohol Abuse

If you are among the millions of people in this country who have a parent, grandparent, child, or other close relative who has an alcohol abuse problem, you may have wondered "what is the history of alcohol abuse"?

Here is the History of Alcohol Abuse:

Wine existed in Italy for several centuries before the period of Greek colonization. However, wine itself was a rare commodity, and it seems that the inhabitants of the Greek colonies in ancient Italy knew of no other form of fermented drink. After the second century BC, vine cultivation increased. This was the result of a drop in the value of grains, coupled with a dietary shift from the consumption of gruels to bread. This change in diet made it necessary to drink while eating. Prior to this time, the Romans drank water and the peasants drank grape juice. Wine was so scarce that women were forbidden to drink it. Eventually, all social classes began to drink wine.

In the fifth century BC, Plato outlined what he considered to be correct behavior in relation to alcohol. He forbade wine to those under 18 years old and authorized its use on condition that it was in moderation to those under 30, and placed no limits on those older than 40. (The Aztecs had a similar attitude, punishing drunkenness among the young, but authorizing it in the old.) Water alone was to be consumed by soldiers and certain other professional groups, such as ship’s helmsmen, judges, and magistrates for the reason that alcohol might dull their faculties. His advice was not always followed. All armies at war, drink to give themselves courage and there is no lack of examples. In Ancient Greece, unforeseen defeats or victories can be attributed simply to drunkenness in the ranks. For obvious reasons, slaves were also required to abstain. A slave who dared to match his master’s drinking was acting above his station, since alcohol abuse led to arrogance and violence, and was thus a threat to social order. Colonizers all over the world have instituted similar restrictions: the whites with their black slaves; the American pioneers with the red Indians; the Canadians with the Eskimos. (The Spartans had different ideas: the helots were made to drink so that the young citizens might witness the evils of alcohol.)

The spread of the vine coincided with the spread of Christianity in Europe. The Church, drawing upon a familiar xenophobic theme, viewed intemperance as a pagan vice and concluded that drinking was barbaric. In the fifth century, Saint Jerome reproached a drunken Christian woman for behaving like a pagan. A century later, Salvien (a priest at Marseilles), accused some Christians of drinking like unbelievers. Such condemnation was selective. When the evangelization of the Germans began, the Church forbade the use of beer, but wine-drinking was hailed as a sign of conversion.

In 1596, Barthélemy de Laffumas (an adviser to Henri IV), denounced drinking that "all too often ruins homes and families". The Greek monk Agapios, in a work published in 1647, stated that excessive drinking was harmful to the brain and nerves. He went on to say that it was at the root of numerous maladies such as paralysis, apoplexy, convulsions and trembling. A medical thesis submitted by Berger in 1667 asked the question: "Does wine shorten our lives and harm our health?" Although the author begins by listing the points in favor of wine, he answers the question in the affirmative and describes the damage done by excessive alcohol abuse such as: shaking hands, loss of memory, ulcerated eyes, thirst, disturbed sleep, jerky gait, sluggishness, gaping expression. This work contains a number of valid clinical observations justly attributed to their cause, but such perception was not widespread.” [Cited by Legrand d’Aussy, Histoire de la Vie Privée des Français (Paris, 1815).

In London taverns and even shops, one could get drunk for a penny. For two pence one could drink themself into a stupor in the knowledge that a bed for the night would be provided. Although contemporary writers blamed gin-drinking for high infant mortality and increasing crime, it is likely that gross overcrowding and unemployment had much to do with these problems. Whatever the case, this era engendered two notions that were to become widespread in the following two hundred years, namely that only the poor were drunkards and that drunkenness gave rise to crime.

German research into alcohol-related problems was strongly influenced by contemporary developments in England. In Germany, however, alcoholism interested only the medical community. This is possibly because political ideas did not spread easily from one state to the next. Many doctors regarded alcoholism as an illness.

Alcohol abuse did not awaken the same interest in France in the eighteenth century as it did in the English-speaking world. Nobody stopped to wonder whether drunkenness was an illness, a vice, or a sin. Preachers were restrained from speaking on the subject.

It seems unlikely that a ban on the sale of alcoholic drinks would rid humanity of alcoholism. Cafés and bars facilitate drinking and certainly require some form of regulation. At the beginning of the twentieth century, Jack London wrote in John Barleycorn (a popular work among the American temperance organizations), that wherever men came together to exchange ideas, joke, relax, and forget the monotonous labor of the day, they invariably found themselves before a glass of alcohol. He likened the bar to a primitive camp-fire. From Neolithic times, he argues, men have needed these sorts of establishments. Alcohol is perhaps not indispensable, but it seems inevitable.The bars which are lit for most of the night, welcoming, and noisy, are more tempting and more visible to the solitary person in search of company than the Salvation Army refuge or the hostels of the YMCA.