A couple ice cubes short of an Old Fashioned

Psychiatrist Keith Ablow, member of the Fox News Medical A-Team:

According to the Centers for Disease Control, we’re becoming a nation of drunks. Booze hounds on benders.

New data reveals that one in every six Americans downs eight mixed drinks within a few hours, four times a month. Twenty-eight percent of young people between the ages of 18 and 24 binge-drink five times a month, putting away seven drinks in one sitting. And 13 percent of those between the ages of 45 and 65 binge drink five times a month, too.

News of the magnitude of this intoxication—resulting in frequently and dramatically altered states of consciousness for tens of millions of Americans—is no different than if we were to learn that a quarter of our young people were snorting half-a-gram of cocaine more than once-a-week or injecting heroin on that schedule. The psychological/cognitive effects of seven or eight drinks are no less intense, and, possibly, even more dramatic.

Think about that: A significant portion of our population wants to not be present for significant portions of every single week.

Well, think about this: The federal government mandated through threats to withhold transportation aid that states adopt the 21-year-old drinking age in the mid-1980s. The federal government last decade mandated through threats to withhold transportation aid that states reduce the legal level of drunk driving from 0.10 to 0.08. And yet, according to Ablow, “tens of millions of Americans” continue to seek “dramatically altered states of consciousness” through their favorite adult beverage(s). Federal efforts to reduce drinking appear to have been as successful as Prohibition.

And yet, as a fan of adult beverages (but you knew that), I’m skeptical. The three-martini lunch — forget that, the one-martini lunch — is something you see only on “Mad Men.” A lot of people go overboard once (or before) they reach legal drinking age, but when they mature they drink responsibly. Last decade we had a president who didn’t drink, and depending on the November results we might have another. (Mormons don’t drink, for those who didn’t know that.) I suspect post-college adults know more people who don’t drink at all than drink at Ablow’s specified binge level.

What Ablow says next is more interesting:

My theory is that Americans are on a flight from reality. Faced with painful facts—including the precarious state of the economy, the gathering storm represented by militant Muslims, in general, and Iran, in particular, the crumbling state of marriage in this country, the fact that our borders are being overrun, and the fact that our health care insurance system is in shambles (to name just a smattering of the troubles we desperately need to address)—we as a nation are drinking, drugging, gambling, smoking, Facebooking, YouTubing, Marijuaning, Kardashianing, Adderalling, Bono-ing (as in thinking of Chaz’s sad flight from reality as good), Prozacking, Twittering, and Sexting ourselves into oblivion. …

See, when you drug yourself five or ten percent of your life, that experience (or rather non-experience) can contaminate the rest of your life, too. Because suppressing your truth—including your anxiety and your resolve—for one day in 7 days is enough to tip the balance of your thinking away from introspection, away from insight and away from real involvement with others and the world around you. …

More laws could never solve this problem, by the way. A new Prohibition wouldn’t stem the tide of the clear desire of a significant percentage of Americans to anesthetize themselves a significant portion of their lives. The only antidote is the decisiveness of individuals to live their lives, to be present and to count—for real.

“To live their lives, to be present and to count — for real” involves focusing on the right things, by the way. (As opposed to the dominant culture in my hometown. Or, for that matter, Ablow‘s Facebook obsession with Casey Anthony.) “Think globally, act locally” is half-sound advice and half-silly. I hate to break this news to you, but you have no influence over “militant Muslims,” Iran, our borders (supposedly) being overrun, or,  for that matter, global climate change. The world will not end if a majority of American voters compound their 2008 mistake and vote again for Barack Obama. You do, however, have the ability to influence what you do — your own life, and the people in your world. We’d all be better off if we focused on fixing our own lives instead of others’ lives.

Another thought Ablow might not want me to point out is that resorting to “experts” such as Ablow’s Life Coaches or Medical A-Team may actually make things worse. Someone with more knowledge than you is not necessarily smarter or wiser than you. (My late grandmother and father-in-law, each of whom stopped school after eighth grade, had more sense than people I’ve known with educational suffixes after their names.) Today’s popular culture appears more inclined to run to Oprah, “The View,” “The Talk,” “The Doctors,” “Dr. Phil,” “Dr. Drew” or anything involving the word “buzz” instead of using all those brain cells God gave us. Teachers, however, make their students work out things for themselves instead of telling them the answer, for a reason.

Of course, I don’t know any of the aforementioned paragraph personally. I don’t participate in the freak show that is reality TV, and the TV is off in the daytime. I do not know all the answers (or even some of the questions), but when I need advice, I know to not get it from TV.


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