Alcohol vs. Drugs

In thinking about the drug war, I often wonder where we stand with alcohol. From my perspective, it seems to get a free pass. We hear about drugs, which we all know are terrible. Are they? Or is it that we don’t like the people who choose drugs over alcohol? Make no mistake, alcohol is a very dangerous substance and the truth is, it does more damage to society than anything else. Why is it that we treat it differently than other drugs? Marijuana is safer than alcohol and yet alcohol gets a free pass. It’s a strange aspect of the drug war and I started to wonder: what does alcohol cost society and who pays for it?

Nobody seems to know what alcohol consumption costs. Consumption of alcohol is fine but alcohol abuse is a different matter. In a sense, alcohol is just another product that people buy. Of course people are in denial and not honest about their drinking and the impact of it on themselves, their work places, or their families. I don’t think there is any real way to know what alcohol costs in dollars to the US on an annual basis. NIDA doesn’t seem to know. The Marin institute, a think tank in California estimates the cost to be 175.9 billion dollars annually. Seems like a huge number. Some of the categories they were looking into were; additional health care costs, loss of productivity, damage to property. As a side note, imagine the additional cost if we were trying to arrest people for consuming it. Forget scholarly research and stats, I argue they are never accurate with any kind of questions about chemical use because, addicts lie. In any event, let’s say alcohol cost a shitload of money every year in many ways, ways we cannot even imagine. Who pays the tab? The consumers of the product don’t pay the price, not really (when do drunks ever pay the price?). Looking into this and not very deeply, I was shocked to find how minimal the taxes are. In New York, beer is taxed .14 per gallon, wine .30 per gallon, and distilled liquor $6.44 per gallon. Cigarettes are taxed $2.75 per pack.  A gallon of beer can do a lot of damage. Is .14 adequate?

Maybe one of the ways that we can finance treatment and continuing care options is by taxing alcohol in a real way. How about a .25 per drink tax in NYC bars? Who would this hurt? Bar owners? Not a chance. Who supports the low taxes on alcohol? Must be the alcohol lobby. In spite of our enmeshed relationship with alcohol, it is not a ‘needed” product. It’s not bread, milk, heating oil or gas. Have we become so fucked up by this substance that we just accept the damage it does to us? If cigarettes are taxed at 2.75 per pack, so should a bottle of wine, a 6 pack of beer or a bottle of liquor. Nobody likes taxes so I will take the heat: it can be called the “Schrank damage control/treatment option tax” and if you don’t like the tax, don’t buy the product. Take the money you will be saving and throw it into the hat at an AA meeting and shut the fuck up, you’ll thank me later.

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