The usefulness of alcohol

Because I don't drink anymore, I watch less television. My regular routine was to open a beer and turn on the television around 10 PM. Didn't even care what was there. Jinek, Op1, football, a documentary on Arte. After the beer sometimes followed a second beer or something stronger. At 12 o'clock I went to bed.

Now I go up earlier, often around 11 o'clock. And then read for half an hour. To reward myself for abstinence and to make reading easier, I gifted myself an e-reader. One of the books I have on there is 'Drink? The new science of alcohol + your health by Professor David Nutt. In Dutch translates as 'Drinkje?'

The author, professor of neuropsychopharmacology, describes what alcohol does to your brain and body. That it stimulates hormones that make you feel good. But also that alcohol is an addictive poison that increases the risk of cancer, heart problems and dementia, among other things. You wouldn't touch a new drug with those properties, he writes. But alcohol has a special place in our culture.

Nutt lists all the ill effects of alcohol and the damage it does to the body and mind. He also includes a chapter in which you can find out for yourself whether you have an alcohol problem or not. He then discusses the social aspects of alcohol. Because however you look at it, alcohol is the social drug par excellence. No birth, wedding, anniversary, birthday or other event, or alcohol will be served.

We don't have to stop drinking from Nutt unless we have an alcohol problem. Then you have to see your doctor. You do have to ask yourself what risk you are willing to take and what you get in return. Drink in moderation, Nutt advises. Leave the bottle in the cupboard 2 days a week and limit your daily intake.

The professor warns against the dark sides of alcohol, but is also an enthusiast himself. With one of his daughters, he owns a wine bar in Ealing, London. “My life encompasses the good and bad of alcohol, bringing together my knowledge, experiences and ideas in a way that I hope explains why such a simple molecule as alcohol can bring so much pleasure and pain at the same time,” he writes in the foreword.

And further on, in the section on tips for drinking responsibly, he writes: “I want you to get the maximum benefit from drinking with minimal negative effects. He then gives you a week-to-week schedule to get your drinking under control. With a drinking diary, an explanation of why you want to drink less, eliminating drinking moments that do not bring you anything, setting goals and rewarding yourself when you succeed.

Some more tips:

  • Don't drink alcohol when you're thirsty
  • Say 'no' to champagne
  • Don't wash your food down with wine
  • Stop after 2 drinks
  • Promise yourself not to get drunk
  • Sign up as the BOB
  • Buy expensive alcohol
  • Don't drink at home

Nutt offers even more suggestions. That tip to buy expensive drinks appeals to me. Every now and then a nice single malt whiskey of 20 years or older, that sounds like something to me. Furthermore, after reading the book, I am left with a bit of an uneasy feeling. If you have to put in so much effort to control your alcohol consumption, is it still fun? Wouldn't it be better if you stop completely.

Everyone has to make their own decision on that. As Nutt wrote in the introduction, if a new drug had the properties of alcohol, you wouldn't think twice about using it. Then the government would probably not allow the sale and use either. Alcohol, it remains a strange case.



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