The Magic Genie in the Bottle

Polishing alcohol’s Tarnished Halo

The epidemic of opiate and heroin addiction in the US is tragic but alcohol is the deadliest drug. Recently reported connections between alcohol consumption and cancer risk have tarnished the “Health Halo” covering moderate drinking. According to the New York Times, the alcohol industry is the primary sponsor of a new $100 million clinical trial into the health benefits of daily moderate drinking. For our health, and the health of our children, we need to fight back against media distortion of the benefits of drinking !

When I turned on my computer this morning I was reminded by the MSN home page that whiskey can help prevent cancer, dementia, diabetes, the common cold and more. If whiskey is such an healthy beverage why would I ever drink anything else?!

Unless of course I chose tequila in a margarita on a hot summer day!

According to another article featured on MSN a few days ago, tequila could strengthen my bones, reduce blood sugar, boost my metabolism, and cure the common cold. Four of the five health benefits of tequila in that article were attributed to Agave but the article was titled 5 Reasons Drinking Tequila is Good for You not 5 Reasons to try Agave.

Marketing a cancer causing addictive drug as a healthy choice is nothing new. Fifty years ago cigarette ads were every bit as twisted as alcohol marketing is now. The Surgeon General banned cigarette ads touting the supposed health benefits and with the increase of public scrutiny and the enactment of laws banning public smoking, cigarette smoking has lost all of its former glamour. Yet, even though the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) declared alcohol as a carcinogen in 1988, the alcohol industry remains immune to the laws that govern cigarette advertising.

Alcohol is marketed across generations and cultures with the same message: drinking makes you cool, sexy, fun and fully alive. It’s portrayed as an essential component of a life well lived and any concerns about the unattractive or dangerous side effects are answered. Skinnygirl Cocktails, LuLuemon Beer , Spiked Seltzer, Ty Ku Sake and Anti-aGin, a “Skin and Tonic” infused with collagen and anti-oxidizing botanicals, are seemingly indispensable and stylish products for the health and beauty conscious crowd. Alcohol is sold as safe, sexy and healthy unless you have a problem controlling your consumption.

Every day the MSN web portal offers multiple articles on the health benefits of a variety of alcoholic beverages. On the MSN affiliate NBC, TODAY show team Kathy Lee and Hoda are famous for their daily drinks fest. Funday Monday, BoozeDay Tuesday, Winesday Wednesday, Thirstday Thursday, Tryday Friday (the day they try something new)! are all the perfect excuse for a mid-morning tipple.

The demographic that is most likely to watch Kathie Lee and Hoda enjoy their morning wine on the Today show is the same demographic that is dying of cirrhosis of the liver in their early fifties at alarming rates. Middle-aged, rural white women who live in economically depressed areas may not be able to afford Kathie Lee’s brand GIFFT wine, but they are obviously meant to be encouraged by her example to think that daily drinking is an integral part of the “beautiful life” on their TV screen.

I’m a member of a more privileged demographic but we are also binge drinking at alarming rates. Educated, upper-middle class, middle-age white women may not be dying as often of cirrhosis as our less privileged sisters but that is most likely a result of economic advantage.

We can afford health care, gym memberships, excellent nutrition and if we binge we can afford expensive detox. Sadly Mobile hangover clinics have become a booming business with intravenous re-hydrating vitamin blasts that cost about 300$ a session.

I used to be very susceptible to these marketing campaigns. I believed that I needed to drink to enjoy life and I wanted to believe that drinking daily wasn’t as unhealthy as it felt. But now at the beginning of my third alcohol free year my skin is glowing, my metabolism has balanced out and I can pretty much eat what I want without worrying about my weight. For me the biggest difference however is not how I look but how I feel. At fifty two I feel ten years younger than I did at forty nine. I’m happier, more energized, more genuine and spontaneous. This new completely sober middle aged me is full of creative drive and looking to the future with a zest I haven’t felt since my late twenties.

We must hold the alcohol industry to the same standard of truth that we hold the tobacco industry. We cannot allow them to continue selling their wares as the solution to the problem they create. I have learned from my own experience that alcohol addiction can creep up on anyone who drinks often enough and it is an addiction that kills.

There has been a lot of conflicting information about the health benefits of alcohol and especially wine in the past twenty years. It’s no wonder the we are a bit confused about whether or not we’re drinking too much.

Depending on what you’ve read moderate drinking could be the best thing for you

………or not.

They say that red wine is full of powerful anti-oxidants that prevents cancer

……….but the ethanol in alcoholic drinks is carcinogenic.

They say red wine promotes weight loss

……….but the calories in wine and the metabolic effects of drinking lead to obesity.

Red wine is said to prevent Alzheimer’s

………..but addiction to alcohol can lead to brain damage.

I don’t see the rampant media saturation of confusing alcohol marketing coming to an end anytime soon but for every one who is manipulated by these deceptive campaigns, and for everyone who is made to feel that alcohol should be improving their health if only they could drink a bit less, I will fight.

We can think for ourselves.

Buyer beware!

Rethink the Drink. It’s the Best Gift you can Give Yourself.