Alcohol The World's Favorite Drug

Griffith Edwards

St. Martin's Griffin



Trade Paperback

240 Pages


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Alcohol is everywhere. Walk down any street in the Western world and before long your feet will kick against an empty beer can, or your attention will be captured by an alluring advertisement that suggests that alcohol can magically transform your life. Its use is integral to many aspects of popular culture, but it is also a substance that has at times been preached against and even prohibited.

In this book, Griffith Edwards uses both history and chemistry to explore the whole issue of alcohol. Is it a medicine, a delightful potion, a poison, or a mysterious combination of all three? What part has alcohol played in various cultures and religions? Why do different people behave differently when drunk? What cures for habitual inebriation were popular in the past? Why is alcoholism considered a disease? What is "safe drinking"? Is alcohol good for the heart? Do current treatments work? Does Alcoholics Anonymous have the answer?

Armed with the best solid information science, history, and sociology have to offer, Edwards asks how, in the light of this knowledge, society might in the future better handle this pleasure-giving, somewhat dangerous drug. Can society get its pleasure out of alcohol without the inevitable suffering that accompanies misuse? If so, what steps should we take to protect ourselves and others?


Praise for Alcohol

"Offers a fascinating and paradoxical look at alcohol consumption, abuse, dependence, treatment, and policy. It provides a balanced historical review of alcohol issues presented in a well-written and accessible manner."—Journal of Studies on Alcohol

"In the foreseeable future, no serious journalist, no biological scientist, and no professor of sociology should write an article or prepare a course on either alcohol or the problems it engenders without reading this book from cover to cover. It is also the first book that a physician should suggest to a curious or distressed patient trying to understand either alcohol or alcoholism."—George Vaillant, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston

"Griffith Edwards, a world expert on alcoholism, has studied addiction for more than forty years and understands the problem intimately . . . Professor Edwards's timely, well-written guide will help many people."—The Independent (UK)

"Griffith Edwards's new book convincingly brings together chemical, medical, historical, social, and psychological perspectives on our favorite recreational drug."—The Dublin Sunday Tribune

"Gives an excellent overview of how alcohol is perceived worldwide."—Library Journal

"In his survey of the history of treatment, he scrutinizes the disease concept of alcoholism, appraises the Alcoholics Anonymous program, and presents both sides of the debate over whether alcoholics can ever be transformed into moderate drinkers. Edwards makes clear his own belief that handling alcohol well is both a societal and an individual responsibility, and that while alcohol is likely to continue to be the favorite recreational drug, less is unquestionably better. Evenhanded and informative, never pedantic or preachy."—Kirkus Reviews

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  • Griffith Edwards

  • Griffith Edwards was born in India. After receiving his M.D. from Oxford University, his work has centered on the study and treatment of addiction to alcohol and other drugs. He set up the UK National Addiction Center in London and was its first Chairman. A former consultant to the White House on the prevention of drug abuse, he is also the editor in chief of the journal Addiction. His contributions to the study of both addiction and treatment have earned him many major international scientific honors, including the Nathan B. Eddy and Jellinek awards.