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Book 1, Lesson 1
Alcohol in the U.S. Today



Alcohol is the world’s No.1 drug of choice. By definition alcohol is a mind altering, addictive, narcotic drug. Addiction is the ace up the sleeve alcohol drug sellers never mention.

The high demand for this addictive drug gives its producers unprecedented power. The alcohol industry influences governments; it controls its controllers. With increasing boldness alcohol producers assure the public that drinking this drug brings happiness, wealth, prestige, sophistication, success, maturity, athletic ability, virility, creativity, sexual satisfaction and—even more—good health.

Alcohol marketing strategy successfully links alcohol drugging to sports. Think sports, think beer. Sports open the door to adolescent and young adult minds. In the U.S., the Harvard School of Public Health College Sports Study of 2002 reports 53% of college sports fans drinking heavily, binge drinking, at sports events.

Where is national outrage against alcohol? Who can be outraged if he’s a drinker himself? National Institute of Health statistics, 2004, using 2002 surveys, say 83.1 percent of Americans, calculating from age 12 up, report using alcohol in their lifetime.

Worldwide, pre-teen and teen-age drinking has reached a crisis state. In the U.S., alcohol is the leading cause of death among youth, and the third leading cause of preventable death for all ages. Alcohol use costs the nation over $185 billion dollars a year.

A hundred years ago the churches of America spoke out against alcohol because they understood that the wine the Bible condemned was alcoholic wine. Today the church, in general, is in bed with the alcohol industry. Both preach “responsible drinking.” 

English historian Sir Arnold Toynbee identified alcohol as a key factor in the “decay from within” disintegration of civilizations. Evangelist Billy Sunday said that if all the forces of hell could meet with all the men on earth who hate God, and they would all try to think of the deadliest thing they could do to destroy the home, the church and the state, they could think of nothing that would compare with the bar.

The Bible states a principle for all in positions of responsibility. Proverbs 31:4,5 says, “It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine; nor for princes strong drink: Lest they drink and forget the law, and pervert the judgment of any of the afflicted.”


How many people are drinking? The estimated U.S. population was 295,734,134 as of July, 2005. Government statistics say 62.8 % of adults 18 years old and over, drank alcohol in 2002.[1] Since statistics are calculated on actual data, they lag behind estimates, but using the 62.8 figure with the 2005 population would mean that 185,721,036 adults drink alcohol.

 Another government report shows that 83.1 percent of Americans, age 12 on up, say they have drunk alcohol in their lifetime.[2] Using the 83.1 figure that includes the teen drinkers with the 2005 population of 295,734,134 brings the number up to 245,755,065 people who have used alcohol in their lifetime.

It is not surprising that one out of three Americans says that alcohol has been the cause of trouble in his or her family.[3]  Alcohol causes

  • Violence
  • Marital conflict
  • Infidelity
  • Jealousy
  • Economic insecurity
  • Divorce  
  • Fetal alcohol Syndrome, Fetal Alcohol Effect  
One great tragedy of alcohol use the world is slow to recognize is Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, an umbrella name for all alcohol caused permanent defects in the unborn child. Both a drinking father and a drinking mother contribute to a damaged child. When a mother drinks, the baby has to use Mom’s liver to remove toxins. One beer in Mom’s bloodstream stays 4 to 6 hours. But for the baby that is 8 to 10 hours.

Dr. Susan Doctor, MEd, PhD, holds the first doctorate in FAS in the US. In her seminars she says, “FAS is not curable. I want to impress this on you. FAS people, to the extent of their impairment, will always need an external brain. I said always and external.”

A neurologically injured child will endure a lifetime of failures. It is estimated that 50 to 80% of persons in the criminal justice system suffer from alcohol caused brain damage they received before they were born.[4]

Alcohol destroys families. It can destroy each individual in the family.

The Bible says in Proverbs 20:1, “Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.”


In advertising, glamorous alcohol is the drink of the beautiful people. The truth is that the alcohol in beverage alcohol is a toxin or poison to the body. It kills more people than all illegal drugs combined.

As many as 86% of homicide offenders, 37% of assault offenders, 60% of sexual offenders, 13% of child abusers and 57% of men and 27% of women involved in spousal abuse were under the influence of alcohol at the time of the incident.[5]

Some 20-40 percent of patients in large urban hospitals are there because their drinking has caused or contributed to the illness for which they were admitted.[6] 

1700 college students died in 2001, from alcohol partying or alcohol related injuries.[7] From the start of conflict in Iraq in 2003 to May 2005 the US military reports the death of 1516 soldiers.

2.8 million college students drove under the influence of alcohol in 2001, an increase of 500,000 since 1998,  and so did 4.5 million college aged persons who were not in college.[8]

18 million people in the US abuse or are addicted to alcohol. Each year only 2 million seek treatment and up to 90% relapse within four years.[9] The number given for people who are addicted or abuse alcohol may be far less than truth. Research is based on surveys and questionnaires.

In 2003, 17,013 people were killed on the nation’s highways in 15,251 alcohol related crashes—a death every 30 minutes. An estimated 258,000 people were injured—one approximately every 2 minutes.10]     Not all alcohol related crashes are recognized or reported as such.

Alcohol use results in 7.6 million US emergency room visits each year.[11]

Alcohol anesthetizes the brain long after leaving the blood, as much as 24 hours later.[12] 

Alcohol is the leading cause of mental retardation in western civilization. 27 million American children are at risk for abnormal psychosocial development due to the abuse of alcohol by their parents.[13] 

Alcohol is classified as a Class A cancer causing carcinogen because it causes cancer.[14]


In the book, Brew It Yourself, author Leigh P. Beadle tells us that beer making is one of the oldest arts known to man. Barley malt was used in brewing by the early Mesopotamians. The Egyptians were brewing beer around 2000 B.C. From Egypt the Greeks carried the art to Europe. Later the Romans learned about beer when they conquered Greece. It is possible that beer was introduced into England by Roman armies. Historical documents show that the consumption of beer in England during the Middle Ages was enormous.

Mr. Beadle goes on to say that the “Pilgrim Journal,” a record of the trip of the Mayflower, reported that the colonists victuals were much spent, especially their beer. “Beer,” he writes, “was stocked on long voyages because the hops (bitter herbs) preserved it fresh, whereas water soon spoiled.” [15] Beer was not used so much as a recreational drink but as a means of survival.

Early colonial governments urged new colonists to bring malt with them to brew and to drink beer until their bodies were hardened to drinking the local water. John Winthrop, the first governor of Massachusetts, arrived on the ship Arabella with 42 tons of beer aboard. After the Revolutionary War, brewing was again encouraged. Many people believed that drinking beer was healthy and would prevent drinking of more “spirituous liquors.” [16]

Dr. Jack Van Impe, in his book, Alcohol, the Beloved Enemy, reveals that alcohol was a big problem in early America.  Henry Hudson offered the Indians of Manhattan Island liquor, a new drink for them, and they all got drunk. Although alcohol use was common, says Dr. Van Impe, the colonists severely punished heavy drinkers. A man who drank too much spent time in the stocks or on the whipping stool. For a second offense he could be sentenced to wear a large letter “D” for drunkard around his neck for a year. [17]

Dr. Benjamin Rush, a signer of the Declaration of Independence and surgeon general of the Revolutionary Army was one of the first Americans to speak out on the evils of alcohol use. Rush had read a pamphlet by Anthony Benezet, a Quaker, about the terrible effects of alcohol. As surgeon general he found that drinking was hurting the American cause more than the British army. Alcohol was also used freely as a medicine.

Rush began a battle against distilled liquor. After the Revolutionary War, he did more research and called for ministers to join him in the fight. In 1785 he published a pamphlet called, “An Inquiry into the Effects of Ardent Spirits on the Human Mind and Body.” This pamphlet was so powerful that great opposition to alcohol use in America began to grow.

Influenced by Rush and by what he saw with his own eyes, an important American theologian, Rev. Lyman Beecher, threw himself into the fight against intemperance. In 1825 he preached and printed six sermons on alcoholism. The public was so eager to read what he wrote that his sermons had to be reprinted five times in one year. Thousands of people in America and in Europe agreed with what he said. In the sermons he called for entire prohibition of the liquor traffic.

Serving intoxicants to show hospitality or for celebrations, Beecher said, was wrong. He warned against drinking beer as well as liquor. Beer, he preached, only takes the victim to his grave more slowly, and with “more of the stupidity of the idiot and less of the demonic frenzy of the madman.” Finally, in 1836, Lyman Beecher helped the new American Temperance Union organization pass a resolution calling for total abstinence from any drink that can intoxicate.

On April 2, 1840, six men who had a private drinking club listened to a temperance speaker. They were so convicted they made a vow of total abstinence. They called themselves the Washingtonians. By 1847, they had 600,000 members.

Early in 1840, Neal Dow asked a saloon keeper not to sell drinks to a poor relative for the sake of the man's family. The saloon keeper said he would serve anyone he wanted to. Dow was furious and vowed, “With God's help I will change all this.” He began a crusade for prohibition and by 1855 thirteen states were dry.[18]

In 1842, Abraham Lincoln wrote about his childhood. He said intoxicating liquor was used by everybody. The first drink given to an infant and the last drink given to a dying man had liquor in it. The preachers and homeless loafers used it. A barn raising, corn husking bee or hoe-down — nothing was complete without it. Like the death angel of Egypt, liquor was commissioned to slay if not the first, the fairest born of every family.

Rum, molasses and slaves were the great trade items. Farmers in the interior made their corn into whiskey to make it easy to transport for sale. The saloon business expanded into gambling and prostitution and crooked politics.

On the day of his death, Abraham Lincoln thanked God for victory over slavery. “The next question,” he said, “will be the abolition of the liquor traffic.”

The Civil War had slowed the temperance movement down, but by 1869 active temperance fighters formed the National Prohibition Party. Then, in the cold month of December, 1873, God moved Christian women to take a stand with Him in a mighty crusade against beverage alcohol.

In Hillsboro, Ohio, women met for prayer in the morning and then marched to the thirteen saloons and drug stores in town where liquor was sold. They sang, presented an appeal, knelt on the floor of the saloons and prayed. Within two months nine of the thirteen liquor sellers had closed their liquor business.

As the crusade spread, saloon doors were locked against the women. Drinking men tried to drown out the singing and praying by yelling obscenities. Hired brass bands played as loud as they could to drown out the praying. Men poured booze over the women and even beat some of them. Barkeepers complained to the authorities and had women arrested and put in jail. But the Woman's Crusade swept like wildfire into 31 states in 1874. Churches were filled for nightly meetings as the Crusade put thousands of saloons out of business.

In 1874, the National Woman's Christian Temperance Union was organized. Under the dynamic leadership of Frances Willard from 1879 until 1898, the WCTU became the largest woman's organization in the country. Miss Willard made a statement that the WCTU still finds true today. “The church could destroy the liquor traffic if it would; the liquor traffic would destroy the church if it could.”

Calling themselves “The Church in Action Against the Saloon,” the Anti-Saloon League organized nationally in 1896. The League united most of the temperance groups in the country and had immense political power. Most of its support came from churches. [19]

By 1900, only three states were dry, less than in 1855. The battle had been raging for a hundred years, but the temperance fighters saw people turning against alcohol.

The movement needed a fiery speaker and the man God chose was Billy Sunday. One day Billy was drinking with other ball players in a Chicago saloon. He walked out and went to the Pacific Garden Mission where he was converted to Christ. He held great crusades all across America. People accepted Christ as their Savior and this changed their views on alcohol. Billy was, he said, “A sworn, eternal, uncompromising enemy of the liquor traffic.” He claimed liquor was the devil's best friend. [20]

On January 17, 1920, national prohibition began, adopted by enthusiasm as the states approved the prohibition amendment.


National prohibition began in 1920 after a hundred years of struggling against liquor. From 1920 until 1932, alcohol was an illegal drug. The liquor propagandists have succeeded in getting many Americans to believe that Prohibition failed. That is not true.

During Prohibition, the death rate from cirrhosis of the liver fell by 66%, and the general death rate was lower than for any previous year.[21] In addition, crime decreased by 54% and insanity decreased by 66%. The nation was more prosperous because labor was more dependable, industrial accidents were cut down, and sale of farm products and other staple goods increased.

Gangs did smuggle liquor during Prohibition years. Often they killed each other and paid off politicians. But repealing the Prohibition Amendment did not cut crime. The prison population in federal prisons increased by 25% the year liquor was again legalized.[22]

In 1933 when Prohibition ended, the trail of misery, crime and death began again. The amount of alcoholic beverages sold in 1914, before prohibition, averaged out to 22.80 gallons for every man, woman and child in the country. In 1934, the first year after repeal, the amount was 8.96 gallons. It took the liquor industry many years to get the drinking back up to the levels of the days before prohibition.[23]

By 1984, the per capita consumption of alcohol (counting every man, woman and young person in the U.S. 14 years old and older) was 2.65 gallons of pure alcohol per person. This is the amount of alcohol found in about 50 gallons of beer, or 20 gallons of wine or more than 4 gallons of distilled spirits.[24]

Not every man, woman and young person 14 and older drinks alcohol. If abstainers are left out, the actual estimated consumption of the drinkers was about 4 gallons of pure alcohol per drinker.[25]

Statistics from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) set the per capita ethanol consumption for the United States in 2002, age 14 and older, at 2.20 gallons per person. Statistics are based on liquor sales.


3. American Ass’n for Marriage and Family Therapy
5.   Roizen. J. Epidemiological issues in alcohol related violence. Vol. 12, 1997 pp.7-40
7.   NIAAA press office, 3/17/05   
8.   Ibid.
9.   Science and Technology, 4/11/05
11. Health -Reuters, Yahoo
12. Tufts University Diet and Nutrition Newsletter, Mar. 1986
13. US Health and Human Services, National Institute of Health
14. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in its "Report on Carcinogens" 9th edition.
15. Leigh P. Beadle, Brew It Yourself, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York, 1975, p.12.
16. Ibid., pp.11-13.
17. Van Impe, Alcohol, pp.72,73.
18. Norman H. Clark, Deliver Us From Evil, W.W. Norton and Co., 1976, p.22.
19. Van Impe, Alcohol, p.84.
20. Ibid., pp.72-86.
21. Brady, “Some Sobering Statistics on Sipping the Suds.”
22. Van Impe, Alcohol, p.94.
23. Ibid., p.91.
24. “Sixth Special Report to the U.S. Congress on Alcohol and Health,” from the Secretary  of Health, Education and Welfare, Rockville, MD, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, January, 1987, pp.1,2.
25. Ibid. p.2


Copyright 2005
Woman's Christian Temperance Union
of South Dakota