Cocaine versus tequila

Originally Published: September 1, 1993 - Last Updated / Reviewed On: August 17, 2011
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Alice—

A friend says cocaine is stupid, expensive and boring. He prefers alcohol. Is this valid reasoning for getting drunk on tequila and falling asleep on the bus to Hoboken?

— I'm Worried

Dear I'm Worried,

It sounds as if your friend wants nothing to do with cocaine, yet you've hinted that he has much more than the occasional drink. You realize that drinking to excess and passing out on a bus is unsafe behavior, but does he? As his friend, you have a few options to help him realize that his behavior is dangerous.

Here are some alcohol consumption stats to keep in mind.

Moderate drinking:

  • Men — no more than two alcoholic drinks per day
  • Women — no more than one alcoholic drink per day

Risky behavior for alcohol-related problems:

  • Men — greater than four drinks per occasion or greater than 14 drinks per week
  • Women — greater than three drinks per occasion or greater than seven drinks per week

Moderate alcohol consumption can have its benefits, such as improved cardiovascular and circulatory health. Ethanol (the major ingredient in alcoholic beverages) directly influences many parts of the body, such as the stomach, brain, gallbladder, heart, and liver. Controlled drinking can improve digestion, help relieve stress, and act as a social impetus, improving one's psychological state.

Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to increased blood pressure and heart damage; greater risk of cancers of the mouth, throat, esophagus, colon, and breast; and, cause inflammation and scarring of the liver. Alcohol consumption can also play a large role in depression and violent behavior.Excessive drinking is a factor in approximately half of all fatal traffic accidents in the United States and is a major cause of preventable fatalities in many countries around the world. Alcohol also needs to be avoided by pregnant women because it can damage a growing fetus before it has the chance to develop properly.

If your friend continues to match or exceed the risky behavior limits for drinking alcohol, there is cause for intervention. A friendly talk could help him become aware of the problem. Starting with a positive statement about your friendship could break the ice. If you do not feel comfortable approaching your friend alone, perhaps you can ask another friend to join in the discussion. Make sure that you are clear about your concern(s), use "I" statements, and emphasize that you are not saying this to judge or gang up on him. Let him know that you care about him and his health; this may ease some tension and feelings of defensiveness.

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, the following is true of alcohol consumption in America:

  • 9.6 million Americans meet the criteria for alcohol abuse (alcoholism)
  • Alcohol is an influence in one in four cases of violent crime
  • More than 12,000 people die each year in automobile crashes involving alcohol
  • Alcohol abuse costs more than $180 billion USD per year.

Money is not your concern when it comes to your friend's health, but what about the paycheck he wastes on all of the alcoholic drinks that he consumes before that bus ride home? It also might not hurt to mention some cases when your friend slept through his stop or felt unsafe and intoxicated on the ride home. This may drive home the point that your friend is not drinking just to feel less inhibited in social situations, but becoming obliterated and compromising his safety, paycheck, and perhaps friendships.

Your friend's comparison between cocaine and alcohol seems to hint at the fact that he has tried cocaine in the past and may be rationalizing his choice to use alcohol instead. Dependency on mind-altering substances, such as alcohol and other drugs, often hint at additional problems that are masked beneath the addictive behavior. Let your friend know that you are available to talk, or go out to do something less destructive to take his mind off of his addictive habits. Your friendship, support, and caring can help him through tough times, while he sorts out his reasoning for dependency on these substances. Whether he is taking the subway or the bus, walking, or getting into the car, your friend is not ensuring that he will arrive home safely by making the trip completely intoxicated. Reminding him that you care about him enough to be worried may help him realize that he is drinking too much, and overcompensating for issues that can be worked out more productively, possibly with a health professional or support group, when he is sober.

Alice