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The Drinker’s Manifesto - NYTimes.com


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We drink because we want to, not because it’s good for us.

Whether you believe that alcohol is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy (a paraphrase of a quote usually attributed to Ben Franklin) or that God has nothing to do with this, it’s clear that alcohol can bring both joy and pain.

This is also true of many other things in life, but with alcohol, many of us forgive the self-indulgence. That’s almost official policy, in one way: A bottle of soda has a nutrition label; a bottle of vodka does not. These are calories you’re probably not counting. (If you want to drink “light,” calorie-wise, drink straight booze rather than mixed drinks, wine or beer.) Still, we feel guilty: Two-thirds of us drink, and many of us either underestimate the amount we do or actually lie about it. In Britain, for example, drinking reported to health professionals accounts for only about 60 percent of the alcohol sold. I lie to my doctors about drinking, because by official standards I drink too much and I don’t want to be scolded.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that men drink too much when we consume 15 “drinks” a week (a drink is a 5-ounce glass of wine, a shot of spirits or a beer); women get to have only 8. (Women generally weigh less than men, and alcohol may have more ill effects on women.) You also drink too much if you consume five drinks within three hours; that’s a binge. And, according to the C.D.C., one drink is one too many for people under 21 years of age. Which is absurd, even if it’s the law.

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