The other day a lady stopped me in Safeway and said her 17-year-old son had started fooling around with booze, as kids are prone to do. She told him that the indiscriminate use of alcohol could destroy his life, but he abruptly dismissed her warnings and — of all the crazy, contrary arguments he could have come up with — called upon my silly columns because, I presume, he knew his mother read them. He pointed out, “Wally in the newspaper drinks a lot.”
Well, now, this certainly requires a bit of elaboration. It’s true that I tip a few martinis from time to time — and, of late, a few Fireballs as well. But I don’t drink nearly as much as some of my exaggerated writings might suggest.
Nevertheless, to a teetotaler I’m probably the flaming town drunk. It’s all relative.
For the benefit of her son, there’s a critical fact that anyone who drinks should bear in mind: booze is a narcotic and don’t ever forget it. As such, alcohol has the same effect on your body as heroin, morphine, barbiturates and oxycontin. All narcotics depress the central nervous system. And if you overdose, they’ll eventually shut down your lungs and stop your heart which, in the case of booze, has been amply demonstrated at collegiate “binge parties.”
Of course, heroin, morphine and oxycontin are much more intense than booze; that is, the initial ingestion often knocks a person out. That’s especially true of heroin. It’s not that the user doesn’t want to move; rather, he literally cannot move. Then, gradually over time, the person returns to normal consciousness. Once again, he can carry on a conversation, though his words may be slurred and he may nod out from time to time. Further sobriety may produce a brief period of giddiness and gregariousness before all the effects are finally dissipated.
The effects of alcohol can be just the reverse. After a drink or two, the user may become more relaxed, uninhibited and generally more sociable. It’s these early stages of intoxication that many people find appealing. However, after a few more drinks, vision gets blurred, conversation becomes slurred and your physical balance is impaired. Throw down 10 shots of tequila and you’ll wake up dead.
If your genetic makeup is such that you’re prone to addiction, booze can be very habitual. I have some of that. I’m the first to admit that dinner simply doesn’t seem complete without wine and, to further reveal my dependency, I become uneasy in certain social situations if I don’t have a glass in my hand. Addiction-prone personalities should probably avoid booze altogether, unless you simply don’t give a damn if you’re hooked – which raises philosophical questions I’m not prepared to discuss at this time.
Of late, there is ample evidence to indicate teenagers who drink heavily do permanent, irreversible damage to their higher and finer rational facilities. That should be ample warning to youngsters everywhere.
I’ll close this column where I began, by reminding everyone – especially that 17-year-old – that alcohol is a hard narcotic. Don’t ever forget it.