FASlink Fetal Alcohol Disorders Society
Alcohol and Thalidomide

Alcohol and Thalidomide
Bruce Ritchie

When it was discovered that Thalidomide caused birth defects, it was almost immediately withdrawn and banned from North American markets. The drug companies continued to sell it in Third World countries. Alcohol causes far more birth defects than Thalidomide ever did and is still a legal drug, available everywhere.

Pre-1960, in Canada it was illegal to sell alcohol to First Nations people. That policy was deemed by the courts to be discriminatory. Since then they have been decimated by alcohol more than any other culture in Canada. It is suicide (or genocide) on the installment plan.
Prohibition did work far better than the situation today. Yes, people could still get booze, but it was harder to find, socially frowned upon and certainly not available in corner convenience stores. There were alcoholics back then, but certainly not the percentage we have today.
Alcohol destroys more families, businesses, and individuals than any other cause. For centuries in some areas, alcoholic beverages were safer than drinking water (nothing lives in alcohol). But alcohol was generally consumed in moderation with meals in European culture. The objective was not to get “blasted”.

Science and medicine were ignorant of the real effects of prenatal alcohol exposure. But times have changed. We know tobacco is not a medicinal herb. It is a collection of hundreds of dangerous toxins. We know the damage alcohol does on a cellular level and most of those on FASlink know what it is like to live with the results.

Alcohol is a product that acts on the brain to cause severe addiction in roughly 10% of those who try it - much higher in some cultures. It was not the political system that caused the collapse of the USSR.

Given what we know about alcohol today, it is appalling that we permit its continued promotion as being as safe as milk or orange juice. It is appalling that although it is known to be toxic, appropriate warning labels are not even printed on booze bottles in Canada, unless they are being exported to the U.S.A.

It is appalling that so many people continue to make, market and serve a product that is involved in more than half the fatal accidents in North America and destroys so many lives. Massive Denial is rampant.

I used to manage the computer systems for a Police Service. More than 80% of Occurrences requiring police attendance involved alcohol.

More than half Canada's federal prisoners (more than 2-year sentence) are diagnosed or undiagnosed FAS/E. More than half were under the influence of alcohol at the time they committed the offence for which they were incarcerated.

It costs $120,000 per year to house a young offender and $85,000 per year to house an adult offender. What a waste of lives and money.

Our governments are severely addicted to the tax revenue. In Canada, beverage alcohol tax revenues total $3.2 billion. However, if only half the $10 billion Canadian taxpayers spend on the justice system is attributable to booze, then the net loss is $1.8 billion annually. It is appalling that so little money is spent on addiction research, treatment centres and supporting victims of alcohol.

I don't have the answers to the alcohol crisis we are facing, but we can't shrug it off and hope it will go away by itself.

I think a key answer will come when we discover the exact mechanism of addiction and develop a reliable method to treat it. That will take much more medical research, but it will eventually happen.
There are many people, myself included, who can enjoy a glass of wine with dinner without becoming addicted or overdoing it. There are many who eliminate alcohol and other drugs when they get pregnant and are very conscious of their health.

We need solutions for those who are outside those groups. We also need to stop promoting the consumption of booze, particularly to young people. Booze is not “cool”. It does kill brain cells. It is not a problem if you think you have more brain cells than you need. But I need every single brain cell I have and I will hold on to them as long as I can.

Bruce Ritchie
Moderator
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