Christians in the Middle Ages may have lived in a prolonged state of inebriation because they mixed alcohol with water to kill the bacteria in their polluted water. The Romans were famous for building a complex aqueduct system which brought pristine water from the mountains to the cities, but when their empire fell, their infrastructure also fell into neglect. The Christians who took over the empire, having no clean water, had to rely on ponds and downstream rivers. They used alcohol to purify the drinking water, mixing it with a bit of wine. The distillation of alcohol came later, so wine was the strongest mix they had. This must have left them permanently groggy, unwell, or dehydrated if they didn’t drink.

By contrast, the Muslims, who had a prohibition against alcohol, were stimulated by coffee, which reached Vienna after the siege of 1683 then quickly spread around the continent. Suddenly, Europe shook off its collective slumber and took off, going from being drunk on diluted wine to being jazzed by coffee. This is certainly a simplified version of history, but perhaps it had something to do with Europe becoming the powerhouse of the world, until American took over that role. Perhaps the scientific revolution and the age of enlightenment owe more to a change in drinking habits than a change in values.

In my travels in distant lands, I have noticed that alcohol abuse is a most serious problem that governments are not addressing. For sure, it is a far more widespread problem than drug abuse. Alcohol abuse enslaves such a large part of the population in so many countries, sapping the life out of entire sections of the populace, especially those who have a genetic disposition to its addiction.

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