Michel Craplet

A Passion for Drinking Publication date : May 1, 2000

Alcohol plays a key role in many private and social occasions, creating a bond in orderly social functions, as well as in disorderly festivities. Alcohol can serve to bring people together, but it can also act as a means of social exclusion. In religious rites, it can be used to bring men closer to their gods. Recently, a team of pharmacologists under the direction of Bernard Roques classified alcohol as one of the most dangerous drugs. Michel Craplet has adopted a clearly polemical position in response to the present debate surrounding alcohol. He says alcohol is not exclusively a drug. Those who address the question from a purely pharmacological stance will most likely completely misunderstand the issue. For this reason, the author examines alcohol as a cultural phenomenon, looking at it from a historical, sociological and literary angle. Those who suffer from alcohol abuse should be helped by Crapelet’s non-moralistic approach, which is founded on boosting their self-esteem, rather than on hard-and-fast practical rules.
Besides examining in detail the role of alcohol in the Western world, Crapelet studies and denounces the numerous prejudices and taboos surrounding alcohol: its alleged power to free users of their inhibitions (in artistic creativity and in love-making), the myth of its therapeutic functions (its alleged effect as an anti-depressant, its presumed protective role in cardio-vascular diseases), the fact that alcohol abusers frequently deny that they are dependent (an alcoholic is always someone else: the poor, in the eyes of the rich; the worker, in the eyes of the middle class; a woman, in a man’s eyes).
Only if they are provided with serious information on the complexity of alcohol, its good and bad aspects, and its myths, can alcohol abusers be expected to tread the difficult path between suffering and pleasure.

Michel Crapelet is a medical psychiatrist working in France’s Centre for Alcohol Prevention.