Dealing With Alcoholism in America

Whitney Houston's death has reignited the conversation about the prevalence and dangers of substance abuse. In 2009, drugs and alcohol accounted for at least 60,684 deaths around the country -- one death every 9 minutes. Last year, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that about 2.3 million people around the world die each year from alcohol-related causes -- more than AIDS, tuberculosis or violence. And let's not forget the intense misery, crime, broken homes and mental illnesses it causes.

While we struggle coming to terms with the reality that this poison is being ingested at astonishing levels in this country, a solution was proposed 1,400 years ago when the Prophet Muhammad declared Islam's stance to entirely avoid any and all alcohol. The Quran -- Islam's Holy Scripture -- states alcohol creates enmity and hatred among people and keeps one back from the remembrance of God. The Prophet Muhammad said, "Alcohol is the mother of all evils and it is the most shameful of evils."

Shockingly, the evil nature of alcohol continues to be ignored. A new report published by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) last month analyzed 2010 data on the prevalence of binge drinking among U.S. adults. The results were mind boggling. Approximately one in six (38 million) U.S. adults -- and 28 percent of young adults aged 18 to 34 -- indulge in binge drinking, and they do so more than four times a month, consuming eight to nine drinks each time.

According to psychiatrist Dr. Keith Ablow, this is equivalent to news that a quarter of our young people were abusing cocaine or injecting heroin more than once a week. He warns: "The psychological/cognitive effects of seven or eight drinks are no less intense, and, possibly, even more dramatic."

People often turn towards alcohol to escape personal turmoil, despite chronic problems it introduces into their lives. By numbing one's senses, it provides a short-term fix to emotional traumas, broken families or insecurities of childhood deprivation. Whereas alcohol provides a short-term quick fix, the long term value of faith in addressing complex personal issues has not fully been analyzed. Although the rate of relapse for Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) indicates something is missing, a powerful component is their emphasis on spirituality that can be seen in references to God and a Higher Power in its 12-step program. Bill Wilson, AA's co-founder, explained, "All of us ... are the children of a living Creator, with whom we may form a relationship ... as soon as we are willing and honest enough to try."

This is the real issue at hand, as also expressed in the Quran, which warns that the most destructive danger is losing the remembrance of God. The real issue is assigning God to oblivion, where spirituality and connection with God are lost. We have rehab clinics across the nation, yet every year an increasing population is "recruited" into this destructive habit. Without God consciousness, attempts to cure alcoholism will be mediocre at best.

Islam is unique in its success in eliminating a psychological necessity of excessive drinking in the people of 7th century pre-Islam Arabia, who consumed more alcohol than any other society at that time. First and foremost, Islam provides for everyone -- materially, emotionally and spiritually -- and elevates people to a state of God consciousness. By inculcating a Divine connection, a sense of accountability before God and an awareness of His instructions, Islam's way of life healed people of many indecencies.

Additionally, lessons learnt from Islam's method of developing willpower (with negligible relapses) cannot be overlooked. It introduced a gradual change, with the prohibition of alcohol a logical final step of a well organized plan over a period of three years. The Quran first advised that in alcohol is sin. Then it instructed followers not come to prayer intoxicated, before finally stating it is forbidden all together. Heavy drinkers were weaned off this habit. Islam's method of prohibiting alcohol could save tens of thousands of lives in this country every year.

Many frivolously argue they are 'social drinkers' who only consume one or two drinks. The fallacy of this argument is that social drinking is somehow not connected with alcoholism. Every alcoholic began as a social drinker and never set out with an intention to become an alcoholic. That is the evil nature of this substance, which generates a craving for more.

This is where Islam's wisdom can be seen, prohibiting not only binge drinking but also social drinking. Whereas the Bible -- neither condemning alcohol nor promoting it -- simply instructs to avoid getting drunk (Ephesians 5:18), the Quran fills the void of spiritual guidance by instructing people to shun alcohol all together because anything which intoxicates in large quantities is prohibited even in small quantities. In very clear words, Prophet Muhammad said, "wine is not a medicine. It is a disease."

While everyone discusses improving the economic health of our country during this election year, seemingly nobody is focusing on this problem where a significant portion of the American population is in an absent-minded drunken state every single week. What good is the creation of more jobs if people continue down this destructive path? No longer can our society afford to hide behind hopeless claims that alcohol can be "harmless" as long as it is consumed responsibly.

Let's not wait for another celebrity to become a victim of this disease. Let's deal with it now and solve this problem. It is the plague of our society -- ruining lives, futures and families.

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