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Why Does Society Think I'm Some Kind of Freak for Abstaining From Alcohol?

No one ever asks me why I don't shoot heroin.

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Personally, I've never had any problems from smoking weed. When I smoke it, I don't feel the need to smoke more until I pass out and It's never made me unreasonably angry or caused me to do dangerous things. 

But if I don't feel like smoking, I never have to explain that choice (at least since high school, when a refusal to smoke automatically made you a cop). Alcohol has a special status in our culture as a social drug—more than a drug, it's regarded as an activity. Going out to drink is a full-fledged pastime, one that's often considered as harmless as an afternoon at the movies.

And for not partaking in this social activity (even though I still go to the same bars and parties as everyone else) I'm automatically branded as abnormal until and unless I can give a satisfactory explanation for declining to drink. When you think about it, this is really the reverse of the normal order. With any other drug as destructive as alcohol, the stigma comes from using it, not from abstinence.

I have no illusions that alcohol is suddenly going to disappear as a central force in the social life of Western cultures. But it's time we paid a little more attention to our attitudes about alcohol and start to classify it as a drug rather than innocent entertainment.

Andrew Beale is an independent journalist from New Mexico. He reports on politics, social-justice issues and global conflicts.

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