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Why being drunk doesn't make a case for cheating, vandalism, and other anti-social behaviour

Rose Cora Perry | Interrobang | Opinion | December 7th, 2009

Editorial opinions or comments expressed in this online edition of Interrobang newspaper reflect the views of the writer and are not those of the Interrobang or the Fanshawe Student Union. The Interrobang is published weekly by the Fanshawe Student Union at 1001 Fanshawe College Blvd., P.O. Box 7005, London, Ontario, N5Y 5R6 and distributed through the Fanshawe College community. Letters to the editor are welcome. All letters are subject to editing and should be emailed. All letters must be accompanied by contact information. Letters can also be submitted online by clicking here.
The “but I was drunk excuse” — we've all heard it, we've all accepted it to certain degrees, but as a student of social psychology, I feel it's my duty to dispel any lingering myths regarding its truth value. Suffice it to say booze does not give grounds for pleads of “temporary insanity.” It isn't accepted by the legal system, it shouldn't be accepted by you. So, how and where on earth did this urban legend begin?

Probably some farmer got caught by his wife when he was doing the nasty with the milk maid, or the farmer's wife and her affair with the stable boy got exposed, creating grounds for a quick marital fix; the deflection of blame, appropriately, seemed more than an effective strategy. The origins of “the drunk excuse” are, however, not the concern of this treatise. Rather, I want to explain to you all the real psychological effects of alcohol so that you can call your boyfriends, girlfriends, and supposed bffs on their shit the next time they try to feed you this line.

man & woman caught in bedIn scientific terms, alcohol is a “central nervous system depressant.” More commonly referred to as a “downer,” substances like alcohol, according to the Medical Dictionary, are said to, “temporarily diminish the function or activity of a specific part of the body or mind.” Used clinically to reduce feelings of anxiety and panic, relieve insomnia, induce analgesia, reduce convulsions/ seizures in the treatment of epilepsy, cause muscle relaxation, lower blood pressure and/or heart rate, as well as boost a patient's mood and/or enhance sociability (only if ingested in small amounts), alcohol is but one of the psychoactive drugs grouped within this category.

Contrary to the popular belief that it yields you incapable of making critical or sound judgments as social cognition, behavioural specialist Claude Steel, of Stanford University, explains, alcohol merely “reduces the influence of inhibiting cues and meanings, so that only the immediate provoking cue seems especially salient.” In layman's terms, this means that the consumption of your favourite poison results in a condition known as, “alcohol myopia” (i.e.: nearsightedness resulting from the consumption of alcohol) which makes you more receptive and responsive to stimuli in your immediate surroundings. This, in turn, lowers your inhibitions when it comes to responding to said stimuli. So, whether the situation in which you find your drunken self calls for a little action (of the physical or sexual variety), you will be more apt to respond in a manner that would fulfill what Freud would term, your “Id's” desires.

The important point to grasp from all of this scientific mumbo jumbo however is this: essentially, there is nothing you'd do drunk that you wouldn't equally conceive of doing, while sober. The only thing that aids you in getting away with inebriated-inspired antisocial behaviours, like those mentioned in my title, is society's very perpetuation (and continued acceptance!) of the, “but I was drunk excuse”.

Instead of buying into this blatant lie, though it may result in a bit of bruising to your ego, accept the fact that if your significant other cheats on you or partakes in other similarly despicable behaviours while drunk, that he or she is just as likely to commit such acts or at the very least, contemplate committing them when sober. With that said, perhaps you should heighten your dating standards.

According to a recent article in Scientific American, “alcohol accounts for 70 per cent of fatal traffic accidents, and nearly the same annual percentage of murders, spousal battery and child abuse.”

My point in writing this article is not to dissuade you from living up the party life, rather, I simply felt that this topic was timely given that New Year's is right around the corner, and so likewise is the proliferation of “but I was drunk” excuses. I guess you can consider my gesture an early festive offering. With that said, my dears, I bid you all, “Merry Christmas, and to all a good night.”
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