Did you know that...
- The alcoholic beverage was created by change in the pre-historical Neolithic period1,2?
- Alexander, the Great, fell unconscious after drinking too much during his last feast and died some days later of a disease related to alcohol abuse3?
- Wine commerce regularization took a more consistent form in the Middle Ages4?
- Working-class Russian women at the beginning of the 20th century used to smear distilled drinks on their children’s pacifiers5? In 18th Century England, gin was known as a women’s beverage6?
- Even though alcohol consumption has always been criticized throughout human history, the concept of alcoholic dependency was only used at the end of the 18th century and beginning of the 19Th century7?
It all started when...
It is believed that alcoholic beverages were created back in Pre-historical times, more precisely during the Neolithic era, together with the beginning of agriculture and the invention of ceramics. From a process of natural fermentation that occurred approximately 10,000 years ago, human beings began to consume and attribute different meaning to the use of alcohol. The Celts, Greeks, Romans, Egyptians and Babylon’s registered in some form the use and production of alcoholic beverages.
In one of the most beautiful passages in the Bible’s Old Testament (Genesis 9.21), Noah, after the Flood, planted a vineyard and made wine. He drank so much that he got intoxicated. The Bible says thah Noah screamed, took off his clothes and fainted. Moments later, his son Ham found him "with his privates uncovered ". This was the first known report of a case of intoxication. Michelangelo, the Renaissance’s famous painter (1475-1564), was inspired by this episode to paint a lovely fresco, under this name, on the Sistine Chapel ceiling, in Vatican. Thus, one notices that not only alcohol, but also its intoxication, are aspects that have been accompanying mankind since its very beginning.
Alcohol through History
Greece and Rome
The soil and the climate in Greece and Rome were particularly rich to cultivate grapes and produce wine.
The soil and climate in Greece and Rome were especially rich for grape cultivation and wine production. The Greeks and Romans also knew honey and barley fermentation, but wine was the most popular beverage in both empires having social, religious and health importance1,8.
1In Ancient Greece, Euripedes (484 BC to 406 BC), the playwright, mentions in his Bacchantes two important divine beings to humans: Demeter, goddess of agriculture, supplied solid foods to nurture humans and Dionysius, the god of wine and feasts (Bacco for the Romans). Although wine was important in Greco-Roman social and religious celebrations, alcoholic abuse and drinking sprees were severely censured by both peoples.
The Egyptians left scrolls documenting the steps for manufacturing, production and commercialization of beer and wine. They also believed that fermented beverage eliminated germs and parasites and should be used as medicine, especially in the fight against parasites coming from the waters of the Nile.1,2
Wine and beer commercialization increased during this period, as did its regulamentation. Alcoholic intoxication ceases to be merely frowned upon by the Church and is considered to be a sin by the institution. 4
During Renascence, there are inspections done to cabaret and taverns, with limitation of hours. Cabaret and taverns are considered places where people could speak freely and alcohol is used during political debates, which would later give way to the French Revolution4
The end of the 18th Century and beginning of the Industrial revolution is accompanied by demographic changes and social behaviors in Europe. During this period, the excessive use of alcoholic beverages becomes for some a disease or disorder.7 In the beginning and middle of the 19th Century, some scholars began comparing distilled beverages to fermented beverages, especially wine. In 1865, Pasteur, after failing to find harmful germs in wine, declares that it is the most sanitary ambeverages.9
During the 20th Century, countries as France began to establish the age limitation of 18 years old for alcohol consumption, and in 1920, the United States approves the “Dry Law”, which lasted for 12 years. Draw Law prohibited the manufacturing, selling, exchange, transportation, import, export, distribution, possession and consumption of alcoholic beverages and it was considered a disaster for the American publish health and economy.11
It was not until 1952, through the first issue of DSM-I (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) that alcoolism started to be treated as a disease.7,10
In 1967, the concept of alcoholism disease was included by the World Health Organization in the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-8), after the 8th World Health Conference12,13. At ICD-8, the problems related to the use of alcohol were put into a broader category of personality disorders and neuroses. Such problems were divided into three categories: dependence, excessive drinking episodes (abuse) and usual excessive drinking. Alcohol dependence was characterized by the compulsive use of alcoholic beverages and manifestation of abstinence symptoms after ceasing alcohol use14.