A big pot of coffee and hot buttermilk biscuits on damp Sunday morning, better than the English scones I often bake. More rain and temperatures plummeting — I get out woolen mittens, bedsocks, stripey leggings, extra sweaters, a mohair rug, laundered and ironed winter dog blankets. The housemate still ill and swollen under her eyes from sinusitis.
The British neuropsychopharmacologist ( what a mouthful!) David Nutt has written a book on drugs, including alcohol.
Nutt’s definition of “harm” is based on sixteen variables that range from drug-specific mortality (“death from poisoning,” i.e. an overdose) to drug-related mortality (“deaths from chronic illnesses caused by drug-taking”). He also factors in addiction, effects on mental functioning, harm to others, crime, economic and environmental costs, and loss of relationships.
Using this metric, the ICSD rated a number of drugs on a scale of 1 to 100. Psychedelics were in single digits, behind anabolic steroids, while cannabis clocked in at 20. Methamphetamine, heroin, and crack bore respective scores of 33, 54, and 55. Alcohol emerged as the most harmful drug, scoring 72.
Nutt is a social drinker, but his consideration of alcohol is bracing. One chapter title asks, “If alcohol were discovered today, would it be legal?” and states that the UK is “facing a public-health crisis of immense proportions,” with forty thousand alcohol-related deaths per year and billions in health and policing costs. Nutt declares, “There is no such thing as a safe level of alcohol consumption,” and adds that “there is no other drug which is so damaging to so many different organ systems in the body.” He has similar contempt for tobacco, which, at current rates, will have killed a billion people by 2030.
For those thinking of doing the Nanowrimo thing again this November, a little planning and structuring beforehand might help make the month less ad hoc. or is that wishful thinking? How to Write a Book in 30 Days.
No more wasted time or endless overhauls and revisions. The clearer your vision of the story before you start actually writing it, the more fleshed out your story will be once it makes it to paper.
Another of my favourite alcoholic writerly curmudgeons, John Cheever, was born 100 years ago today. Misanthropic, closeted for much of his adulthood, desperately unhappy and cynical, he still managed to sober up and write some of his best work towards the end of his life. His short stories are classics, human faults transformed into art. An affectionate if cringemaking tribute from Allan Gurganus here:
Though he was only sixty-one, due to being a lifelong chain-smoker-drinker, fresh from intensive care, the guy looked eighty. And I, at twenty-five, studying this battered idol, felt too smooth, half-formed. He’d just suffered an embolism back east. And after promising his family otherwise, he understood he could not stop drinking. So he’d been banished from his home.