Wine: More Dangerous than Cocaine, LSD and Mushrooms and Pot

potvalcoholAccording to a new Pew survey reported on by the Washington Post, Americans believe that only crack cocaine, heroin and methamphetamines are more harmful than alcohol (including wine).

My question used to be, will the social acceptance and legalization of marijuana impact wine sales. Now my question is to what extent will there be a rising backlash against alcohol that impacts wine sales?

Just to be clear, the Pew survey showed that Americans now believe the following substances are LESS harmful to use than alcohol: cocaine, ecstasy, amphetamines, LSD, tobacco, and mushrooms.

Whether or not alcohol is, as the public seems to believe, more dangerous to use than anything other than crack, heroin or methamphetamines, what I think the wine industry really needs to think about in light of the public perception of alcohol is how wine can be positioned as a beverage of moderation, a healthful beverage and the beverage that isn’t necessarily used to simply get high. While wineries are prohibited from making any health claims concerning alcohol, non-wineries, journalists and associations are not prohibited from doing so. Based on this survey, these people might want to think about getting on board with a messaging campaign the shores up wine’s perception as better than to use than crack.

As I’ve mentioned before on this blog, I think it is very important to keep in mind that when compared to the commonly used drugs and particularly in comparison to non-medicinal marijuana use, wine can be consumed without any intent to get high. One can have a glass or two of wine with nearly no expectation of altering their perception. The same cannot be said about Marijuana and certainly can’t be said about cocaine, ecstasy, LSD, mushrooms or amphetamines. This is the fundamental difference between wine and marijuana.

I’d very much like to see some research that asks Americans, “Which is more harmful to use…Wine, Marijuana, Cocaine, Meth”. I’d want to know the perception of the harmfulness of usage of wine vs. marijuana. This information would be an important guide in any effort by the wine industry to shore up the reputation of wine versus other substances.

As you can see from the chart here that breaks down how various demographic groups responded to the question of which is more harmful (Pot v. Alcohol), it doesn’t matter how you slice it up. People believe alcohol is more harmful than pot. This is not good news for wine.

I highly recommend the column on this issue in the Washington Post as well as the write-up of the Pew Survey.

Posted In: Wine Business


15 Responses

  1. Bill Haydon - April 5, 2014

    Not a bad column. I would, however, caution you against splitting off wine from beer and spirits in this endeavor. Firstly, there are plenty of problem drinkers whose intoxicant of choice is wine. Secondly, the overwhelming majority of studies showing a health benefit to moderate alcohol consumption make no distinction in how its delivered. Thirdly, and to your insightful point about alcohol consumption not necessarily being done to get high, the same can be said about a few beers watching the game or a martini at cocktail hour.

  2. Michaela Rodeno - April 5, 2014

    Shades of the late 1980’s, when alcohol was demonized as a dangerous drug until groups like Women for WineSense and, finally, Morley Safer on Sixty Minutes helped Americans understand the difference between moderation and abuse (remember the French Paradox?). It may be time to resume educating the public on that important distinction.

    I suspect the responses to the Pew survey simply reflect the relative prevalence of alcohol consumption in the US. While about 60% of American adults drink beer, wine, and/or spirits, fewer than 10% of those abuse alcohol. The dangerous, illegal drugs cited are in the study are consumed by a small, hard to quantify part of the population – and there is no distinction to be made between moderation and abuse.

    • John Drady - April 7, 2014

      Very well said!!!

  3. Rob McMillan - April 6, 2014

    I’m wondering who they are asking the question? To get people experienced in the consumption of LSD, mushrooms, crack, heroin, and wine, are they giving Betty Ford Clinic guests exit interviews, or are they handing out surveys in crack houses and the seedier parts of metropolitan areas? It might explain crazy conclusions.

    • Bill Haydon - April 6, 2014

      Yes, Rob because we all know that good decent white kids borne of good, decent white folk from good, decent white neighborhoods have never partaken in cocaine, lsd or shrooms. When I was in college (Big Ten university), it was the kids from the wealthiest city suburbs–not the factory towns–who were the biggest cokeheads and acid gulping deadheads. Why I might even postulate that more than a few of the scions of many a brand name Napa Valley family have gone down that path.

  4. Jan Slort - April 7, 2014

    While seeming to be on the sarcastic side, Bills reply to Rob fails to address the most difficult aspect of any survey is to design how it will be conducted. A truly unbiased result is the objective but it’s attainment is the most challenging aspect. Without knowing how the survey was conducted, the results remain in question.

  5. gdfo - April 7, 2014

    Personally, I have never thought of Wine as a drug. I have not used it to get high.

    Putting wine or Beer or whiskies in the same category as marijuana and the other above mentioned drugs is stupid. Yes, STUPID.

  6. Richard - April 7, 2014

    Tom, think there is an increasing backlash against “demon alcohol.” The US has always had a love/hate relationship with alcohol – observe the current outcry from restauranteers, wine purveyors and winemakers on “lower alcohol wines.” When the wine industry can’t even get it’s act together, is it any surprise that there is controversy? Also, I would question the methodology of the Pew survey – that is not clear – at least I didn’t see it. Was it all 18 year old college students in Oregon and Colorado?

    Last, on “altering perception” – I would beg to differ if you have even one glass of wine and get behind the wheel! It will certainly alter the perception of the CHP when they stop you! Now, don’t get me wrong, I love my wine and micro brewed beer, but just look at our dui laws – if you are stopped and taken into custody with only a .01 blood alcohol level, you will have a long ordeal ahead of you. With alcohol, it’s perception, not reality. This is why I tell folks to never drink and drive…

  7. Richard - April 7, 2014

    Correction – just read that the Pew survey was primarily conducted from a sampling of 18-33 year olds and very likely heavily weighted toward the lower end of the scale (18 year olds). Think this explains the difference. Suspect if the survey had been conducted amongst the elder crowd (like you and me Tom!) the results would have been very different…

  8. Winemaking Consultant - April 7, 2014

    Thank you for bringing wine into a positive light to help us understand it is in no way near what the article is comparing it to.

    Wine in moderation is healthy.

    Tom Payette
    Winemaking Consultant

  9. Good Reads Wednesday « Artisan Family of Wines - April 9, 2014

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  10. Christian - April 11, 2014

    Tom- Needless to say I think education on the subject of wine is important to help change the perception or misconception that alcohol is more dangerous than the other substances listed. Responsible consumption is an important aspect of education and should be reinforced often. It is ignorance that is far more dangerous than alcohol.

    • Winemaking Consultant - April 12, 2014

      Yes – I just saw this elsewhere but ….. “sip responsibly”.

      Tom Payette
      Winemaking Consultant

  11. David - April 11, 2014

    ahh…to say that one drinks wine w/out any desire to experience the effects of alcohol is…disingenuous. I drink wine to get high, and, also to enjoy the flavors, perceptions and associations those flavors inspire.

    “in wine there is truth…but also, grand illusions”

  12. Lowell - April 11, 2014

    Tom, wine is alcohol no matter how tasty. Marijuana is both a drug for enjoyment and a medicine. Cannabis can be taken in many forms; many, as you mentioned, which do not end in a high. Comparing drugs and trying to find out which is worse is not helpful. Marijuana can effect, just like wine, different people in different ways. Wine is always intoxicating in some way. Big 300 lb men are different than 100 pound women. Perhaps this younger group has seen the destruction of wine and hard alcohol on their parents and friends and are responding. Let’s not ask which is more harmful. Let’s ask how we can be more responsible as a community.

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