How much is enough—alcohol that is? It’s a question relating not only to drinking and driving but also to issues of health and even longevity. Numerous studies and reports not to mention changes in legal specifications can leave those of us who enjoy beverages containing alcohol more than a bit confused. And that’s before having that first drink.

Regarding drinking and driving the best advice is simply don’t do it! The recent Songkran holidays where revelry prevails showed that about 40% of all injury or fatal motor vehicle accidents involved drivers under the influence of alcohol. While nearly 80% of those accidents involved motorcycles which offer little protection in the event of a crash it is emphatically clear that drinking then driving is unacceptable. This is doubly clear in Bangkok and other metropolitan areas where hailing a taxi is simple and inexpensive.

Strict enforcement of DUI (driving under the influence) laws and resultant rigid penalties have dramatically reduced the occurrence of such incidents in countries where they have been implemented and enforced. In California, the heart of U.S. wine country, being stopped by police after consuming as little as the equivalent of two glasses containing 150ml each of wine during an entire evening, could result in loss of driver’s license for 90 days plus fines starting at the equivalent of Bt32,000. In Thailand, unfortunately, enforcement as well as ongoing education programs starting in elementary schools, is at best inconsistent.

On a broader scale a recent study published in the British medical journal The Lancet reviewed a global analysis of the risks of alcohol consumption on the human body concluding that “The safest level of drinking alcohol is none.” This seems to contradict earlier studies also published by The Lancet that documented the substantially lower occurrence of coronary heart disease among French people whose diets were rich in saturated fats but traditionally drank substantial amounts of red wine.

The more recent study involved analysis of all available previous studies of alcohol on health by categorizing the subject’s age, sex, geographic location and 23 additional health problems associated with alcohol. These included various infections such as tuberculosis, chronic conditions like diabetes and eight types of cancer. Applying a mathematical model to the data indicated that the more one drank the higher the risks of acquiring the diseases became. Additionally the study showed that while younger people were more prone to these diseases if they drank, older individuals who drank moderately were at least likely to avoid various coronary afflictions.

Confused? So are the analysts who have read the latest as well as previous studies. Most agree that further studies are necessary to conclude definitively that consuming alcoholic drinks in moderation are in fact detrimental to normally healthy individuals. However, one fact does remain abundantly clear. Don’t drink and drive!

Written by: R. James Mullen