This CDC report notes that alcohol-induced deaths in the U.S. have been increasing for a decade.

Source: CDC

However in 2020, a bad year for a number of things, alcohol-induced deaths spiked in the U.S. The pandemic caused many to do some soul-searching, including causing people to revisit their relationship with alcohol.

So much so that it is becoming trendy to abstain from alcohol. There are a growing number of alcohol-free, i.e. mocktail, brands popping up.* Ingrid Schmidt in The Hollywood Reporter writes:

For many customers, these beverages offer sophisticated libations that bring to life some of the culture of the cocktail world, all without alcohol or its side effects.

In Silicon Valley, the trend the booze-free trend is noticeable. Annie Goldsmith at The Information writes:

“Once marked by booze-soaked ragers to celebrate a funding round raised, a sales benchmark reached or a unicorn status achieved, the Valley of today has become a much less besotted place…All over the tech industry, sobriety is spreading as more and more tech executives, investors and employees quit or drastically reduce their drinking.”

Goldsmith also notes how the ubiquity of fitness trackers in Silicon Valley have shown users the real-time health downsides of drinking. Andrew Huberman in this podcast episode talks, in a non-judgmental way, about the many negative effects of alcohol on the body and brain. He states:

“Since alcohol is one of the most widely consumed recreational substances, this episode ought to be of relevance to everyone. Indeed, even low-to-moderate alcohol consumption negatively impacts the brain and body in direct ways.”

Despite the negative health effects, it isn’t a historical accident that alcohol is one of the most widely consumed substances in the world. Alcohol has for millennia played a role in all manner of rituals and ceremonies. As William Slingerland author of Drunk: How We Sipped, Danced and Stumbled Our Way to Civilization notes in Reason:

“[Alcohol] helps us to be more creative. It helps us to be more communal. It helps us to cooperate on a large scale. It helps to make it easier for us to kind of rub shoulders with each other in large-scale societies that we live in. So it solved a bunch of adaptive problems that we uniquely face as a species because of this weird lifestyle we have.”

In another piece Slingerland correctly notes that for many their drinking has become disordered. In Slingerland’s mind the correct response isn’t societal abstention but a return to the historical norm. In Time he writes:

“For most of us, the best response to these risks is not complete abstention, but moderate and communal enjoyment of beer and wine. They key word here is communal…This is why, for most of history, the consumption of alcohol has been a fundamentally and essentially social act.”

When it comes to alcohol, there’s no correct solution for everyone. For some abstention is easier. For others, moderate (communal) consumption can work. What doesn’t work is not making conscious choices about your body and mind.

*Some people argue that canned water brand Liquid Death is growing so quickly is because it is okay, if not cool, to drink it in settings where alcohol is served.

For those wanting to watch/listen some more about the topic of alcohol consumption.