Among U.S. Army troops stationed in Saudi Arabia in 1991 during the Gulf War, there were only about one third of the disciplinary problems as compared to troops stationed in other countries. In fact, in the first 6 months of the Gulf War, despite 300,000 troops being stationed in Saudi Arabia, there was a total of only 19 court-martials, fewer than 1 for every 15,000 soldiers. 1 The reason for this low rate of disciplinary problems? Saudi Arabian law, in accordance with the Muslim religion, does not allow any alcohol, and the U.S. Army followed this law while stationed in Saudi Arabia.
Far to the north, in a much different climate than Saudi Arabia-Moscow-in the early summer of 1999, 144 swimmers died in a span of 7 weeks, apparently almost all of them drunk. Russia has one of the highest rates of accidental death of any country, and vodka is usually involved. 2
If people behave so much better when they're not under the influence of alcohol, why do so many people abuse the stuff? And if we want these people to stop drinking alcohol, what's the best method? This chapter will tell you what scientific research has found so far for the answers to these questions.
People have made and drunk alcoholic beverages since the beginning of civilization. The archaeological evidence suggests that alcoholic beverages originated in the Near East and then spread to the West. There is evidence of the existence of wine at least 8,000 years ago and of beer at least 6,000 years ago. 3 For most of their existence, wine and beer have had fairly low alcohol contents and were two of the very few safe beverages; regular water supplies have often been contaminated. However, even after the water supply was