Bad Science And Cheap Drunks

      50 Comments on Bad Science And Cheap Drunks

It’s not exactly diet-related, but how’s this for a classic case of confusing correlation with causation?  An article on the NBC News site reported on a study of what people were drinking before ending up in an emergency room:

Many people who end their Friday or Saturday nights in a hospital emergency room have been drinking alcohol. In fact, public health experts estimate that about one-third of all injury-related ER visits involved alcohol consumption.

I consider that good news.  It means if you avoid getting @#$%-faced, you’re less likely to end up in an emergency room.  Better choices, better results.

But what, exactly, are people drinking? What types of alcohol and even what brands? Is there a direct link between advertising and marketing and later injury?

I’m already convinced there’s a direct link between advertising and marketing and later injury.  I can’t tell you how many drunk people I’ve seen collide with billboards.  Good thing most of them were walking.

Until now, those questions have been unanswerable, frustrating alcohol epidemiology researchers.

Sounds to me as if those alcohol epidemiology researchers are easily frustrated.

“Honey, what’s wrong?  Why are you slamming the drawers in your file cabinet so hard?”

“Because, dangit, I can’t determine if there’s a direct link between alcohol advertising and later injury!  It’s driving me nuts!  Make me a martini, will you?”

But if results of a pilot study conducted by researchers from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health hold up, there may soon be a way to connect the dots.

Whenever media health reporters write about connecting the dots, I brace myself for a head-bang-on-desk moment.  You may want to get out the desk pad before we continue.

When the Hopkins researchers surveyed ER patients who’d been drinking, they found that Budweiser was the number one brand consumed, followed Steel Reserve Malt Liquor, Colt 45 malt liquor, Bud Ice (another malt liquor), Bud Light, and a discount-priced vodka called Barton’s.

Wait a minute … they went to an emergency room and surveyed drunk people who had injured themselves?  I’m surprised they didn’t report the number one brand of alcohol consumed by injured drunks is called @#$% Off!

Anyway …

Though Budweiser has 9.1 percent of the national beer market, it represented 15 percent of the of the E.R. “market.” The disparity was even more pronounced for Steel Reserve. It has only .8 percent of the market nationally, but accounted for 14.7 percent of the E.R. market. In all, Steel Reserve, Colt 45, Bud Ice, and another malt liquor, King Cobra, account for only 2.4 percent of the U.S. beer market, but accounted for 46 percent of the beer consumed by E.R. patients.

Before we continue, I feel obligated to remind you I suggested getting out the desk pad.  This is your last warning.

“Some products are marketed to certain groups of people in our society,” explained Traci Toomey, the director of the University of Minnesota’s alcohol epidemiology program, who was not involved in the study. Higher-alcohol malt liquor, for example, is heavily advertised in African-American neighborhoods. “So we might want to put some controls on certain products if we find they are tied to greater risk.”

Head.  Bang.  On.  Desk.

We might want to put controls on certain products if they’re tied to higher risk? As if that will mean fewer drunk-person injuries?  Genius.  Pure genius.

I don’t doubt that Budweiser, Colt 45 and Steel Reserve are tied to greater risk of ending up in the emergency room in poor communities.  But it’s not because of the marketing or the higher alcohol content.  The reporter (and perhaps the researchers) apparently thinks it works like this:

1.  Evil distributors of high-alcohol malt liquors decide to target poor communities with irresistible advertising and marketing campaigns.

2.  Swayed by the irresistible marketing, poor people buy malt liquor.

3.  Because the malt liquor has a higher alcohol content, poor people accidentally get @#$%-faced.

4.  After accidentally getting @#$%-faced, the poor injure themselves because they’re @#$%-faced.

Boy, if only we had some controls on those products.  Take away the cheap malt liquor, those people would stay home and play pinochle … perhaps while sipping a fine white wine with a subtle hint of citrus and a color reminiscent of an Autumn sunrise.

Now here’s how it actually works:

1.  Poor people decide to get @#$%-faced.

2.  Wanting to spend as little of their limited funds as possible to get @#$%-faced, poor people choose cheap beer, cheap malt liquor and cheap vodka, thus getting more bang for their buck.

3.  Recognizing that the biggest market for cheap alcohol is in poor neighborhoods, distributors advertise in those neighborhoods, hoping to sway people who have already decided to get @#$%-faced to drink their particular brand when getting @#$%-faced.

Now here’s how it will work if we put some controls on those products:

1.  Poor people decide to get @#$%-faced.

2. Thanks to controls instituted by do-gooders, the cheaper alcohols are no longer available.

3.  Poor people buy just as much alcohol and get just as @#$%-faced as before, but have less money to spend on things like food, clothes, shoes, gas, entertainment, etc.

I don’t drink beer very often, but when I do, it’s usually Guinness Extra Stout.  (Did I sound like the guy in those Dos Equis commercials just now?)  The alcohol content (7.5%) is higher than the alcohol content in Colt 45 malt liquor (6%).  So why isn’t Guinness Extra Stout tied to more emergency-room visits in urban hospitals?  I’m sure you can guess:  The stuff isn’t cheap, so it’s not a big seller in poor communities.  If Guinness were as cheap as Colt 45, we’d see more poor people getting @#$%-faced on Guinness.

According to the article, the study was conducted at a hospital in Baltimore in a poor, mostly-black neighborhood. The results were predictable and ultimately meaningless.  It would have been more interesting if the researchers had gone to an emergency room in Beverly Hills or Martha’s Vineyard and asked injured people what they were drinking.  Then the headline would have been something like Martinis, Single-Malt Scotch and White Wine With a Subtle Hint of Citrus Most Popular Among E.R. Injured.

Then we’d need some controls on those products.


50 thoughts on “Bad Science And Cheap Drunks

  1. Steve Picray

    Did you know that 100% of all ER admissions are people who have ingested OXYGEN!?!?! 99% of them also have talked to another human being in the past 24 hours! We must regulate oxygen use and talking to prevent ER admissions!

    I hear that many of them also ate carrots in the previous week.

    1. rudy-in-la

      I am currently working on a book REFUTING the carrot/ER visit myth! Enough of this nonsense! Carrots PREVENT ER visits as proven in any Bugs Bunny cartoon!

      I wish you luck with the book, but the anti-carrot hysterics are lining up against you.

  2. Pierson

    Does this mean that movements to take beers with a high alcohol percentage will now be made? Also, I think another one of my comments went to your spam folder.

    What the heck is with your comments ending up in the spam folder? It’s not even consistent. Some get past the spam filter, some don’t. I can’t spot the pattern.

    Anyway, I dug it out there and will reply.

    1. Pierson

      Sorry, let me rephrase that: Will a campaign to remove high-alcohol beverages from poorer neighborhoods now be underway? Also, I think that my last comment on that thread (I swear) has been moved to your spam folder again. I don’t know what the problem is, so I’ll keep them shorter in the future.

      Yup, found it in the spam folder. Sorry about that. It’s out now.

  3. desmond

    My favorite toast: “To alcohol! The cause of, and solution to, all of life’s problems.”

    It’s a good thing that alcohol is both organic and all natural. In fact, making it yourself could even be cheaper and stronger than Bud Ice — but you have to plan ahead a week or so. Just try putting effective controls on that.

  4. Steve

    And had they done the survey at 8:30 am would they have found that orange juice is the real villain.

    Or mid-afternoon in Britain, tea.

    1. Walter Bushell

      But they hurt other people too. There are bars you don’t want to visit and many people get belligerent when drunk. Not to mention drunk driving, which is a danger to everyone.

  5. Josh

    I see a lot of parallels between this and how evil junk food advertising is. Banning the ads will not make the product go away.


    1. Walter Bushell

      I think there is some effect of increased consumption due to advertisements. I knew a woman who, back in the day, could not walk by a cookie store without buying and eating some. For the same reason that people who are starting a good diet are advised to clear their dwelling of all the foodlike substances.

      Just being reminded of substances one is addicted to can create a craving.

      I think the advertisements influence where sugar addicts go to get their fix.

  6. Trent

    If this in any way violates your comment posting rules, please remove it.

    I don’t normally leave comments but, for what it’s worth…

    Bud Ice 5.5% <—NOT A MALT LIQUOR. It's an American Adjunct Lager according to
    Budweiser 5.00%
    Bud Light 4.20%
    Colt 45 Malt Liquor 5.61%
    Steel Reserve (Alloy Series) Blk Berry 8.00%
    Steel Reserve 211 (High Gravity) 8.10%
    Steel Reserve 211 Triple Export 8.10%
    Discount Vodka is usually 40%

    5 gallons of grape juice (about $25 from Costco) will create 5 gallons of fairly vile "wine" estimated ABV 12%. If you really want to increase ABV; every pound of sugar will kick up the ABV by about 1%. $5 for wine yeast.

    5 gallons of hooch = 640 Oz = 53.33 12 Oz bottles = 4.44 12-Packs.

    Since you can get the ABV of wine to triple that of Colt 45 (adding sugar), that would be equal to 13 12-packs of Colt 45. At some point the high alcohol content will kill the yeast and stop fermentation, this should be a clue that it's not worth drinking.

    Remember kids, when you want to get s*** faced, "KNOWLEDGE IS POWER!"

    Even if they removed all the alcohol from poor neighborhoods, folks could still ferment insanely strong brews. What would they do then? Regulate yeast and grape juice?

    I seem to recall the do-gooders did outlaw alcohol at one time. I don’t believe it was very effective.

  7. Sally Myles

    There is a campaign afoot in England to have minimum unit pricing for alcohol. 50p per unit has been mooted. A bottle of wine is about ten units etc, vodka has more. This minimum pricing is supposed to stop people getting cirrhosis. Of course pricing limits will not apply in the bars at the House of Commons.

    Alcoholics will drink as much as they want to drink. They’ll just spend less on other products.

  8. George @ the High Fat hep C Diet

    In fact, this is a great film (in 4 parts) on the effect of prohibition on the poor (spoiler- not good at all).

    The story of the Jake Leg Infamy began to unfold in early 1930. People from Rhode Island to California began showing up with partial, or complete paralysis. The paralysis was primarily of the lower limbs, and it was usually permanent. In the end, fifty to possibly, up to 100,000 people may have been affected. The whole event was due to using an untested product in a mass consumed herbal medicine, and legal alcohol source during Prohibition. Little is known about the details of the people, as the whole event seemed to slip between the cracks of Prohibition policy and the infant stage of public health, and product safety.

    Also a great movie if you love the old folk blues songs. And a warning about product safety which is relevant today, when counterfeit pharmaceuticals, illegal drugs, and adulterated foods are everywhere.

    Here’s an even worse tragedy — worse because the feds intentionally poisoned alcohol to scare people into giving up drinking.

    1. Jason

      Well, that description is misleading. The bootleggers were trying to turn industrial alcohol into drinkable alcohol. Regulations on alcohol forced industrial alcohol to have poisons put into them so they wouldn’t be drunk, not so people would give up drinking.

      However, the unintended consequence of prohibition (and industrial alcohol regulation), was, as you said, people would go to great lengths to get their buzz. They took the risk of trying to remove the poison from the industrial alcohol, but often failed.

  9. Stipetic

    Similar think went on in the 1990s. The powers that be tried some type of alcohol abolition on Indian reservations (can’t remember the exact details). Beer, wine and spirit sales plummeted. Revenue of lysol and rubbing alcohol, however, went through the roof. Problem solved!

    That’s what the do-gooders don’t seem to grasp. Alcoholics will go to extraordinary lengths to get their fix, including drinking whatever alcoholic poison they can get their hands on. Large numbers of people died from drinking rotgut liquor during Prohibition.

    1. Walter Bushell

      Including an uncle of my mother. And they do the same poisoning with codeine and other strong pain killers putting Acetaminophen in it. Acetaminophen is a nasty liver poison, if you overdoes, you are likely to be a dead man walking for two weeks or so to repent your folly.

      I could really get behind a death penalty for the people responsible for these abominations.

  10. SB

    The article noted that the surveyors were getting a pretty low response rate (well, I’m sure there were responses in the strictest sense of the word, just not the type they were looking for) until they were allowed to wear white coats when asking patients to complete the survey. Sneaky sneaky.

  11. Pat

    To shift the focus of the comments a bit – this demonstrates the importance of defining the population of study. You brought this up re the advertising targets – if you do your sampling in on a particular population, your results do not necessarily apply to other populations.
    And the slant – really, if people want a little buzz,they will drink a small amount of something nice. If they want to get hammered, they drink something cheap. We need a study for this?
    Plus, someone (I forget who now, sorry) pointed out that historically the cheap drinks to get drunk with were the very well distilled products (gin, vodka) because they tend to give less of a hangover when consumed in large quantities. The more interesting drinks (i.e. Scotch) have so many other chemicals in them that give the flavour, that they give really bad hangovers.
    So my question to the researchers is, why are these people drinking beer when they could be drinking vodka and gin more cheaply to achieve the same blood alcohol? Maybe they have other objectives than getting so drunk they end up in ER?
    And could someone please start giving these people a mini-course in experimental design?

    Yup. It could be that lots of people don’t much like the flavor of vodka or gin.

    1. Pat

      What a thought – that people choose what they drink because they like the flavour! (yes that was sarcasm)

      There is an easy way to cut down on alcohol consumption – make it all taste terrible. 😉

      So just limit beer to Schlitz?

  12. mrfreddy

    Have you tried that Guinness “draft” in a can? If you can’t make it to a proper Irish bar (probably pretty scarce in your parts), it ain’t bad. And less alkyhol than that bottled Extra Stout. Fairly moderate carb load too.

    I’ve had that too. They’re both good, but I like the Extra Stout better.

    There’s a proper Irish bar across the street from my job in downtown Nashville and another in downtown Franklin. At least the names are Irish and they serve Guinness on tap, so they’re proper in my book.

  13. Tanny O'Haley

    A drug used by poorer communities called Lean is made from, Arizona Watermellon Fruit Coctail, cough syrup, and Skittles. Maybe we should ban Arizona Watermellon Fruit Coctail. I’m sure that without much effort we could “find” correlation in lots of things. If you really want to ban someththing dangerous, how about Dihydrogen Monoxide (DHMO)?

    Look at the recent deaths in Colorado as proof. Ban Dihydrogen Monoxide now! After all it’s for the children. /sarc

    Good grief!

    Penn & Teller went to an environmental rally and got hundreds of people to sign a petition to ban dihydrogen monoxide, including the organization’s chief science liaison. It was friggin’ hilarious.

  14. Chuck

    I wish they would stop making laws and regulations that try to protect stupid people from natural selection. It only slows down the process at best, but I guess on the other hand they can collect all kinds of fines and penalties. Just another way for the king to make his subjects pay yet another unjustified tax, err, uh, I mean for the government to protect its wonderful citizens from the dangers of everyday life on this dangerous planet.

    You might enjoy the film “Idiocracy.”

      1. Walter Bushell

        Satire is getting harder and harder all the time. You think the bureaucrats read satirical works for new ideas. Maybe you should stop putting ideas into their head? OTOH, perhaps they are not that smart.

        Satire is tough these days. Just when you think you’ve made a point through comedic exaggeration, the politicians pass a new law and the exaggeration becomes reality.

    1. Chuck

      I have seen it. Unfortunately I think I live and work there. There are a lot of intelligent people on this web site, but they must all be scattered around the country. The intelligence in my area seems to be far and few (Illinois). I consider myself of average intelligence, but I feel like Einstein at work quite a bit. There are some smart people there, just not enough of them (or they just quit caring). Even though I only have a high school education, I have done like you and read many books and done lots of internet research for things that interest me. I have even taken online workshops to keep learning. Many people think that a computer and internet are just for Facebook and twitter. By the way, what has happened to common sense? Was it ever really that common? I’m only 35 and I can tell a big difference in intelligence and common sense since I was younger.

  15. Jonas Larsson

    Marketing really knows no bounds,does it?Ads are targeted strictly for a certain community…these guys know their stuff…

    You’re right-the poor man’s drink was highlighted,as is often the case.But guess this is where most of the irresponsible drinking occurs now,wrong?

  16. Cameron hidalgo

    I was once drinking on my back deck. Walking down the stairs a rotten plank broke. I ended up waist deep in my staircase with a rusty nail stuck in my calf. I chose to self medicate (a shot of 151 down the hatch and a second shot poured on the wound) but wonder if I would have gone to the er would i have counted towards their drunk injury statistics.

    Only if you went an E.R. in a poor neighborhood.

  17. Ulfric Douglas

    “What the heck is with your comments ending up in the spam folder? ”
    His username must appear similar to the multitudinous spams offering to enlarge your … Pierson.

    See it? Anagrams.

    Sure, I have a degree in Computer Science from a real university but it’s not rocket science!

    That would explain why Max Munhood’s comments all went to the spam folder.

  18. Tom Higgins

    >> In fact, public health experts estimate that about one-third of all injury-related ER visits involved alcohol consumption.

    I consider that good news. It means if you avoid getting @#$%-faced, you’re less likely to end up in an emergency room. Better choices, better results. <<

    I believe your conclusion is incorrect. If 1/3 of all injury-related ER visits involved alcohol consumption, then 2/3 of the ER patients were sober. Ergo, if you get @#$%-faced, you are half as likely to end up in the ER.

    Bring on the malt liquor!

    But I’m assuming less than 1/3 of the population is drunk at any one time. Perhaps I’m being too optimistic.

    1. Walter Bushell

      Also they did not include other recreational and over the counter and prescribed drugs are reasons for emergency room admissions. Of course users of illegal drugs mostly use alcohol too.

  19. libertarianleaner

    You haven’t mentioned Jimmy Moore in a while. Is that because he went on the radio show of a known neo-nazi and your wife is Jewish? Would have hated to be a fly on the wall in that room when you heard that 🙂

    I reviewed Jimmy’s book a few weeks ago. I consider that a mention.

    My Jewish wife happily welcomed Jimmy into our home for a week in July. She hugged him hello and goodbye, warmly both times. She’s the same age as Jimmy and, like Jimmy, didn’t remember Duke’s presidential campaign or have any clue about his neo-Nazi background. So here’s what the fly on the wall heard:

    “Honey, do you remember David Duke?”
    “David Duke. He ran for president in 1988.”
    “I’ve never heard of him. I didn’t follow politics when I was 16.”
    “So you didn’t know he’s a neo-Nazi and a former member of the KKK?”
    “No. Like I said, I’ve never heard of him before.”
    “Jimmy didn’t know about his background either, so he went on Duke’s radio show to talk about diets and health, and now people are trying to say it means Jimmy is a neo-Nazi.”
    “That’s stupid. I guess some people are desperate to slam Jimmy.”

  20. Elenor

    Tsk tsk. Y’all are missing the elephant in the room! Drinking this or drinking that…. THERE is your evil problem! We need to stop people *drinking* anything at all! No more liquids per ora!! You get your daily ratio of water (oooh, and we could put statins right in it!!) via IV! On your way into your job every morning, you’ll stop by the nurse’s office and have an IV strapped on. (Obamacare (Commie-Care?) will, of course, pay for having the permanent fixture put in your arm…) And they can add different mixes of different drugs every morning, just as they wish!

    Just call me NYBloomie!

    Like, say, a drug that makes people too complacent to care when their liberties are being taken away?

    1. j

      “..a drug that makes people too complacent to care when their liberties are being taken away?”

      I believe it’s called fluoride.. 🙁

      1. Walter Bushell

        Lithium is more likely, and their have been calls for putting it in the water along with satins.

        The English have been great tea drinkers (tea contains a lot of fluoride and they have been almost as obstreperous as the Americans.

        Psychiatry does have a strong fascist undertone where resistance to the PTB is a symptom of mental illness, for example, “Oppositional Defiant Disorder”. Looking up side effects somehow zombification is not listed, probably because that is a desired effect or at least considered an improvement.

    2. Jill

      Don’t forget that studies, government interventions and general interference are often conducted on the poor or those in prison.

  21. libertarianleaner

    Where did I say the Jimmy was a neo-nazi? I said that he went on a radio show hosted by a neo-nazi, and a former Grand Wizard of the KKK. But hey, it’s all good because it was all paleo talk. Anyone who finds that just a tad disturbing is just trying to smear poor Jimmy! And, when Jimmy posted on Facebook that he was going to go on the show, a commenter asked if it was “that” David Duke (I.e. the neo-nazi anti-Semitic one or just a poor chap who shares the name). Jimmy replied “Yep”. He knew damn well who he was and didn’t seem to mind, because, ya know, he shares his views on nutrition.

    People who raise that tired old subject are indeed trying to suggest Jimmy is a racist or a neo-Nazi. You were as well; otherwise you wouldn’t have suggested I’m shunning him because my wife is Jewish. I never saw Jimmy acknowledge on Facebook that he knew Duke was a neo-Nazi, and I don’t believe he did. If someone wrote “you mean THAT David Duke?” and Jimmy answered yes, that doesn’t tell us anything, does it?

    Incidentally, David Duke also interviewed Dr. William “Wheat Belly” Davis and Dr. Doug “Body by Science” McGuff. Do you find that a tad disturbing, or does it only bother you when Jimmy appears on his show?

    I’ve known Jimmy for some years now, have had many long talks with him during his week-long visits, and have never heard him say anything whatsoever that would indicate he’s racist or anti-Semitic. I have, however, seen him be congenial and affectionate with people of all races, ages, sizes and sexual orientations.

  22. Tom Naughton

    One of my college roommates just emailed and reminded me that he took me to the E.R. after I broke my thumb in a collision with another roommate — my thumb against his knee (don’t ask). And yes, I was drunk. We’re not sure what brand of beer we’d been drinking, but I believe it was Old Style.

  23. Bill C.

    No need to worry about them banning certain brands of alcohol. They will not ban them. What they will do is tax them to offset the extra health care costs they incur.

    And once the taxes make those brands more expensive, the drunks will switch to other brands and get just as drunk.

  24. Walter Bushell

    It’ll all blow over, the malt manufacturers have deep pockets.

    I would like to see a study on alcohol consumption and alcohol related incidents versus amount of alcohol advertising in similar neighborhoods which are randomly selected. There may well be an effect from seeing ads for alcoholic beverages on overall consumption.

  25. libertarianleaner

    Jimmy Moore has hypogonadism which means he will have a big belly and small testicles regardless of how long he stays in nutritional ketosis 🙁

    Thanks for your fascinating contributions to the discussion. Goodbye now.

  26. johnny

    Have the do-gooders considered that when controls are instituted making the cheaper alcohols unavailable, poor people may resort to crime so they can afford the 12 year scotches.

    The increased crime would raise society’s costs.

    I can’t imagine anything positive coming out their plans, put it that way.

  27. The Older Brother

    Ah, David Duke.

    The thing I remember about him is he managed to luck his way onto the gubernatorial ballot in Louisiana in the late 80’s or early 90’s. He ended up running against semi-disgraced former governor Edwin Edwards, an old-style southern pol who’d always been accused of various kick-backs, favor-peddling, etc. in the highest tradition of the Southern Democrat machine, and finally thrown out of office when it got too hard to ignore.

    People outraged over Duke’s candidacy came up with one of the best political bumper stickers ever:

    Vote for the Crook. It’s Important!

    When asked what it would take for him to beat Duke, he replied “stay alive,” a call back to a campaign he’d won years earlier and told people that “The only way I can lose this election is if I’m caught in bed with either a dead girl or a live boy.”

    Damn, I sure miss the old-fashioned crooks. The new ones these days are so sanctimonious and boring. Plus, I don’t think the whole “dead girl or live boy” thing really counts against people anymore.


    I believe Barney Frank proved your point.

  28. Leanne

    Just today I read an article about the cheapest drunk ever, arising from the rare condition “gut fermentation syndrome” – a 61-year old Texan guy who had an overgrowth of a type of yeast that is used in alcohol fermentation. When he ate a lot of carbs, the yeast in his belly converted them to alcohol. After a 24-hour observation period with no ingestion of alcohol whatsoever, he had blood alcohol levels as high as 0.12%. The solution? [drumroll] a low carbohydrate diet combined with antifungal medication to kill the yeast.

    The CBS News article is at

    The article in the International Journal of Clinical Medicine is at

    “Officer, was I speeding?”
    “No Sir, but you were weaving in and out of your lane. Have you been eating bread?”
    “Officer, I only had two slices! I swear!”
    “I’m going to have to ask you step out of the vehicle and walk a straight line.”


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