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March 20, 1987

Alcohol: Use and Abuse in America

Author Affiliations

Kansas University Medical Center Kansas City

Kansas University Medical Center Kansas City


by Jack H. Mendelson and Nancy K. Mello, 395 pp, with illus, $24.50, Boston, Little Brown & Co Inc, 1985.

JAMA. 1987;257(11):1529. doi:10.1001/jama.1987.03390110105042

This article is only available in the PDF format. Download the PDF to view the article, as well as its associated figures and tables.


Americans may be drinking less alcohol today than at any time since the Pilgrims arrived nearly four centuries ago. One cannot be sure because data on alcohol consumption come from tax records, and some consumption never gets recorded. But probably less untaxed alcohol (moonshine) is consumed today than ever before, and taxed consumption in the 1980s is less than half of what it was in 1791, when alcohol was first taxed.

Why the decline? Some Americans prefer marijuana, and this may be one reason. The slimness fad may be another. Nobody knows, but one thing is certain: Americans have always been deeply involved with alcohol.

In this richly informative book, Jack Mendelson and Nancy Mello tell just how deeply involved Americans are with drinking. First there was cider, which was pretty tame. Then came the distilled beverages, rum and whiskey, and America quickly acquired a reputation as a "nation of