Sorry, Mayor Ford, but drinking is not an excuse for smoking crack (or anything else)

These excuses say a lot about the mysterious powers people ascribe to alcohol, which they blame for all manner of bad behavior but nevertheless perceive as morally superior to politically disfavored intoxicants such as cocaine. The double standard is especially glaring in the cases of Ford and Radel, both of whom correctly anticipated that occasional cocaine consumption would be perceived as more scandalous than habitual drunkenness. But whether the subject is legal or illegal drugs, the failure to understand the importance of the context in which they are consumed makes it hard to have an intelligent discussion.

In their insightful 1969 book Drunken Comportment, the psychologist Craig MacAndrew and the anthropologist Robert Edgerton refuted the idea that alcohol has a predictable, mechanistic impact on behavior. …

MacAndrew and Edgerton concluded that “drunken comportment is essentially a learned affair….The way people comport themselves when drunk is determined not by alcohol’s toxic assault upon the seat of moral judgment, conscience, or the like, but by what their society makes of and imparts to them concerning the state of drunkenness.”