Drinking alcohol is both a physical and a cultural act, and alcohol functions as food and as drug. As a food, it provides calories, vitamins, and protection from polluted water supplies. As a mild intoxicant, shared between friends, it promotes social cohesion and allows for celebrations important to secular and religious social functioning. As a drug, it intoxicates, disrupts social life, and can cause addictions. This entry discusses the history and role of alcohol in societies.

Cultural Beliefs and Practices

One way to imagine these tensions is to characterize cultural beliefs and practices about alcohol use on a continuum between axes of food versus drug and intoxicant versus addiction, which allows for a conceptual mapping of how alcohol is perceived in each culture. Every society has different ...

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