Further Reading

What do you think of the Ledermann hypothesis that limiting alcohol consumption in a society reduces drinking problems?

Dear Stanton:

I admire your work, and your willingness to make it accessible.

I have a minor obsession with the Ledermann Hypothesis, which clearly has major implications for public policy directions.

Do you have any sympathy for Ledermann's proposition that a community's mean level of alcohol consumption will influence the proportion of that community experiencing adverse alcohol-related outcomes?


Dear Steve:

Thanks, buddy!

  1. I don't like the Ledermann hypothesis. Sometime soon I'll be putting up my Mark Keller-awarding-winning article in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol, "The limitations of control-of-supply models....," in which I analyze efforts to limit (interdict) both alcohol and drug supplies.
  2. I don't like Ledermann because consumption levels do not explain major drinking problems. In fact, level of drinking is inversely associated with obnoxious drinking behavior (and AA membership), as I detail empirically in my article on-site, "Utilizing cultural and behavior in epidemiologic models...". In other words, styles of drinking > amount of drinking.
  3. Ledermann implies at a cultural level what is equally untrue at an individual level, that there is a straightforward relationship between level of consumption and substance abuse/addiction. This relationship is mediated in powerful ways by social setting and individual interpretation, and I don't want to support any model that implies otherwise. This is the entire point of my book, The Meaning of Addiction.
  4. The guys who put forward the Ledermann model are for the most part social epidemiologists, who I think deserve the label "new temperance" proponents. I just don't like the vision of the world they propose, and I don't want to go there.
  5. The same assumptions that some fairly progressive figures accept in the case of alcohol (let's reduce drinking as a social policy, and problems will diminish) when applied to drugs support reactionary policies, like interdiction (and certainly not decriminalization), since if we can only limit the supply of drugs, and hopefully their consumption, than we won't have drug abuse — in fact, the more uptight we are in repressing substances as forbidden fruit, the more negative are consumption patterns.

Best wishes (despite your inexplicable attraction to the Ledermann hypothesis),