According to a summary of a recent presentation from Francis Collins (NIH Director) to the SMRB on May 29 provided by the Research Society on Alcoholism. Key points:


“We are hearing from some of the lobbying organizations that are involved in the use and sale of alcoholic beverages – the wine, beer and liquor industry.
They are not particularly happy about this. We are going to have to see what response comes forward from them. They are very well connected from the political side of this. We are proceeding forward, but I want to give you a heads up that there could be some noise.”

Sol Snyder asked why and Collins had this to say:

“Their view is that alcoholic beverages are an acceptable, social, desirable thing. Consider it to be a food. Noted that it has health benefits. Notion that it will be lumped with drugs of abuse, many of which are illegal, rubs them the wrong way.”

Exactly what I’ve maintained all along. This proposal to merge the NIAAA with NIDA is, scientifically speaking, a no-brainer. It makes a lot of sense and if any ICs are to be merged, this is the first thing on the table. If this can’t be done…there doesn’t seem any point to discussing any other mergers.

However. I’ve also noted that the beverage industry has a HUGE amount of pull in Congress and and HUGE interest in not seeing alcohol defined as a drug like any other. They don’t want to be mentioned in the same sentence with drug cartels! They sure as hell don’t want people discussing, matter-of-factly, that their beloved product is really not substantially different* from cocaine, methamphetamine and heroin, save by historical accident.

So this whole proposal could come crashing down if the beverage interests can buy up enough support in Congress to quash this. Personally I think all this comes down to is the extent to which they care. I believe if they throw around enough cash in Washington DC they can halt this.

Question is, will they?

Will they be bought off by some careful wording** and policy statements that preserve the special status of alcohol within the new IC?
*by some ways of looking at things. First and foremost, addiction.
**Perhaps by keeping the word “Alcohol” in the title of the IC to distinguish it from “Drugs” and even “Substances”?

ps: as always, see Disclaimer. I’m an interested party in this process.