alcohol

The thinking about alcohol dependence used to be black and white. There was a belief that there were two kinds of drinkers: alcoholics and everyone else.

"But that dichotomy — yes or no, you have it or you don't — is inadequate," says Dr. John Mariani, who researches substance abuse at Columbia University. He says that the thinking has evolved, and that the field of psychiatry recognizes there's a spectrum.

People who try to reduce the stress of a long work day with a drink or two, or three, may be causing more health problems for themselves.

Around the world, people working long hours are more likely to drink too much, according to a study that analyzed data from 61 studies involving 333,693 people in 14 countries.

They found that people who worked more than 48 hours a week were 13 percent more likely to engage in risky drinking than people working 35 to 40 hours a week.

As New Year's resolutions go, cutting back on food and drink are right at the top of the list. And while those vowing to change their eating habits may cut the carbohydrates or say a sweet goodbye to sugar, for regular drinkers, the tradition may involve what's known as a "dry January": giving up booze for a month.

But could such a short-term breakup with alcohol really impart any measurable health benefits?

The first time I ever got tipsy was during a champagne toast at a cousin's wedding reception.

All was good, until the room started spinning — and the sight of my cousin's bride dancing in her wedding dress was just a whirl of lace.

Of course, if you're an uninitiated teenager, any amount of alcohol can go straight to your head. But, decades later, bubbly wine still seems to hit me faster than, say, beer. It turns out there's a reason.

If you could make a lot of bourbon whiskey these days, you could be distilling real profits. Bourbon sales in this country are up 36 percent in the past five years.

But you'd need new wooden barrels for aging your new pristine product. Simple white oak barrels, charred on the inside to increase flavor and add color, are becoming more precious than the bourbon.

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