The Drunken Monkey: Why We Drink and Abuse Alcohol
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The Drunken Monkey is designed for interested readers, scholars, and students in comparative and evolutionary biology, biological anthropology, medicine, and public health.
amounts actually beneﬁts both animal and human health. These effects are fairly well studied in fruit ﬂies but are likely widespread among fruit-eating mammals and birds as well. Inebriation per se is a very unlikely outcome in the wild, but the alcohol molecule is a familiar companion at mealtimes for many insects and vertebrates. Nowhere is this outcome more resonant than when we consider the ancestry of humans over the past tens of millions of years, among the fruit-eating apes and monkeys of
European countries, including Russia. Consumption rates are also impressive throughout Africa, where both religious use of fermented substrates (e.g., bananas, honey, sorghum, and millet) as well as their daily consumption to meet caloric demands are commonplace. Much published data on consumption rates should be viewed cautiously, however, as cultural prohibitions and other factors likely preclude accurate quantiﬁcation of drinking behavior. Individuals who drink regularly also routinely
smoking. If we then look at the global health burden (as quantiﬁed by the World Health Organization), alcohol-related disorders also turn up high up on the list. In terms of the number of human-years lost to disability and disease, alcohol use is the third-largest risk factor worldwide (after underweight childhood and unsafe sex) and poses health burdens exceeding those of unsafe water, high blood pressure, tobacco use, and overweight status. Alcoholism clearly has the potential to destroy lives,
to and withdrawal symptoms from alcohol, more recent work has utilized rhesus macaques, an omnivorous Asian species of primate widely used in biomedical science. Both male sex and juvenile stress have been shown to be risk factors in this species for high levels of alcohol consumption, just as they are in modern humans (see above). A major difficulty in such work, however, derives from the operational deﬁnition used for addiction. Individual animals may vary substantially in the daily mass of
to foraging behavior, along with data on fruit-alcohol concentrations, are covered by Nate Dominy in the Sources and Recommended Reading / 145 journal Integrative and Comparative Biology (“Fruits, ﬁngers, and fermentation: the sensory cues available to foraging primates,” 2004, 44:295–303). Neurophysiological responses to various alcohols are documented by Matthias Laska and Alexandra Seibt in the Journal of Experimental Biology (“Olfactory sensitivity for aliphatic alcohols in squirrel