Where in the World is Alcohol Illegal?

 

Where is alcohol illegal? Alcohol, often referred to as the ‘social lubricant’, has been an integral part of human culture for millennia. It has played roles in celebrations, rituals, and social interactions across diverse societies. However, not all countries have embraced it in the same manner.
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​ Sometimes, when you’re sipping on an ice cold beer or a nice glass of red wine, it’s impossible to imagine a world where alcohol is illegal. Well – just like recreational substances – alcohol is not legal everywhere. Alcohol, often referred to as the ‘social lubricant’, has been an integral part of human culture for millennia. It has played roles in celebrations, rituals, and social interactions across diverse societies.

However, not all countries have embraced it in the same manner. In various corners of the globe, alcohol has faced restrictions and outright bans due to cultural, religious, social, or health-related reasons. In this article, we’ll be delving into the fascinating world of alcohol prohibition, exploring the places where it remains illegal and the motivations behind such decisions.

What is Alcohol?

Alcohol has been an integral part of many societies for centuries. In fact, it is believed that the part of our body that metabolizes alcohol has been within mammals long before humans even existed. Some say this is anywhere from 7-21 million years ago. Our predecessors were consuming alcohol from fruits long before we were around.

Heroes of ancient Greek myths Dionysus and Ariadne with jugs of wine

Alcohol, in a chemical sense, refers to a group of organic compounds characterized by the presence of a hydroxyl (-OH) functional group attached to a carbon atom. The most common type of alcohol is ethanol, with the chemical formula C2H5OH. Ethanol is the active ingredient in alcoholic beverages and is produced through the fermentation of sugars by yeast.

During fermentation, yeast consumes sugars, releasing carbon dioxide and ethanol as byproducts. This chemical process has been harnessed by humans for millennia to create various alcoholic beverages, such as beer, wine, and spirits. Wine is made from sugar from grapes, whereas vodka is vape from the sugar in potatoes. The Penn Museum writes:

“Chemical analyses recently confirmed that the earliest alcoholic beverage in the world was a mixed fermented drink of rice, honey, and hawthorn fruit and/or grape. The residues of the beverage, dated ca. 7000–6600 BCE, were recovered from early pottery from Jiahu, a Neolithic village in the Yellow River Valley.”

Alcohol, like many recreational substances, has the ability to increase euphoria and decrease social anxiety. It is no surprise that early human beings came across this substance and used it for religious and social ceremonies. In addition, its subtle pain killing properties were also very useful in the early days. Alcohol has stood the test of time as one of the most frequently used drugs ever created. In fact, according to the World Health Organization, an estimated 2.3 billion people are current alcohol drinkers. That is over a quarter of the population. 

Alcoholic Beverages

Alcoholic beverages can be broadly categorised into three main types: fermented beverages, distilled spirits, and fortified wines.

Fermented Beverages

These beverages result from the natural fermentation of sugars by yeast. Common examples include beer and wine. Beer is made from malted grains, such as barley, while wine is produced by fermenting crushed grapes.

Distilled Spirits

Also known as hard liquor, distilled spirits are created through a process of distillation, which involves heating a fermented liquid to separate the alcohol from other components. This results in higher alcohol content compared to fermented beverages. Examples of distilled spirits include vodka, whiskey, rum, and gin.

Fortified Wines

Fortified wines are created by adding additional alcohol, often in the form of brandy, to a base wine. This increases the alcohol content and contributes to the distinct flavors of these beverages. Sherry and port are popular examples of fortified wines.

Effects on the Human Body

Alcohol has substantial effects on the CNS

When consumed, alcohol affects the human body in various ways, primarily targeting the central nervous system. The effects of alcohol consumption are dose-dependent, meaning that they vary based on the amount consumed.

Immediate Effects

Even a small amount of alcohol can lead to relaxation, lowered inhibitions, and a feeling of euphoria. However, higher doses can result in impaired coordination, slowed reaction times, and impaired judgement.

Long-Term Effects

Chronic alcohol consumption can have serious long-term health consequences. It can lead to liver damage (such as cirrhosis), heart problems, impaired cognitive function, and an increased risk of certain cancers.

Banning Alcohol

Banning alcohol is an extreme decision, especially when you consider how many nations in the world have maintained its legality. In the modern day, few countries have outlawed alcohol, in part or as a whole. These “dry” nations often implement such measures to uphold religious principles, combat public health concerns, or maintain social order. Some of these countries have a majority Muslim population and have governments that adhere to some form of Islamic law, known as Sharia. Eating pork and drinking alcohol are two of the big prohibitions of Islam. There are around 14 countries that have outlawed alcohol to varying points. Let’s take a journey through some of the regions where alcohol is currently banned or restricted.

Saudi Arabia

One of the most well-known examples of strict alcohol prohibition can be found in Saudi Arabia. The country’s Islamic laws strictly prohibit the sale, consumption, and possession of alcohol. This prohibition is rooted in Islamic teachings that emphasise sobriety and avoidance of substances that alter one’s state of mind.

Afghanistan

Due to its primarily Islamic population, Afghanistan also enforces a ban on alcohol. The Taliban’s rule from 1996 to 2001 intensified this prohibition, and even after its fall, alcohol remains scarce and illegal in much of the country.

Iran

In Iran, alcohol is forbidden according to Islamic law. However, there is a significant underground market for homemade alcohol, revealing the complexities of enforcing such bans.

Kuwait

Kuwait is another Middle Eastern nation where alcohol is prohibited. The ban is again rooted in Islamic beliefs and the desire to maintain a conservative social environment.

Brunei

This Southeast Asian country, with its strong Islamic traditions, has implemented a strict ban on alcohol as well. Violations of the ban can lead to severe penalties.

Libya

The unstable political situation in Libya has led to sporadic enforcement of alcohol bans. Islamic influences play a role in the prohibition, but social and cultural factors also contribute.

Yemen

Like many other Islamic nations, Yemen enforces a ban on alcohol. The country’s conservative culture and adherence to Islamic teachings are significant factors in this decision.

Sudan

Alcohol has faced legal restrictions in Sudan due to Islamic influences, even though the country is ethnically and culturally diverse.

Bangladesh: While alcohol is not entirely banned in Bangladesh, its availability is limited and heavily regulated due to Islamic and cultural considerations.

Maldives

This island nation in the Indian Ocean has a predominantly Muslim population, which has led to the implementation of alcohol restrictions.

The Prohibition

Whilst most of these nations have a strong religious purpose for the ban of alcohol, this is not the first time that this has happened. In fact, in the 1920s, in the US, the same ban was attempted but it failed pretty miserably. This represented an era known as Prohibition. Prohibition, also known as the Prohibition Era, refers to the period in the United States from 1920 to 1933 when the manufacture, sale, and transportation of alcoholic beverages were prohibited by law.

This nationwide ban was established through the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and enforced by the Volstead Act. The main motivations behind the Prohibition movement were rooted in concerns about public health, morality, and social order. Advocates believed that banning alcohol would lead to reduced crime, domestic violence, and poverty, and would promote healthier lifestyles and improved productivity. Additionally, there was a strong temperance movement that aimed to curb what were seen as negative effects of alcohol on individuals and society.

However, despite the noble intentions behind Prohibition, the policy ultimately failed to achieve its intended goals, as organized crime rose, crime increased, the economy suffered, and it was simply difficult to enforce. In a nation like the USA, which had used alcohol for centuries, banning it so suddenly was simply not going to work. While prohibition might seem effective in theory, it often drives alcohol consumption underground, making it difficult to regulate and control. Some critics argue that a more balanced approach, such as implementing regulations and educating the public about responsible drinking, might yield better results in terms of public health and safety.

Final Thoughts

Often people gasp at the idea of a nation that has banned alcohol. For instance, during the Qatar World Cup, many thought it cruel to attend a football game without being able to drink a delicious pint. However, it’s important to put this into perspective. Many countries ban substances that they deem unhealthy, dangerous or religiously improper. Well, alcohol – in many ways – has proven itself to be far more dangerous than cannabis. And yet, the majority of the world still decides to ban it. Whilst alcohol has a deep-rooted culture in much of the world, it doesn’t take away the undoubted dangers that it brings. Perhaps it’s hypocritical to legalize alcohol but not other substances. What do you think?

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