Crash Caused by Driver Who Drank For ‘Medicinal Purposes’

A distressing police report from Tacoma: an 86-year-old man caused a three-car crash while driving the wrong way down Interstate 5.

Brandy-rxFortunately, there were no life-threatening injuries. But what’s alarming is that the drunk driver, Panos Palas, blew a .123 on a breathalyzer, despite claiming he had nothing to drink. He revised his claim later: he drank some brandy for his cough.

It’s unclear from the article whether the brandy was taken alone or with a cough medicine, but either way, it was a bad decision resulting from seriously outdated thinking.

At 86, Mr. Palas is old enough to remember when brandy was indeed thought of as a medicine. Any fan of black-and-white movies will remember scenes in which a matron faints after some bad news, only to be brought around by a shot of brandy.

In an age before potent medications, doctors regularly prescribed alcohol. Its depressant properties alleviated anxiety, and a regular dose of brandy was often regarded as a way to improve high blood pressure, pneumonia, and many other diseases, despite a lack of scientific evidence. Alcohol falls into the category of folk medicine, albeit one that had, in earlier times, many satisfied customers.

Prescription Form for Medicinal Liquor
Used During Prohibition

In the US during Prohibition, doctors and their patients capitalized upon this belief – one could still procure alcohol for medicinal purposes, and the number of ailments for which the treatment was prescribed went through the roof. Looking at pharmacies’ record books, one would have thought that America was one sick nation indeed, at least from 1919 to 1933.

By the 1940s, with the advent of penicillin and other effective drugs, the fashion of prescribing alcohol receded. Those who wanted to drink brandy would have to find a reason that did not involve the medical profession.

Today there is no excuse to drink to cure a cough or any other ailment. And of course, there is no excuse — ever — to drink and drive.