They Know It Is Wrong, But They Don't Care

by Jeffrey W. Hamilton

An article appeared in the newspaper reporting on a study by Bruce Bartholow at the University of Missouri-Columbia. While we all know that alcohol changes a person's behavior this study shows that those under the influence of alcohol realize that they are making mistakes, but they just don't care.

Participants in the study were given enough alcohol to put their blood alcohol levels at just under 0.08%, the legal driving limit. They were then given tasks that were prone to making mistakes. Normally when a person makes a mistake they slow down and work more careful so as to not repeat the mistake. People under the influence of alcohol realized they were making mistakes, but they were less likely to slow down to prevent further mistakes. A study of brain activity "showed that alcohol dulls a mechanism in the brain that tells people to put on the brakes when they realize they're making mistakes" ["Drunks know they're messing up but just care less", Omaha World-Herald, January 5, 2012].

Another study found, "after alcohol exposure, threat-detecting brain circuits can't tell the difference between a threatening and non-threatening social stimulus." ["Why People Engage In Risky Behavior While Intoxicated: Imaging Study Provides Glimpse Of Alcohol's Effect On Brain," Science Daily, April 29, 2008].

Thus when faced with a risky behavior, a person under the influence of alcohol is more likely to conclude that the risk don't apply to him.

In a description of the drunk, we find, "They have struck me, but I was not hurt; they have beaten me, but I did not feel it. When shall I awake, that I may seek another drink?" (Proverbs 23:35). So not only does alcohol deaden the response system of the body so that injuries are not notice, we now are aware that even when noticed the drunk doesn't care to take corrective action.

We've long known that immoral behavior increases when a person is drunk. "Woe to him who gives drink to his neighbor, pressing him to your bottle, even to make him drunk, that you may look on his nakedness!" (Habakkuk 2:15). The person realizes he is doing wrong, but he just can't bring himself to care.

  • "On average, at least 50% of college students' sexual assaults are associated with alcohol use ... Koss (1988) reported that 74% of the perpetrators and 55% of the victims of rape in her nationally representative sample of college students had been drinking alcohol" [Antonia Abbey, Ph.D., "Alcohol-Related Sexual Assault: A Common Problem among College Students"].
  • "A male college student who forced sex on a female friend wrote that, 'Alcohol loosened us up and the situation occurred by accident. If no alcohol was consumed, I would never have crossed that line'" [ibid.].

Christianity and alcohol don't mix. Temptation is hard enough to battle without numbing our sensitivity to the dangers we face. "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour" (I Peter 5:8).

"For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age" (Titus 2:11-12).