The government has heavily regulated and even withdrawn approval for many drugs because of the potential harm they can cause, even when they have a real medical benefit. However, despite the number of people who are hurt and die every year as a direct result of alcohol consumption, the government does not regulate it at all. That we Americans permit this is disgraceful and hypocritical.
Many people die every year as a result of alcohol. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported that in 2001, the United States had 75,766 alcohol-attributable deaths (http://apps.nccd.cdc.gov/ardi/Homepage.aspx). The causes of these deaths varied from drunk driving to liver disease. But sadly, many of these deaths were innocent people including children who suffered because others had been under the influence of alcohol.
These figures don't take into account the number of people who suffer alcohol-attributable disease, injury, or abuse. For example, studies indicate thousands are children are born every year with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), a “a set of birth defects caused by maternal consumption of alcohol during pregnancy.” According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), “Overall, the available literature points to a prevalence rate of FAS of 0.5 to 2 cases per 1,000 births in the United States during the 1980s and 1990s” (http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arh25-3/159-167.htm). Approximately 4,000,000 live births were registered in the United States in 1994 (http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/statab/t941x01.pdf). Using the estimates above, between 2,000 and 8,000 babies are born every year with FAS. Because of alcohol, these innocent children suffer from “deficits in general intellectual functioning, ... difficulties with learning, memory, attention, and problem solving as well as problems with mental health and social interactions” (NIH).
The U.S. Government regulates medications because of their potential harm to individuals. As a result, drugs are subjected to heavy testing to ensure an acceptable degree of safety before they are permitted to be sold. Even then, prescription drugs cannot be purchased without a prescription from a licensed physician who has verified that an individual can safely take the medication. In addition, the physician must tell the patient how much they can take and in what intervals.
In extreme cases where a drug has proven to be more dangerous than originally thought, the government has withdrawn its approval for the sale of the drug. In most cases, few people had to die before approval was withdrawn. Take Propulsid, for instance. This medication was approved for the treatment of severe nighttime heartburn in 1993. By 1999, the government decided to withdraw approval for Propulsid because it had been linked to the deaths of 80 people during that six-year period. (http://www.webmd.com/content/article/23/1728_56592)
While Propulsid provided a medical benefit to many people who took it, the drug was taken off the market because a small number faced a higher risk of death or illness. Despite the fact that alcohol plays a direct roll in the deaths of far more people than withdrawn drugs had, the federal government continues to permit its sale and distribution. Herein lies the hypocrisy. We won't tolerate something harming innocent people unless that something is desirable to ourselves. We Americans tolerate this hypocrisy because so many people don't want to give up alcohol with its non-medicinal, mood-altering benefits. Worse, most Americans ignore what alcohol does to the innocent and the rest of society so that they won't have to face this hypocrisy. Those who do face it use arguments of moderation or rights to deflect the argument away from those who suffer, pay, and die because of alcohol.
I am not arguing for a complete ban. We don't have the will to uphold it, and too many people would disobey the law anyway. Rather, I argue that the government must step in and regulate alcohol like it does other drugs in order to protect the the population, both users and innocent alike.
The Lord's warning in Doctrine and Covenants 89 is relevant today. We as a people are weak in protecting ourselves from alcohol; Satan knows this and is working hard to use it to bring us further into bondage. Of course, the best solution is to avoid alcohol and to encourage others to use their agency abstain from it. But given that alcohol is addictive and mood altering, and given that Satan is working hard to trap people with it, I recommend that the federal government treat it the same way it does other drugs in order to protect those who use it and the innocent.