Friday, March 28, 2008

Would you like wormwood with that?

Aux armes, citoyens! M. Le Brun of Point Chevalier has noted the dispatches made by M. Idiot-Savant of Palmerston Nord about l'absinthe. They make for alarming news. If you are too drunk to follow these links, I shall summarise.

Dr Paul Hutchison, who speaks for the National Party about something or other in the House of Representatives, has asked several questions of the Minister of Health about the consumption of l'absinthe by les jeunes. It seems he is worried that the young folk might be drinking it as a substitute for party pills (incidentally, at Auckland University Orientation Week, the men from ACT on Campus were selling party pills for one Dollar each; the side-effects included waking up later with an ACT Party membership, which at least is marginally less unpleasant than waking up with an ACT Party member).

Dr Hutchison's particular concern is that victuallers might be making RTDs (the favoured tipple of sixteen year-old girls) with l'absinthe, a chilling thought for all those who appreciate their drink. Rather than ask a sixteen year-old girl, he wastes Government time asking the Minister Questions like this one "Is he aware of any drinks on the market that contain Absinthe; if so what is the Absinthe content?" To which the obvious answer would be "Yes, Absinthe contains Absinthe; the Absinthe content of a bottle of Absinthe is one hundred percent."Dr Hutchison has further questions, such as "Further to the reply to question for written answer 01791 (2008), is he concerned that people could develop unwanted side effects by drinking Absinthe; if not, why not?" To which the obvious answer would be "Taken in immoderation, Absinthe has the same unwanted side effects as any alcoholic drink; these include, but are not limited to: singing Come on Eileen, attempting Borat impersonations and falling over.

Quite why Dr Hutchison is concerned that young people might be obtaining a perfectly good drink, which is really is far too grown-up for them, is a mystery. Of course, l'absinthe was banned in several European countries before the Great War, because it was thought to cause madness and Symbolist poetry. In recent years, the prohibitions have been lifted. The dread of l'absinthe was based on nothing more than speculation. Perhaps Dr Hutchison has not had the time to keep up with the medical literature. Or perhaps he has been looking at too many French Impressions. Perhaps he is worried that drinking l'absinthe leads to this sort of thing:

Perhaps next he will come across William Hogarth's Gin Lane and demand the abolition of Bombay Sapphire.

I am sure Dr Hutchison could concern himself with more important matters. He might trouble himself with the cigarette tins that are being given away with an RTD called Cody's, which allow smokers to discard the cigarette packets that now come with gruesome illustrations of the effects of smoking. Or perhaps he should be concerned that his colleagues, Dr Jonathan Coleman and Mr Simon Power, fell in with a bad crowd a while back.


simon said...

Fun absinthe facts:

Absinthe, properly diluted, is about as alcoholic as wine. It also changes colour when you put water in it. The bright green stuff you can buy in liquorland that is about 90% alcohol is not Absinthe, it is paint thinner.

Absinthe contains wormwood, but wormwood is not psychoactive. Absinthe is not psychoactive. People who think they are 'tripping' on absinthe are not tripping, they are stupid.

The fear of absinthe (which led to the bans in Europe and the US) was not based only on speculation: some unscrupulous profiteers were making moonshine and adulterating it with copper sulfate (to make it look green) and selling it as Absinthe. Copper sulfate is, unfortunately for the Absinthe industry, quite poisonous. Copper sulfate isn't actually green though, it's blue. How were the French so easily fooled?

Anonymous said...

This is a story made up by the modern day absinthe industry - the French were not fooled. They want to take the eye off the real issue - thujone.

What Dr Hutchinson is worried about is THUJONE content and most absinthes don't have anything near the level to start causing the "green fairy effect" of old.

Most have less than 10mg/l but there are some with *100mg thujone* available online.

Thujone is a natural occuring element in grande wormwood and most modern absinthe manufacturers remove it. Tell Dr Hutchinson to stay calm and pour himself a glass!

Anonymous said...

Gasp- so absinthe consumption makes one spontaneously appear in Dejeuner L'Herbe!!!

Thank you, Paul. I'd read about the effects of the Green Fairy, but never this particular side-effect...

Craig Y

simon said...

Dear Mr Anonymous, you are wrong. Thujone is negligibly psychoactive. The "green fairy" effect was nothing but drunk French people. In large doses thujone is a convulsant in mice, and can kill mice in VERY large doses. So far, effects with large doses in humans have been limited to a temporary slight reduction in attention span, in scientific studies. Alcohol attenuates the effects of thujone.

One thing you are right about, though, is that the doses of thujone in absinthe are not enough to do anything whatsoever. In fact, there has probably never been an absinthe in history that had enough thujone in it to cause convulsions.

The only psychoactive or harmful ingredient in absinthe is ethanol.

Anonymous said...

Tab. 1 : Klinische Symptome des Absinth-Missbrauchs [Vogt & Montagne]

Gelegentliche Aufnahme
Zentrales Nervensystem:
Erregung gefolgt von Depression
Gehobene Gemütslage, dann Stimmungsverschlechterung
Auditive und visuelle Halluzinationen
Anstieg der Libido

Auditive and visuelle Halluzinatonen?

Alcohol is a GABA agonist. It stimulates the production of this neurotransmitter which causes drowsiness and sleep. Thujone is a GABA antagonist. It prohibits alcohol from performing that part of it's function. Absinthe is therefore a type of 'speedball', it's chemical constituents at once promote the production of GABA and opens its receptors, while also closing those receptors off. This explains the 'lucid' effect that absinthe has, as oppossed to just normal drunkenness, which is associated with drowsiness.

simon said...

whatever dude :p