Is Drinking Absinthe Dangerous?

Absinthe became very popular in the late 1800s in France and also in the heavily French-influenced American city of New Orleans. Absinthe was most popular in bohemian and artistic circles and gained a reputation as a powerful and highly addictive psychoactive substance. While absinthe, like any other alcoholic beverage, can be very addictive, subsequent research has demonstrated that its reported psychoactive qualities were exaggerated.

Possibly due to its association with fringe elements of society, absinthe became a special target of temperance movements in the 19th century, which linked absinthe use and addiction to a host of social evils, including crime, domestic violence and insanity. As a result, absinthe was banned in many western countries, including the United States, for the better part of the 20th century.

Absinthe experienced a resurgence in popularity in the 1990s, and in 2007 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration effectively lifted the ban on absinthe in the United States but placed the manufacturing and sale of the beverage under strict control. However, absinthe “kits” are available that allow people to make their own absinthe. The absinthe produced by these kits is typically of very low quality and may even be dangerous depending on the ingredients or methods specified.

What Exactly Is Absinthe?

Although absinthe is often mistakenly called a liqueur, it is actually a distilled spirit. What sets absinthe apart from other spirits is the inclusion of three herbs: wormwood, anise and fennel. It is the wormwood in particular that was credited with absinthe’s reported psychoactive powers, but the amounts of wormwood in absinthe are not sufficient to produce psychoactive results, such as hallucinations. However, some absinthe kits call for much higher amounts of wormwood, which may be dangerous. There is at least one reported case of a man who suffered acute renal failure after drinking a relatively large amount of pure wormwood oil.

Direct and Indirect Dangers of Drinking Absinthe

Again, there are significant dangers associated with drinking absinthe, but these are the same as the dangers involved with drinking any alcoholic beverage. Alcohol is extremely toxic to virtually all organs in the body with which it comes into contact, and the direct risks of alcohol use include serious and possibly fatal liver damage.

The possible indirect dangers of drinking absinthe or any alcoholic beverage are infinite. Alcohol impairs reason, judgment and motor skills, leaving users vulnerable to any number of consequences, including accidental injury and death.

The disinhibition associated with alcohol use may cause drinkers to do things they would not normally do, leading to the classic “morning after” regret of the alcoholic. A joke that arose following the original popularity of absinthe in the 1800s was “Absinthe maketh the heart grow fonder.” This alludes to the disinhibition and lack of judgment characteristic of alcohol use; inebriated people are prone to doing things they wouldn’t normally do, such as having sex with casual acquaintances or even strangers, thereby adding the risk of sexually transmitted diseases to the already extensive list of alcohol-related dangers.

Treating Alcohol Addiction

Seeking escape or excitement through the use of absinthe or any alcoholic beverage may be indicative of deeper-rooted issues that need to be addressed. If you would like help finding treatment for alcohol addiction, please call our toll-free helpline today. Our counselors are available 24 hours a day to offer more information, so call now.