Alcohol is one of the more potent as well as one of the most widely used of all the psychoactive drugs: paradoxically, it is also the least likely to be recognized as such. Two-thirds of the US population drink alcohol. The average American spends more than 5 per cent of their annual budget on alcohol, consuming 2.6 gallons of spirits, 2.2 gallons of wine and 26.6 gallons of beer every year. The same sort of pattern emerges in most Western countries. Almost half of the UK’s population over the age of 16 drink regularly: more than one in 10 drink every day.