Who's To Blame When You Get Drunk? A man who got drunk on a United Airlines flight was arrested for beating his wife as they walked through customs. The couple is now suing the airline for serving him too many drinks. On an airplane, at a bar, or at a party, who's responsible when someone gets drunk?
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Who's To Blame When You Get Drunk?

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Who's To Blame When You Get Drunk?


Who's To Blame When You Get Drunk?

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This is Talk of the Nation. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. Earlier this month, a couple sued United Airlines for serving the husband too many glasses of wine on a trans-Pacific flight. The man later hit his wife six times as they made their way through U.S. customs in San Francisco. The case raises interesting questions. One new one - does U.S. law cover a flight over international waters? And another older and more fundamental one - who's responsible if someone's had too much to drink? It's a question bartenders and waitstaff face every day, one a lot of us face at this time of the year when we invite friends over to toast the holidays. We'll talk about legal and moral responsibility.

Later in the hour, another Oprah-approved book of nonfiction turns out to be fiction. More on the faked Holocaust memoir from the reporter who exposed it. But first, we want to hear from those of you who tend bar and host parties. Who's responsible if a customer or a guest gets loaded and hurts himself and others? Tell us your story. Our phone number, 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org, You can also join the conversation on our Web site. Go to npr.org and click on Talk of the Nation.

And we begin in Waupun, Wisconsin with Jody Drews. Her son Jesse died about nine months ago after drinking 15 shots in less than an hour at a local bar. And Jody Drews, thank you very much for joining us and I'm sorry for your loss.

Ms. JODY DREWS: Thank you.

CONAN: This was on Jesse's birthday?

Ms. DREWS: He went - his birthday was March 24th and he went to this bar - a friend came and got him - on the 23rd. He got there at, like, quarter after 11, so he wasn't of age yet. And then, yeah, he got home at, like, one o'clock, so he was there for an hour. And they roughly estimate that he had drank, like, 12 shots but two of them for sure were double shots of Everclear, which is 190 proof.

CONAN: That's almost pure alcohol.

Ms. DREWS: Yeah. And there was 151. And when he couldn't hold his head up anymore they were giving him the Three Wise Men. I guess that is whiskey - some sort of whiskey and a - not a brandy - and I think a tequila shot? I don't know. You line all three of them up, I guess.

CONAN: And this is part of that ritual that some people partake in on their 21st birthday - you're supposed to take 21 shots?

Ms. DREWS: Well, his I don't think was that, but I have heard about that since - 21.

CONAN: Yeah.

Ms. DREWS: He was in bed and a friend just came over and woke him up and said let's go out. I was at this bar and they said to go get you and so, he did end up going and when he left he said, I'm not going to be long. And so when he came home at one, of course I thought, well, he wasn't gone long. But I didn't ever once think of blood alcohol poisoning or I would've brought him in.

CONAN: And there is a law in Wisconsin, as there is in many states, that hold bartenders legally liable, but as I understand it, there's also some loopholes in that law?

Ms. DREWS: Yeah, apparently, because there's nothing here being done. I don't - I'm not real sure why but yeah, there is some law that you cannot over-serve a patron, but he obviously was over-served.

CONAN: And you're pursuing legal action?

Ms. DREWS: Somewhat. Nothing's really being done. I don't know if anything will be done.

CONAN: And I know you're also telling the story partly as a cautionary tale, I'm sure.

Ms. DREWS: Oh, yeah, yeah because, you know, you get this alcohol behind the bars and 190-proof double shots? I mean, that's a lot of alcohol. 151 I know, I think, is 151 proof. Now there's even a Jack - no - Jim, what's that shot? Captain's. I think even now they got a new one of them out and that's 100 proof.

And you know, when you're behind the bar and you're getting shots given to you and - I mean on the other side of the bar and you're getting shots given to you, you're not sure what you're drinking. And that's where the bartender and the owner and the people, the friends, everybody just needs to be aware and watch and help - you know, you help the ones who's drinking.

CONAN: How much of this - if it does come to court, I'm sure that the lawyer for the bar or the bartender would say that, look, some of this is surely your son's responsibility.

Ms. DREWS: Mm hmm. Right.

CONAN: And some of it's his friends' responsibility.

Ms. DREWS: Right. You know, I'm not saying - I don't know, I don't really - I don't think of blame right now. Right now, I blame the laws because I don't think that your bartender should be able to drink behind the bars. He was drinking, the bartender. He didn't have a license, but the owner was there who does have a license. And that's legal in Wisconsin. And both of them were drinking. And so right there, you know, you can't get in a car and drive because of responsibility when you're drinking. And I think some of that should be changed. I wished - I'd like to go for a changing the law - no drinking on the eve of your birthday. It's too quick. I mean, this all happened to him within an hour, two hours.

CONAN: It's terrifying that it could happen that quickly.

Ms. DREWS: Yeah. Well, when you when put - dumping that - when you have that kind of alcohol, it's going to happen. It's - you know, I wish I would have heard about this way before now. Unfortunately, I never did and I just never thought of it, so that's what I'm trying to do is just get the word around. Just be aware - everybody.

CONAN: Jody Drews, thanks very much and again, I know it's hard to get through the holidays...

Ms. DREWS: Yeah.

CONAN: And you got the anniversary coming up in a couple of months, so it's not going to be an easy time for you, but thanks for telling your story.

Ms. DREWS: You're welcome. Thank you.

CONAN: Jody Drews lost her son to alcohol poisoning less than a year ago. She joined us from her home in Waupun, Wisconsin. With us now from our bureau in New York is Michele Simon. She's a research and policy director for Marin Institute, an alcohol industry watchdog group in Northern California. And Michele Simon, thank you for being with us today.

Ms. MICHELE SIMON (Director, Research and Policy, Marin Institute): Thanks for having me.

CONAN: And this case that we just heard about - I mean, once is way too often. How often does it happen? Do you know?

Ms. SIMON: Well, it is a tragedy that unfortunately happens too often. And I don't know the specific law in Wisconsin, but I do know that the state of Wisconsin unfortunately is known for having some of the worst rates of drunk driving and other alcohol-related problems. And some think there's a culture of drinking in Wisconsin that's greater than some other places.

There's certainly some evidence that certain lax laws in Wisconsin around drinking may be part of the reason. But the point is that it's true that - you know, I think it's important that this mother get her story out there to send a message to bar owners, to anyone out there who's providing alcohol as a business, to think about what their responsibility is.

And while of course, the son and his friends bear some responsibility for their own actions, the question to me is, you know, what as a society can we be doing as a whole to make sure that these tragedies don't happen to other families? And I know that's a discussion you want to have today.

And I think it's important not to juxtapose, you know - to paint it as a black and white issue. And I think we really have to think about, when we are dealing with what is a legal drug, but let's be honest - alcohol is a drug, obviously a potentially dangerous drug, as it was in this situation - you know, we have to really consider all segments of society and their collective responsibilities.

CONAN: But where do we draw the line? Where does individual responsibility stop and the owner's responsibility start?

Ms. SIMON: Well, I don't know - you know, law is about drawing somewhat arbitrary lines. And in certain states, there is this idea that where someone is obviously intoxicated, the server has a responsibility to stop serving that person.

Now, we don't know, you know, exactly what the situation looked like with this particular young man in this particular bar. The picture that this mother's painting sounds like he was obviously intoxicated and at some point, I would think that bar's responsibility should have kicked in. Now, it's going to be different in every situation. And unfortunately, the law doesn't always give us bright lines. But, you know, that's all we have to work with.

CONAN: Let's get some callers in on the conversation - 800-989-8255; email, talk@npr.org. Let's start with Michael, and Michael's calling us from San Francisco.

MICHAEL (Caller): Hello.

CONAN: Hi there.

MICHAEL: Yeah. I wanted to say that, because the alcohol is a federally mandated policy - it says when you're 21, you're allowed to drink - it's the same as holding the guy that sold a car to a kid that goes out and wrecks the car and kills a bunch of people responsible for selling him the car, or the handgun manufacturer for selling the handgun to somebody, then they go and commit a crime with it. Once it's allowed by the government, it falls directly on the responsibility of the user. And I don't think that it's the bartender's fault or the bartender's job to shepherd the drinker. And I'll take my comment off the air.

CONAN: Well, wait Michael, just a second. You're a bartender?

MICHAEL: Eighteen years.

CONAN: Eighteen years. So, if you're sitting there watching somebody become increasingly intoxicated - and that kind of experience, you've seen people get drunk before - you probably know when's too much?

MICHAEL: Oh, absolutely.

CONAN: And do you cut people off?

MICHAEL: But different people have different states of what they can drink and what they can't drink. There's no way for us to know whether they've had anything to eat that day, what the level of what they're capable of drinking and handling is. And in most cases, it's just kind of a gray area.

CONAN: Yeah. No, I understand it's a gray area. But I'm sure you've cut people off.

MICHAEL: Oh, absolutely, yes.

CONAN: And so, therefore, they've crossed that line where you think they're not safe anymore?

MICHAEL: Yeah, absolutely. But I don't think it's a criminal thing you can charge a bartender criminally for, forgetting someone drunk. That's what they do.

CONAN: Michele Simon, are we talking criminal law or civil law here?

Ms. SIMON: No. We're talking civil liability. I think the fact that this bartender does cut people off probably shows the effectiveness of the potential civil liability. And I don't know of any states that impose criminal liability. We're talking potential monetary damages.

And when you think about - part of the purpose for that is deterrent effect - right? - the idea of preventing other tragedies like this mother had in her family. So, in other words, just the threat of liability can be sufficient to make sure that bartenders, you know, do the right thing and to make sure that their staff is trained properly.

You know, nobody wants the outcome to be a lawsuit, right? We're really talking about trying to prevent these tragedies. And if it means requiring server training, which is required in many jurisdictions, and if liability is another incentive to get that training, then I think that's a good outcome for everyone.

MICHAEL: OK. Well, what about if - what about if this kid - I don't know this whole story, but if this kid had a bunch of friends, obviously, he wasn't probably buying the shots for himself. Are his friends liable for his situation if they bought a bunch of shots for him? Are they civilly liable as well?

Ms. SIMON: Well, I think that's - obviously they bear some moral responsibility. I don't think I would hold them civilly liable. I think the distinction is that as a business owner, as someone who is making money from the sale of a potentially dangerous product, that increases your potential responsibility and liability in that situation than simply friends of someone who's helping that friend get drunk.

CONAN: Michael, good point, though. Thanks very much for the phone call.

MICHAEL: Thank you.

CONAN: Stay with us if you would, Michele Simon. And we're going to be talking with more of you as well. If you're a bartender, if you're a waiter or a waitress somewhere, if you have parties where you serve alcohol, when does your responsibility begin to make sure that your guests are sober enough to drive home? I'm Neal Conan. Stay with us. It's the Talk of the Nation from NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

CONAN: This is Talk of the Nation. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. Over the next few days, people are stocking up for their New Year's Eve parties, buying hors d'oeuvres, party hats, and plenty of champagne. So what happens if a guest overindulges at the party? Is the host responsible for the drunken sins of his guests if they hurt themselves or others? What do you think?

800-989-8255; email us, talk@npr.org. You can also join the conversation on our Web site, npr.org. Just click on Talk of the Nation. Our guest is public health lawyer Michele Simon. Let's get another caller on the line. And this is Diana, Diana with us from Black Mountain in North Carolina.

DIANA (Caller): Hi, how are you.

CONAN: Very well, thank you.

DIANA: So, my comment is that I worked as a bartender. I don't any longer, but at the time that I was working as a bartender, a customer came in one day and he ordered a martini and ordered several more. And I think there were six altogether that I served him. And he left - he was a regular customer, too, but this was more than I had ever served him. He just kept ordering and I kept serving him. And I was kind of young at the time, didn't really understand, you know, a lot more - a lot like I do now.

But anyway, he took off out of there and nearly killed himself in a car accident. Fortunately, nobody was killed, and he was hurt but not killed. And he came into - back into the restaurant about - a couple of months later and ordered a Coke. And I - so I said oh, how are you doing? You know, where have you been, so forth. He said, well, you know, I wanted to talk to you about that. The last time I was in here, you served me a lot of alcohol. And he said, you know, how many do you think you served me? I said well, I don't know, four, five, six. He said that's right. Well, that's way too much. And I went out of here and nearly killed myself. And you need to really be, you know, more cautious about serving people when they've exceeded a couple of drinks.

And I was really shocked, you know? I mean, I certainly didn't mean any harm to this man or anybody. You know, I'm not a mean person or trying to hurt anybody. But I had to really, really think about that. You know, at first I was thinking well, what's he blaming me for? Then I started really considering.

You know, people who are intoxicated don't realize it. They don't know it, their higher functioning shuts down, that, you know, primal brain kicks in and they really don't know. So, I have to be - as a bartender, I have to be their conscience, so to speak, or their guide, you know, to what's enough. And so after that, I had no problem cutting anybody off. I had - I took responsibility. And I believe a bartender is responsible.

CONAN: I bet you had more than a few people who you cut off be a little upset with you?

DIANA: Well, they were. But that's, you know - I would rather have them be upset with me than dead in a - you know, hit a tree and die, you know? So, yeah, I did. I met some resistance, especially with the police...

(Soundbite of laughter)

DIANA: Because there were a few police that liked to drink in there and I would cut them off, you know. And they, you know, they didn't particularly like it.

But I was nice about it. I mean, I wouldn't be mean to them or anything. But I would just say, look, you've really had enough. I'm noticing that you're not speaking as well as you were when you first come in here. And, you know, I want you to be safe. So, let's get you some coffee and, you know, send you home.

CONAN: Diana, thanks very much. Appreciate it.

DIANA: You're welcome.

CONAN: Bye-bye. Joining us now from our bureau in New York is Susan Cheever. She's the author of several books including a biography of one of the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous. Her latest book is called "Desire: Where Sex Meets Addiction," and Susan Cheever, nice to have you on the program today.

Ms. SUSAN CHEEVER (Author, "Desire: Where Sex Meets Addiction" and "My Name is Bill"): Nice to be here.

CONAN: And this question - with you, I suspect we're not talking so much about the legal liability but moral responsibility. Who's responsible for their actions in a bar?

Ms. CHEEVER: Well, moral - also I think we're talking about addiction. We've heard so many amazing stories already on this broadcast - this really heroic mother who's just trying to get the story out and this wonderful bartender who learned the hard way how to cut people off.

You know, I would say that, in a general way, I think we live in a culture of blame. I think that very often, when bad things happen to people, they look around for someone else to blame. I think certainly the lawsuit that we were talking about, of a couple suing United Airlines because he was served so much alcohol that he hit his wife - in that case, you know, I think we're talking about the culture of blame.

But of course, as you say, it's all a gray area. I think, you know, it may be that we are too much encouraged not to take responsibility for our actions. And as somebody who knows something about addiction, I see this a lot - that people say to me, oh, if someone says they're an alcoholic, that means they're not responsible for what they do. But of course, that's not true at all. Even if you do something in a blackout and don't know you did it, you're entirely responsible for it.

I really do believe that, as a principle, adults - and this is why we have a drinking age - adults are responsible for their own actions. And I really do believe, especially that as a principle, we are responsible for what we put in our mouths. That's a fairly intimate action.

But, of course, we don't live in a black and white world. And there're all kinds of mitigating circumstances. And, you know, if the bartender is drunk, that's certainly a mitigating circumstance. If you're being given a drink that you think is a shot of whisky and it's 150 proof? That's a mitigating circumstance. I mean, you know, we're getting - we're starting off in the gray areas here. And I guess we're...

CONAN: And getting grayer every minute.

Ms. CHEEVER: ...going to splash around in them. But I just - I do think that - you know, we live in a very - in a wonderfully compassionate culture. In other words, if somebody's drunk, and they're going 80 miles an hour, and they drive their car into a tree, we send an ambulance. We do not say they broke the law and they were drunk so we're not sending the ambulance. We always send the ambulance. And I'm just thrilled to be part of a culture that does that. When someone's in trouble, we help. The state helps, the town helps, and that's great.

On the other hand, I also think that, you know, with the demise of communities and churches and everything else that used to hold us to moral standards, that we're much more likely to turn outside ourselves to look for who's at fault or what's at fault. And of course, you know, we look outside ourselves - we were drunk, we did something stupid - and the first person we see is the bartender.

And, as I say, if the bartender's drunk and serving you things that are being misrepresented to you, then of course, the bartender shouldn't be doing that. Another, even grayer area, which I hesitate to even bring up, is this area of people who sign for mortgages that they can't afford. And again...

CONAN: Let's hesitate to bring that up.

Ms. CHEEVER: OK, let's not bring that up.

CONAN: That's another subject (laughing) for another time.

Ms. CHEEVER: OK. All right. But with alcohol, it's a really good question. In other words, if you go to somebody's house and they say that they're serving you one thing, when in fact, they're serving you something much more powerful - I don't, you know - you're both at fault is the answer.

CONAN: As you suggested, you have some experience with addiction. Who did you blame?

Ms. CHEEVER: Well, I tend to blame myself. I want to be entirely responsible for everything that goes in my mouth because I do not want the government or anybody else interfering in that in any way. In other words, what I did and when I continue to medicate myself, not with alcohol, but however I do, I believe that I'm entirely responsible for that.

And let me take that another step: I'm entirely responsible for everything I do or did under the influence of any alcohol or drug or anything. In other words, I really believe that addiction certainly doesn't remove responsibility. But I'm not sure that anything does.

CONAN: Let's get another caller on the line. Let's go to Dina, Dina with us from Grand Rapids in Michigan.

DINA (Caller): Yes. I - thank you for taking the call. I agree with the bartender who - Diana. I, unfortunately, 26 years ago, lost my father because he went to two Christmas parties and they were at a bar. And he was visibly intoxicated, had his head down on the bar, but he was continued to be served alcohol. And he ended up going and hitting someone else head-on. He died, another person died.

CONAN: Oh, I'm so sorry.

DINA: It's just, you know, I still believe that that's a powerful job - serving alcohol to somebody. And that's - I mean, I don't serve alcohol at my house. I really, you know - I mean, I feel people should be free to drink; however, I think if you are visibly intoxicated, I think that there should be, you know, some liability.

CONAN: Dina, was this...

DINA: There is a Dram Shop Act, at least there was 20-some years ago, which - because the two bars were held liable in this case.

CONAN: I was just about to ask if that law was in effect. It is called the Dram Shop Act in many states.

DINA: Yes, it is. Yes, it is.

CONAN: And so, it was in effect then. Let me bring Michele Simon back into the conversation. Michele, is there any objective evidence to show that those laws - and obviously, Dina's case that she's talking about - a terrible example of what can go wrong. But do those laws work? Do we know that?

Ms. SIMON: Well, I'm not familiar with - I don't know if there've been any actual scientific studies to look at the effectiveness of those laws in preventing problems. It's often a very difficult type of research project to conduct, as you can imagine. You're trying to measure the prevention of certain liability loss.

CONAN: I guess, trying to prove a negative, in a way. Yeah.

Ms. SIMON: Right. But I will say we have research in general on alcohol - various alcohol policies. And so we know that in certain jurisdictions - I mean, a good example might be Utah, where, obviously, there's a culture there that inhibits drinking to some extent - but in jurisdictions that have stronger alcohol policies across the board, there tend to be lower alcohol problems. And this true if we're talking about underage drinking or drunk driving, et cetera.

The reason that, back in 1984, Ronald Reagan, of all people, signed legislation to require all states to raise the minimum drinking age to 21 was because we had good scientific evidence that that would prevent traffic fatalities. And in the years since that law has been enacted, we have in fact saved lives. So, since we know that, in general, stronger alcohol-related policies are good for public health, good for public policy, save lives, it stands to reason that a law like Dram Shop Laws, like imposing civil liability to prevent tragedies from happening, would also be effective.

CONAN: Susan Cheever, I wonder if you were listening to what Dina had to say. And it's a situation - again, every case is different. In that case, would you hold the bartender responsible?

Ms. CHEEVER: Well, you know, we're playing hardball here because, of course, if someone's lost their father, all I can say to them is I'm so sorry. You know, I can't even imagine what that's like. And, you know, to argue that it's the drinker's fault or the bartender's fault seems to me - it's very hard for me to do here.

Again, I do think what you drink is up to you. Obviously, I was very struck by the story of the bartender who learned from serving six martinis that that wasn't such a good idea. Obviously, bartenders need more education. They need all kinds of things. It's obviously a much more important job than we're imagining it is, because it's pretty easy to get a job as a bartender. Mostly it's about are you able to mix a lot of drinks?

Perhaps bartenders, like people who are arrested for drunk driving, should have some kind of mandatory alcohol education program so that they know what's happening inside the brains of the people they're serving to. I certainly think that would be a good idea. But to ascribe responsibility to somebody else for something that you do, I think, is a very tricky thing.

CONAN: Dina, again, we're sorry for your loss. Thanks very much for the call.

DINA: Thank you.

CONAN: Bye-bye.

DINA: Bye-bye.

CONAN: We're talking with writer Susan Cheever and with Michele Simon, a public health lawyer, about who's responsible if somebody gets drunk at your party, at your bar, and then does something stupid, something destructive. You're listening to Talk of the Nation from NPR News. And let's talk with Greg, Greg with us from Boise, Idaho.

GREG (Caller): Yes. Thanks for taking my call.

CONAN: Sure.

GREG: When I was younger in the military, I drank a lot. I drank too much. I actually gave myself alcohol poisoning. And I can say point blank, if somebody sued - say I died. And obviously, I wouldn't have any, you know, response after I'm dead. But I would be highly irate if somebody sued one of my friends or a bartender because I was dumb enough to drink alcohol.

And I see all these situations where people have a loss, it's a tragic loss, but there's warning labels on the bottles, there's warning labels, you know, on TV. Everybody knows that alcohol, when taken too much, is dangerous. There's no grey area there.

And at what point do you say that - there was a point which this person was not drunk. There was a point at which this person made a conscious decision to drink alcohol. When are we going to say that that first choice - when they started going too far, they need to take responsibility for that. And if they can't handle it, how much do you want to blame society for a person's individual choices?

CONAN: Michele?

Ms. CHEEVER: Well, I thinkā€¦

CONAN: Go, ahead. Susan. I'm sorry.

Ms. CHEEVER: I think the grey area would be - certainly in the first story we heard, Greg, and I totally agree with you - the gray area would be if the bartender is serving you a drink that's a high - much higher proof than you think, for instance.

GREG: Something's mislabeled or you have...

Ms. CHEEVER: Exactly. Exactly.

GREG: So, I guess you could see there's some malice or something.

Ms.CHEEVER: In other words, there is such a thing as seduction. And so, if the bartender - you know, I think there are cases in which the bartender is complicit. And I think if the bartender is drunk, too, that's much more likely to happen.

Ms. SIMON: Well - and I'd like to pick up on this idea of seduction because I think we...

CONAN: Michele Simon, go ahead.

Ms. SIMON: We are leaving a big part of the picture out of this, which is how is it that people feel the need to drink in the first place? How is it that we've created a culture of drinking? How is it that it's been made to feel alcohol is an essential ingredient to every party, let alone New Year's Eve? And, you know, I think we can't deny the role of advertising in the alcohol industry in really making it practically a requirement of living that, you know, drinking be part of our culture. And...

GREG: Yeah.

CONAN: So, should the advertisers and the newspapers and the magazines and the television networks be held responsible, too?

Ms. SIMON: I'm not talking about bringing them in as a matter of legal liability. Although, that certainly has been looked at as far as underage drinking goes - the idea that some alcohol companies are luring teenagers to drink - that has been looked at.

CONAN: As tobacco companies did?

Ms. SIMON: Right, exactly. So, I do think it's important, though, to look to some moral responsibility and to say, you know, there's a reason that people want to drink. There's a reason that people get lured into drinking. I mean, look at every advertisement, right? It's either a sexy woman or a group of guys having fun or - many, many ways that advertising creates this culture of drinking.

And so, I think it would be important to broaden the discussion to say, you know, it's not just the individual at the bar, it's not just the bartender, but advertisers that really do create this drive to drink, this requirement to drink, that creates the culture, that creates the larger context in which people are acting.

CONAN: Susan Cheever, is the back page of the New York Times magazine to blame?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. CHEEVER: Well, I completely agree with Michele, but I also disagree. In other words, if I did everything ads told me to do...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. CHEEVER: I'd certainly be in very interesting condition. I do think it's up to adults, certainly - children, again, a gray area - to resist what advertisements tell them to do. And we certainly do live in a culture of alcoholism. Try giving a dinner party with no alcohol and see what happens.

But - and we certainly do encourage children, you know, to drink. I mean this terrible thing this woman was talking about - 21 shots on your 21st birthday. At the same time, we encourage a lot of things. We encourage eating donuts. We encourage taking drugs if you can't get to sleep. We encourage taking drugs if you feel sad. So, I'm not sure that there's a lot of difference.

Ms. SIMON: And I have a problem with that, too.

Ms. CHEEVER: Yes, I do, too. But I do think it's our responsibility to not give in to every seductive thing that comes our way.

CONAN: I'm afraid we're going to have to leave it there. Susan Cheever, thank you so much for your time today. Susan Cheever is the author most recently of "Desire: Where Sex Meets Addiction." We'd also like to thank Michele Simon, a public health lawyer. Both of them at our bureau in New York. This is Talk of the Nation from NPR News. I'm Neal Conan.

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