It’s nice to know we’re so closely related to the fruit fly – men at least. Why is that? Why do all these experiments focus on the hapless male, in this case the drunken hapless male? I’m talking about alcohol and tricks played on male fruit flies.
These men in white coats put male fruit flies in close proximity to female fruit flies. So far so good.
The bad news is the male fruit flies grossly outnumbered the female fruit flies – (Can’t you just hear those scientists snickering?) – and thus revealed the abject folly of prohibition. The rejected males sought solace in drink, alcohol being the next best thing to sex.
Fruit flies self medicate as do mice, rats and monkeys that are subject to isolation, bullying or aggression.
It suggests that aspects of the brain’s reward system have changed little since we crawled from the primordial ooze, in particular those brain chemicals linked to addiction.
It seems to me the obvious way to solve this problem is to ensure that everyone has a regulated amount of sex on a daily basis, which would ensure that no one was isolated and everyone would be too blissfully content to bully or fight.
Dr. Markus Heilig, the clinical director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and the National Institute on Drug Abuse, sees thing differently. Though not involved in the research he argues that the findings supported new ways of treating alcohol dependence. He is urging researchers to investigate ‘several compounds aimed at blunting alcohol urges.’ In other words don’t solve the problem, mask it with drugs.
And what a tragedy that would be – losing the dark lyricism of an alcohol culture. One day, far in the future, the humble fruit fly might have its own Casablanca:
Play it once, Sam. For old times' sake.
Here's looking at you, kid.
Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine.
What is your nationality? I'm a drunkard.
Meanwhile we shall be taking prozac.