A historical overview:
Daniel Okrent, author of Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition, noted that 19th century drinking patterns were roughly triple our own. That figure becomes all the more startling when you take into account the drunken renaissance our country is currently undergoing (a recent Gallup Poll found the drinking rate is the highest it has been since the mid-1980s, when drinking ages across the nation were inflated to keep intoxicated teens off the road). Without excluding children, the elderly, or any other group adverse to imbibing, the average American still consumed a gag-inducing 3.9 gallons of alcohol annually in 1830.
Earlier this year, Okrent explained the various creative loopholes that arose during Prohibition:
Catholics were permitted to consume alcohol in church (during communion). Jews were permitted to consume alcohol at home (as during Sabbath observances). Jews were allowed to consume 10 gallons a year per person. According to journalist Daniel Okrent, "You joined a congregation, and you got wine from your rabbi. One congregation in Los Angeles went from 180 families to 1,000 families within the very first 12 months of Prohibition. Other people who claimed to be rabbis would get a license to distribute to congregations that didn’t even exist." …
Even though the American Medical Association ruled that alcohol wasn’t a legitimate medicine, it could be prescribed. Daniel Okrent reported, "you could go into virtually any city in the country and buy a prescription for $3 from your local physician, take it to your local pharmacy and go home with a pint of liquor every 10 days. And this is how many of the large distilleries stayed in business throughout the Prohibition years."