Addiction is bad. Few people are going to argue with that statement.
From childhood, we learn that addiction is bad, especially drug addiction. We hear the warnings, and we learn that just “saying no” is an important strategy to preventing drug abuse.
However, in the case of alcohol abuse and addiction, the use and abuse of alcohol is socially accepted and sometimes even expected. In some cases, the use of alcohol is required.
Illegal drugs are frowned upon and difficult to obtain. Except for certain subcultures, drug use is something that does not receive social support.
If one thinks of a “crack addict,” the image associated with that person is highly negative and includes images of marginalized individuals rather than people living normal lives.
Alcohol is a big part of Western culture. It is legal, freely available, and socially accepted as part of our culture.
Drinking is synonymous with fun or parties. Can you imagine a social outing that does not include alcohol in some way?
Birthdays, Weddings, Office parties, Sporting Events, and almost any other social function will most likely include a bar and drinking. It’s acceptable behavior.
There are social events dedicated to drinking, like ‘coming of age’ celebrations when someone reaches the legal age for drinking or ‘keg’ parties on college campuses.
When people go to the bar for a few drinks or out for dinner, going to a party or an event, they expect that alcohol will be present and available.
Another aspect associated with the social acceptance of alcohol is that drinking is often considered the default.
A non-drinker might be expected to explain why they don’t drink, for example, religious, dietary, or medical reasons.
In many social situations, one will be expected to have a drink in their hand or partake in drinking unless they have a valid reason not to participate.
Alcohol use and abuse have been a constant and accepted part of Western Civilization for centuries. Our modern view of alcohol is something that’s legal and acceptable, plus, it’s fun and cool and enjoyable.
Drinking alcohol is often seen as the mark of adulthood. Some of us are eager to drink and can’t wait. We obtain false identification so we can participate even before reaching the age where it is legally allowed.
To understand the social acceptance of alcohol, it is necessary to look at its availability. It is sold in most places alongside other forms of food or drink.
While it is carefully regulated and restricted by consumer age and certain other factors, alcohol is by far the most available drug.
This means that socially there is total acceptance and availability and a context that lends itself to the development of abuse of alcohol and eventually to an addiction.
While people view drugs as being negative, barring specific subcultures or groups who might view it differently, alcohol is different in that it is not only socially accepted but it is usually socially expected that a person will drink alcohol.
What we now have is a strong social context in which drinking is considered a positive, desirable, or socially acceptable behavior. For certain individuals, this makes addiction to alcohol a likely outcome.
If one accepts that some people have a genetic predisposition for addiction, it means that in an environment that encourages people to drink, addiction for them becomes a much more probable outcome.
Does this mean that alcohol should be banned? Should we ban a substance that is only a problem for a select few? Attempts have been made before, and they were all unsuccessful.
The answer does not lie in outlawing something that is such a large part of our society and culture and harmful to only a few.
History has shown that making alcohol illegal only increases the demand and develops a strong and active black market and an underground culture of drinking.
We can restrict advertising, control availability, limit the supply, raise the age of consent, and even try to tax it to death. But, like tobacco and even illegal drugs, these tactics will not stop the activity.
Alcohol’s role in our society and culture is unlikely to change significantly any time soon.
Consider this; today being addicted to a legal substance such as alcohol is much more acceptable than being addicted to an illegal one. Does that make sense?
Every day our social events take place with abundant alcoholic drinks not only available but highly promoted.
Over 300 guests will drive to a hotel for a Wedding celebration. There will be an open bar, the wine will be available at every table, and numerous toasts will be made.
The band will play, the guests will drink and dance and party for hours. Then, they will get in their cars and drive home.
Most of them are intoxicated with blood alcohol levels above the legal limits, and at risk of jail time or imprisonment should the unthinkable happen, and they are involved in a serious accident.
Alcohol is legal. The presence and consumption of alcohol is legal. However, driving under the influence of alcohol is not legal and serious consequences await anyone who risks driving under the influence.
We promote a celebration knowing full well that most of the people will drive to the celebration. We provide unlimited amounts of alcohol and encourage the guests to drink and be merry.
And then, we knowingly allow them to leave the party, get in their cars, and drive away. Disaster awaits them at every turn!
Does our cultural acceptance of alcohol and its legal presence and availability, contribute to the fact that more Americans are addicted to alcohol than any other drug?
The social stigma with drug addiction is one of disapproval, a strong lack of respect, and a bad opinion because they participate in something society finds unacceptable.
Alcohol, on the other hand, is socially acceptable and legal in our culture and any resulting abuse and addiction to alcohol are less negative, and behaviors often considered harmless.
A drug addict is quickly recognized by his behavior. The abnormal behavior of an alcoholic, on the other hand, is often ignored, accepted, or passed off as simply someone with too much to drink.
The drug addict and the alcoholic share one thing in common: they are both addicts.
The National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIH) places alcohol at the top of its published list of “Drugs of Abuse.”
A recent study found alcohol to be the most harmful drug:
The Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs “The highest and lowest overall harm scores … are 72 for alcohol and 5 for mushrooms,” Nutt and colleagues calculate. “The ICSD scores lend support to the widely accepted view that alcohol is an extremely harmful drug both to users and to society.”
“Alcohol was found to be the most harmful drug to society and the fourth most harmful drug to users.”
“The findings should come as no surprise: Alcohol has been linked to more than 60 diseases.”
Alcohol is a depressant and has an immediate effect on our vital functions. In degrees, we can experience slurred and incoherent speech, staggering and stumbling, impaired vision and reflexes, and numerous other physical malfunctions.
Mentally and emotionally we can experience irrational thought and resulting behavior and severely impaired judgment. An intoxicated person will do things that he would never consider doing when sober.
A social drinker will have one or two drinks just to loosen up and enjoy himself. An alcoholic can’t seem to stop.
For a social drinker, it’s a one-time thing like a party or celebration. For an alcoholic, it never ends. The alcoholic can’t control how much he drinks, can’t control his behavior, and he needs to drink every day, all day long.
Alcohol addiction usually results in serious social damage done to friends, family, and associates. Social drinkers live normal lives with untested relationships with family and friends.
An alcoholic experiences deep depression, twisted thinking, and extreme paranoia. His values change, and he places less emphasis on family love and unity and more on his drinking habit.
He experiences physical ailments like imbalance, blurred vision, and vomiting. He subjects himself to more serious possibilities like high blood pressure, bleeding ulcers, damage to the internal organs including the heart, liver, pancreas and immune system.
He could experience comas, strokes, and certain cancers. As his drinking continues unabated, he could eventually pass out and could suffer physical damage to his body.
Other severe reactions are death by drowning in his vomit and death due to severe toxicity and overdose.
Alcohol is a fast-acting drug. It is quickly absorbed into our bloodstream via the stomach and small intestine and within minutes has found its way to the brain, and the reactions are almost immediately felt.
Alcohol is detoxified in the liver but in small amounts. The amount of alcohol in our blood will build up. If the intake is greater than the detoxification, the alcohol level in our blood can build to very high and dangerous levels.
As the toxicity level builds the problems begin. Speech, vision, balance, equilibrium, and brain function are all impaired. At dangerous levels, one can pass out, become comatose, and lose critical body functions such as respiration and heart.
Alcohol is a drug, and an alcoholic becomes addicted and dependent and requires constant use of the drug.
We can easily recognize some symptoms of alcohol dependence:
Alcohol addiction is a progressive habit with symptoms increasing as the addiction evolves.
It’s a dangerous habit and a deadly one that can end in death or crippling disease and permanent illness and incapacity.
This is the most dangerous addiction of all with the greatest consequences and should not be taken lightly. Legal or not, the outcome is the same.
Dealing with alcoholics and alcohol addictions is extraordinarily difficult due to the constant presence and acceptance of alcohol, the legality of the substance, and the difficulty in recognizing an addiction or the degree of addiction.
If you, a friend, or a loved one has an alcohol addiction problem and you recognize the signs and symptoms, you will most likely need to speak with a professional.
You can get in touch with the Hotline at your nearby or a trusted Recovery Center to discuss the issues and possible solutions. It’s really important that you do!
The highly experienced and skilled staff at Chateau Recovery is always available to help you with your questions regarding alcohol addiction, recovery, and treatment. Call anytime.
Please call our toll-free helpline which is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week and is staffed by experienced and caring professionals who can answer your questions and help you navigate through the process of evaluating and securing a treatment program.
If you or someone you love has questions concerning the rehabilitation process, call our free helpline Phone: +1 888-971-2986 for more information. Calls are always confidential, private, and secure.
Not all alcoholics fit the stereotype of the down-and-out drunk. Learn to recognize the warning signs in yourself or a loved one.