What are the social effects of alcohol abuse?
HAPPY BIRTHDAY! So it’s your 19th birthday and you’re finally old enough to drink (without getting in trouble)! And you’re faced with a choice. You can choose to try this magical elixir that’s so popular amongst high-schoolers or you can opt out and stick to juice and water.
When I was 19, I decided to experiment…try out this drink that everyone seemed to love. Hated it. Hated the taste of it and hated the way it made me feel. I felt out of control and vulnerable, as if I could be easily manipulated by anyone. And that’s when I made my choice not to drink alcohol. I’ve been told that I made the wrong decision, that I don’t know how to have fun, and that I don’t belong at parties because I was a buzzkill. Those comments don’t make me want to change my decision though. It just makes me realize how strong of an impact peer pressure can have on an individual, and how dependent people are on alcohol. I also realize how many social effects there are in relation to alcohol abuse.
“I’m A Social Drinker…”
I work on a surgical floor as a Registered Nurse. And when doing my assessments pre- and post-operatively, I have to assess whether my patients smoke, use recreational drugs, drink alcoholic beverages – and if so, how much they drink. And most often, the response I get is “I’m a social drinker… just a couple beers or so”. And to most people, that doesn’t really count as being a “drinker”.
The UK’s National Health Service is right in stating that “social drinkers” are at risk of developing long-term health conditions associated with their large amounts of alcohol consumption. Often “social drinkers” will get wasted every Friday, and maybe every Saturday too, or during the week. Many “social drinkers” engage in binge drinking – consuming drink after drink after drink in a short period of time.
But it doesn’t even need to be that extreme. Even having three or four drinks a day or most days without ever getting drunk can be damaging to your health.
In a study, the NHS found that over 9 million people in England drink more than the advised daily amount. 15, 000 people in England die from alcohol-related deaths every year and out of that number, 32% of deaths were due to liver disease, 21% were due to cancer and 17% from cardiovascular illnesses such as strokes or heart diseases.
A Common Misconception
Many of the negative consequences of alcohol are associated with being an alcoholic or abusing alcohol in some manner. The CCFA ontario drug rehab will allow you to take your life back from the most common drug, alcohol. As NHS points out, many believe that having wine with their dinner is not something that should worry them – especially because it isn’t associated with drunken behaviour. But if the amount of alcohol consumed is over the advised amount of daily alcoholic intake, it actually can cause the same negative effects as abusing alcohol. Maybe not as fast, but it may still cause serious side-effects.
To see if you need to cut down, NHS provides a link to a drinking self-assessment which will help you assess whether you are drinking over the recommended limit. If you are, you’ll get some advice on how to cut down. Monitoring your alcoholic intake is also useful, in that it makes it easier to cut down if you realize you’re drinking more than you actually thought you were. Wondering how to track how much you drink when drinks come in all kinds of percentages, shapes and sizes? NHS also provides a handy unit calculator which helps convert and track the amount you drink. By following these tips, you can learn to be a safer social drinker.
We Are All Connected To Each Other…
Abuse of alcohol and the poisonous effect does not merely touch one individual. Alcohol affects society as a whole – even those who are unconnected to the individual. For example, alcohol use decreases judgement and reaction time. As a result, those who have consumed alcohol make risky drivers and can put the lives of others, as well as theirs, at risk. Impaired judgement due to alcohol also leads to bad decisions such as unprotected sex and criminal offences.
West Virginia University’s Robert C. Byrd Health Sciences Center’s site and The Global Status Report on Alcohol 2004 from the World Health Organization (WHO) make it obvious that alcohol use negatively affects various aspects of life which we aptly called social effects of alcohol abuse. Among the things they list are the following:
- Workplace: Ever had that day where you’re deprived of sleep and you’re just barely keeping your eyes open at work? Heavy drinking can pretty much do the same thing. It results in lowered productivity and more absenteeism overall – possibly even resulting in unemployment. The WHO says that a survey conducted in Australia in 1994 showed that out of 833 employees at an industrial worksite, heavy drinkers were 270% as likely to have injury-related absences as non-heavy drinkers.
- Family: Being part of a family unit requires you to play multiple roles. Taking myself as an example, I am a daughter, a sister, an aunt, a niece, a cousin and a granddaughter. Building each of these roles requires me to invest both time and effort. Without that, I can’t adequately fulfill those roles. If I were to abuse alcohol, I wouldn’t be the sister who spends quality time with my little sister. I wouldn’t be the daughter who goes out and buys groceries and runs other errands for my parents. I wouldn’t be the clown who makes my cousins and other relatives laugh. I would most likely be spending most of my money on getting alcohol, spending most of my time drinking it and suffering the effects of intoxication and I would be spending my sober time suffering from long-term side effects or trying to acquire more alcohol. WHO also reminds everyone that maternal alcohol consumption hurts the child during the pregnancy… the effects possibly continuing well into the child’s adult life.
- Poverty: WHO says that other than economic consequences, money spent on alcohol can cause a heavy drinker to fall into poverty as well. The reasons include: lowered wages (due to missed work or unemployment), lost employment opportunities, increased medical expenses, legal cost involving drink-related offences, and decreased eligibility for loans. And if you make yourself poor, you make anyone who depends on you poor as well.
- Domestic Violence: Although research doesn’t offer solid evidence that there is a strong relationship between domestic violence and alcohol, alcohol is known to skew judgements and enhance some emotions. The presence of alcohol in a person’s system can cause an amplified reaction to a specific situation and things can get out of hand. But alcohol is no excuse for domestic violence. No matter what, domestic violence is not okay.
- Psychological Harm: With all these various social effects, we sometimes forget to acknowledge the effects on the individuals who are caught in the vicious cycle of using and abusing alcohol. Psychological problems such as depression and schizophrenia are often seen in an alcoholic. As a result, he or she may try to self-medicate and abuse other illegal drugs or substances, but may instead be making their condition worse.
If you’ve read this blog and realized that you may be a heavy drinker and you’re currently abusing alcohol – this isn’t the end! Find help with CCFA’s program. Rehab centres are there to help individuals just like yourself. Seek and ye shall find.