How Did Drinking Become So Normal?
If alcohol were invented now, it would never be approved by the FDA. It slows down your reaction time, impairs your decision-making ability, is highly addictive, and it harms your body. So why is it so popular?
Alcohol has been part of human culture for thousands of years. There is evidence of an alcoholic beverage in China in around 7000 B.C. and sura, distilled rice wine, was in use in India between 3000 and 2000 B.C.
In the eighteenth century, a law was passed in Britain encouraging the use of grain for the distillation of spirits, which meant that the markets were flooded with cheap spirits and alcoholism became widespread.
The nineteenth century saw a change in attitude and a push towards temperance which would ultimately culminate in the attempted prohibitions in the 1920s.
Today in America, 14.4 million adults over the age of 18 have an alcohol use disorder, as did 401,000 adolescents between the ages of 12-17. An estimated 88,000 die each year from alcohol-related causes. Alcohol is the third highest cause of preventable deaths in the U.S.
People start drinking and continue drinking, for a multitude of reasons. Some people find that alcohol is a temporary relief from the stresses of a demanding career or family life. Still, others may find that alcohol helps them to feel less anxious in social situations, or that when they have had a drink, they can say the things that they wouldn’t be able to otherwise.
One of the biggest influencers on a person’s decision to drink is social pressure. If the social activity that all of your friends are doing is drinking, it is difficult to say no. Either you go out with them and stay sober, and then get to be in the unenviable position of the only sober person with a group of drunk people, or you don’t go out at all and then feel lonely and isolated.
Research has shown that people who are in social groups where heavy drinking is the norm are likely to become heavy drinkers themselves for this reason. We are social creatures, where a great deal of value is placed on being around people who we feel are like-minded. If we then decide to behave in a way that goes against that, for example, not drinking when everyone else is, we are going against the pack and showing ourselves not to be like-minded.
Stopping drinking isn’t easy. There are lots of wonderful institutions like the treatment center at Harris House who will work with you either as an inpatient or an outpatient to help you to come up with a recovery plan that takes into consideration your whole life.
This holistic approach is incredibly important in the recovery from alcohol addiction. If you are taken away from the stressors and social pressures that led you to drink in the first place, then you may find stopping much easier, but if you don’t have a strategy for coping with those issues when you go back to your life, then alcohol is likely to creep back in once again.
The key is working to build a life that you are happy in, and that you don’t feel as though you need to escape from.