Alcohol is legal and readily available in restaurants, grocery stores, sports games, and clubs. It is also widely advertised. Anyone 21 years or older can walk into a bar and grab wine, liquor, or beer in America. As long as they don’t drink in public places like vehicles, sidewalks, and parks, they’re good to go. Alcohol does not carry the same stigma as other drugs. So why is alcohol a socially more acceptable addiction in our society?
Many people consider alcohol a necessary element for relaxing or having a good time. They drink to celebrate, commiserate or wind up after a long day at work. In fact, society itself encourages alcohol as a way of life with phrases like “one for the road” or “relax with a glass of wine.” Some churches even drink wine during religious customs like Eucharist.
Drinking is socially acceptable. Sadly, the prevalence has seen many people desensitized to the harmful effects of alcoholic beverages. People have and will continue to normalize drinking alcohol in a way that would never be tolerated with other drugs.
Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant that creates euphoria and relaxation. It does not carry the stigma of other drugs like cocaine or marijuana, yet a 2010 study shows that it is the world’s most dangerous drug when considering the harm it does to drinkers, along with their loved ones. To this end, it is more harmful than crack cocaine and heroin.
There has been lots of media commentary on the binge drinking culture of young Americans and the need to sensitize people on the dangers of alcohol. But different theories and models about health beliefs, drinking cultures, and behavioral change suggest that this alone might not work. The increasing liberalization of alcohol normalizes drinking, and use becomes engrained in the daily fabric of life.
Despite the dangers mentioned above, people are still more accepting of alcohol and alcohol addiction for these reasons:
One of the biggest reasons alcohol is socially more acceptable than other drugs is legalization. The legal aspect makes alcohol more accessible than other drugs. It also gives people the impression that it's safe. And with the availability and normalization, young adults are more inclined to try alcohol.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse reveals that 70% of high school students will have tried alcohol by the time they’re seniors. And this is primarily due to easy access – at home and in the marketplace.
Alcohol has always been there and has been part of people’s traditions, culture, and history. Since time immemorial, it has been used in parties, celebrations, agreements, etc. So, society is sort of wired to believe that alcohol should be a part of such occasions.
In addition to having history on its side, alcohol is seen as an excellent taste for pairing foods, like pizza and beer or wine and cheese. In fact, in countries like France and Italy, wine is an integral part of religious ceremonies and mealtimes.
In other parts of the world, alcohol serves as a statement of affiliation, a label defining the nature of social events or situations, or an indicator of social status. People don’t consider alcohol dangerous because they feel they can control the amount they take. Some even assume that alcohol only harms serious drinkers or those who drink the cheap stuff. But this is not true.
Some people believe that alcohol is safe and not as harmful as other drugs like cocaine, meth, or heroin. While this might be true, alcohol is known to cause serious side effects like impaired judgment, insomnia, mental health issues, etc. Not only that. It also causes addiction, with statistics revealing that about 300 million people worldwide have alcohol use disorder (AUD).
Alcohol is responsible for 1 in every 20 (or 5.3%) deaths globally.
Alcoholic beverages are widely advertised on all media. From magazines to billboards and televisions to online, it’s hard to miss an alcohol commercial on any given day. The constant advertising embeds alcohol in our minds, making it seem like a normal part of our lives. Add that to endless drinking songs that play on the radio, and you begin to understand why alcohol is the most widely abused substance in the US.
Sadly, the exposure and availability lead young adults to experiment with alcohol. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reveals that about 5,000 people under the age of 21 years die because of underage drinking every year. This includes approximately:
Like many people, you probably assume that an occasional glass of wine or beer at mealtimes or special occasions is harmless. But drinking any amount of alcohol can cause unwanted health issues. Here are some short- and long-term health problems associated with alcohol.
Temporary effects may include:
At a personal level, heavy drinking can lead to the development of long-term health conditions like:
Alcohol use is also known to cause a range of health care concerns like:
Here are some factors that may increase your chances of experiencing AUD:
If you or someone close to you is struggling with alcohol or drug abuse, it’s best to seek treatment. Untreated addiction can stop your life in its tracks. AUD is a progressive disease whose effects and severity worsen over time without treatment.
The good news is that there are different treatment programs and therapy sessions designed to help you stop drinking and lead a sober life. Don’t let substance abuse cripple your life. Get the help you need today.
Summertime is a fun time, especially for teens and young adults. It’s hard to get bored on a summer day or night. That’s because there are plenty of parties, music festivals, trips and camping going on. But along with the fun, comes the risk of using drugs and alcohol.
Drugs and alcohol are a mainstay for most summer parties and events. And with all the free time and no commitment, teens are more inclined to indulge in use. Drug use can lead to addiction and overdose. But the hot weather also increases the risk of overheating, which may spiral out to other serious problems. So, before throwing caution to the wind during this season, you need to consider how impactful a single wrong decision can be.
A study by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) that ran from 2011 to 2017 shows that most teens and young adults tried out recreational or illegal drugs for the first time during summer.
Surprising? This should be more concerning than surprising as the seasonal environment tends to increase exposure to drugs.
Here are the top factors that make drug use so rampant during summer:
Summer tends to come just when you are done with your semester or free to enjoy longer holiday weekends. This gives you so much free time on your hands and room to be introduced to drugs and alcohol.
Who stays indoors in such hot weather? Summer plans are meant to be as exciting as possible, which is why it is the period that outdoor activities and social gatherings peak. Nevertheless, as you hop from one party or event to the next, there is no limit to the number of drugs and amount of alcohol you will get exposed to.
It is great that you received a nod from your parents/guardians to go for that camping trip or have your holiday by the beach. This means there is no adult to watch your actions as you spend time with daring friends who are willing to try out anything. Unfortunately, this also means lots of drugs and alcohol will be coming your way.
Summer might be the best time for outdoor activities and getting in touch with family and friends, but it is also a dangerous time to use drugs. The high heat and humidity experienced means that you need to quickly cool off to avoid overheating. This is why your body naturally increases blood flow to the skin, which acts as a radiator, and you sweat more to increase heat loss.
But, these well-coordinated biological processes do not remain the same when you take drugs. The disruption that most recreational and illegal drugs cause to your body’s natural cooling mechanism is extremely dangerous as it increases your risks of overheating.
It gets worse as you will be high or intoxicated, and your body will not perceive the increased heat threat. This can lead to heatstroke, heat cramps, heat exhaustion, or even death.
Generally, most drugs will mess you up regardless of the weather and should be avoided at all costs. During summer, the odds are higher, and here are the most dangerous drugs to use when it is hot:
A recent publication in the Annals of Internal Medicine authored by Dr. Craig Crandall describes cocaine as a double-edged sword during summer. On the one hand, this is because it affects your body’s ability to regulate temperatures naturally. But, on the other hand, it gets you agitated, yet you don’t feel hot.”
Studies by the National Institute on Drug Abuse have further shown that cocaine-related deaths spike in summers. In addition, the risk of heat stroke or sudden shock and death is higher when you use cocaine because it leads to increased heart rate, confusion, having too much energy, and promotes blood clotting.
The most popular drug in outdoor music festivals for teens and young adults is MDMA or Ecstasy, or Molly, commonly used in pill form. Unfortunately, while it is used as a ‘rave drug’ that helps get into a party mood, it affects your ability to regulate body temperatures and increases heart rate and blood pressure. The results are often catastrophic as it leads to hypothermia, a life-threatening condition when urgent medical care is not provided.
Another drug that is taking the day across the United States is mephedrone or bath salts. This is a synthetic drug often sold as plant food, decorative sand, or toy cleaner.
However, bath salts are nothing close to the veil they wear as a ‘safe product.’ Used in hot weather, it causes increased heart rate and disrupts your ability to regulate body temperature. This can easily lead to heat stroke or death when emergency medical attention is not provided. It also has severe side effects such as teeth clenching and can quickly become addictive.
It is saddening that heroin use among teenagers and young adults is on the rise. This illegal drug commands a big share of the opioid epidemic that has affected the nation. It has severe effects when used during hot weather and could easily cause hypothermia, leaving you unconscious or in a coma.
Having legal access to alcohol as a young adult does not mean your summer should be all about binge drinking. Drinking alcohol in hot weather will see you quickly lose body water & nutrients, disrupt heat regulation, and impair your judgment. This will cause your body to overheat, increasing the risk of dehydration or heat stroke.
Summers should be a time of creating good memories by bonding with your friends and family. As you grow older, these memories will make some of the best highlights in your life. In turn, the last thing you need to do is let the seasonal environment or party wave influence you to start taking drugs.
If you have already started taking drugs, be sure not to turn into a long-term addict. In addition, there is no fun in having your body overheat because of using drugs in hot weather. This could quickly turn fatal, turning a happy summer into a dreadful moment for you and your loved ones.
Since it is becoming more challenging to avoid exposure to drugs, especially during summer, it is best to talk to a substance abuse counselor. This way, you will be better prepared to go through your teenage years and young adult life without abusing drugs. It also helps never to forget that summer fun does not have to involve indulgence in drugs.