Alcohol, a Drug that is Overlooked
It all happened to us. Quench a growing thirst by satisfying the prevailing need to refresh our bodies. A night out in a bar on a hot summer evening, who wouldn't give in to the little pleasures of quietly sipping a delightful Pina Colada, carefully prepared by a talented bartender? It's so delicious, why not have another one? The alcohol is barely noticeable, so what could be the harm? You give in to temptation one more time, and take a third one. The effects of alcohol rapidly begin to show themselves, but this doesn't stop you from taking one last Pina Colada, you know, just for the ride back home. That's all you remember of your night the next day. A throbbing headache awakes you in the morning, a horrid breath, all of this accompanied by the familiar sensation of queasiness.
It's no secret, alcohol is a common beverage served in social gatherings, parties, homes and even in religious celebrations. Therefore, it is anything but surprising that the general perception on the dangers of alcohol is underestimated and anything but worrisome for some. Alcohol is generally thought of as being a beverage that "relaxes the atmosphere." Furthermore, brand names and alcoholic percentage come into play as to the pricing of such beverages. Overall, finding alcohol to drink is easy, relatively inexpensive, but most importantly, it's legal.
*Alcohol, a Real Drug*
Categorically, we are quick to be judgemental about those who are addicted to drugs (marijuana, cocaine, heroine, methamphetamine, etc.). Nevertheless, we don't stop there. Many don't truly grasp and understand the reasons that may push someone towards substance abuse, and are unable to realize the difficulty the drug addict faces in quitting. However, when someone becomes an alcoholic, we tend to tolerate and accept this fact with much more ease. Yet, alcohol is a drug. Few actually believe it, but it is.
To fully grasp the hazards of alcohol, it will be compared to the widely known drug Marijuana. We already know that alcohol is legal. Everyone 18 years and older in Quebec may freely buy any desired quantity. The age limit in other provinces varies according to provincial legislature. In the United States of America, it takes 21 years of age to legally possess any alcoholic beverage. Marijuana is illegal nationwide to consume and cultivate, and perpetrators are severely punished for this offence by the police forces. As a drug, Marijuana does pose health risks to individuals, hence it is downright correct for it to be illegal. Many teenagers have already consumed Marijuana, since they particularly enjoy the "highs" it gives them. Predictably, they equally enjoy drinking alcohol and partying over weekends.
"It's liquid courage, I can pick up women, I can get in fights and feel no pain," reported a former alcoholic.
Below is a table demonstrating the known effects of alcohol and Marijuana on the human body:
-Poor muscle control
-Possibly coma or death
*Depending on volume of alcohol consumed
-Memory and learning problems
-Difficulty thinking and solving problems
-Dry mouth and throat
-Faster heartbeat and pulse rate
By looking at the side effects of both drugs, Marijuana appears to be a mild drug when compared to alcohol. Even though the side effects of alcohol vary according to the amount of alcohol ingested, we rarely limit ourselves to a single glass. Age, sex, body build and metabolism are also factors influencing the effects of alcohol on an individual.
*Alcohol in our Society*
Nevertheless, the outreach of alcohol extends far beyond the boundaries of our bodies. Since it is legal, millions of alcoholic beverages are served daily across North America in local pubs, bars and clubs. Not only does this alcohol consumption lead to decreased inhibitions, it also paves the road for sexual harassment issues and undesired sexual acts, which may undoubtedly lead to the spreading of sexually transmitted diseases (STD). Violent acts and numerous assaults are repeatedly being reported to the police, and in many cases, both victim and culprit were under the influence of alcohol.
"Forty percent of people convicted of violent victimizations (sexual assault, robbery, homicide, aggravated assault, and simple assault) and 25 percent of victims had been drinking at the time of the event."
source: Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1998
"Alcohol is closely linked with violence. About 40 percent of all crimes (violent and non-violent) are committed under the influence of alcohol."
source: Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1998
Individuals may also feel confident and unflustered by the thought of driving home drunk. Drinking and driving is a serious issue in North America, destroying families, ruining friendships and generating exorbitant financial problems. The news channels always seem to have new footage to demonstrate the horrid scenes resulting from a fatal car accident caused by a drunk driver. Not only does the drunk driver put his own life in peril, he is equally an impending threat to all of those travelling at that very moment. Statistics for alcohol-related crashes are alarmingly high, truly worrisome and necessitate our immediate attention.
"Approximately 1.4 million drivers were arrested in 2003 for driving under the influence of alcohol or narcotics. This is an arrest rate of 1 for every 135 licensed drivers in the United States of America."
Source: NHTSA, 2005
"About three in ten Americans will be involved in an alcohol-related crash at some time in their lives."
Source: NHTSA, 2001
On the other hand, non-profit organizations, drug rehabilitation and prevention centers and numerous other volunteers are continually seeking to educate and spread awareness among the population on the effects of alcohol. Be it by advertising campaigns, through drug prevention conferences or simply by conversation, these organizations wish to reduce and ultimately, eliminate the threat alcohol poses to our daily lives.
A former alcoholic explained, "Alcohol is the most widely accepted way in the world to kill yourself, kill perfect strangers, family members and children. You think it gives you a new life, but it only ends life."
Unfortunately, much of their efforts are countered by the alcohol industry itself. Quite obviously, alcohol is a thriving industry generating huge profits for brewing companies. Their advertising capabilities are much more developed, due to their large budgets and influence. Therefore, the number of alcohol-related advertisements (beer, wine, liquor, etc.) greatly outnumbers those for awareness. Furthermore, alcohol is currently portrayed in music videos, sporting events (through sponsorships) and on objects of any kind. This only increases the visibility of alcohol-based products, hence reaching out towards a younger audience, which is rarely of drinking age.
"Recent advertising expenditures in the United States for beer, wine, and liquor combined (.9 billion) totalled over 10 times the amount spent on milk ads (7.7 million).
Source: TNS Media Intelligence/CMR, 2004 and Agricultural Marketing Service, 2002
"Each year, college students spend approximately .5 billion on alcohol- more than they spend on soft drinks, milk, juice, tea, coffee and books combined."
Source: Drug Strategies, 1999
"Young people view approximately 20,000 commercials each year, of which nearly 2,000 are for beer and wine."
Source: Strasburger & Donnerstein, 1999
Alcohol Addiction, a.k.a Alcoholic
Alcohol dependence is a growing issue in our modern society. Contrarily to a drug addict, an alcoholic doesn't face the same type of pressure from his entourage. It is much easier to dissimulate an alcohol addiction than a cocain addiction. By attending social events, the alcoholic doesn't feel the need to hide his addiction, since everyone around him/her is also drinking. Also, due to the predominant idea that an alcohol addiction isn't all that bad, because alcohol is legal, the alcoholic doesn't feel such an urging need to recognize his addiction and solve this problem.
The beverage alcohol (scientifically known as ethyl alcohol or ethanol) is produced by fermenting or distilling various fruits, vegetables, or grains. Ethyl alcohol itself is a clear and colourless liquid. All of the alcoholic beverages get their distinctive colours from the diluents, additives, and by-products of fermentation.
There are two main types of alcoholic dependence: psychological and physical. Nevertheless, a long-term drug abuse still poses serious health risks, such as severe liver damage and a noticeable increase for heart disease and failure. The Fetal Alcohol Syndrome may result if a pregnant woman drinks alcohol throughout her pregnancy. The child is born with facial abnormalities and may experience growth retardation.
A psychological dependence on alcohol mainly refers to a craving for alcohol's psychological effects, without necessarily requiring amounts for a serious alcoholic intoxication. It is also possible for such an addiction to occur to individuals consuming alcohol only during certain circumstances, such as prior, during and after a social occasion. For psychologically dependent drinkers, the lack of alcohol tends to make them anxious and, in some cases, panicky. This particular type of dependence isn't as damaging and harmful as physical dependence, since the individual is relying on the alcohol to help him/her reduce their inhibitions and increase their confidence.
A former addict declared, "I am so much of a coward, that I need a drink before ANYTHING."
Physical dependence occurs mainly in heavy drinkers. They are prime targets for this type of addiction, since they continually resort to excessive drinking to "escape" from a problem. Over time, their bodies have developed a tolerance to the presence of alcohol in the bloodstream. So, if they suddenly decide to quit cold turkey, they will suffer from withdrawal symptoms ranging from jumpiness, sweating, sleeplessness, convulsions, poor appetite, hallucinations, and sometimes even death.
Both types of dependencies foster violence and/or deterioration of personal relationships. Young minds can suffer dearly from alcohol abuse, since it will interfere with their schooling, career goals, and may eventually lead to unemployment.
Solving the Problem
Being afflicted with any type of addiction is never easy. Even if initially it was a personal choice to try the addictive substance, few actually wished or even thought of becoming addicted. It is most difficult for alcoholics to quit on their own, for like all of the other drugs, there are unpleasant withdrawal symptoms associated with quitting. The discomfort and disquieting feeling experienced while quitting is of little encouragement for a drug addict. Yet, there are other possibilities.
No one has to go through this determining step of his or her life alone. Drug rehabilitation centers are there to support and help the individual accomplish his goal: overcome his/her addiction. Choosing the right drug detoxification treatment is of capital importance, so as to give the individual the best tools and opportunities to completely eliminate his/her addiction from his/her life.
Among the many types of drug rehabilitations programs available, Narconon offers a unique, 100% natural, biophysical drug treatment program. Without using any substitute drugs, Narconon's program is specifically targeted at eliminating drug residues from the body. By diminishing the withdrawal symptoms to their lowest levels, the individual gradually regains his composure and awareness of his surroundings. Both the physical and psychological aspects of drug addiction are addressed in the Narconon program, so that the individual may go on to live a drug-free lifestyle after completion of the program.
Hopefully, alcohol will play a less important role in our lives as the years go by, awareness among the population will significantly increase, and drunk driving will no longer be a pressing issue. By recognizing the direct and indirect impacts alcohol has on our lives, we can more easily understand how many lives are shattered due to substance abuse. Eventually, we will all look past this false barrier of security, and see alcohol for what it really is.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD)
California Narcotic Officer's Association
Bureau of Justice Statistics (U.S.A Government)
National Highway Traffic Safety Association
About the Author: Samuel Durand is a student in pure and applied sciences, writer of "Trust, Respect and Achievement Corporation," he is a freelance writer and part-time editor for "Drug Free Center News" from Trois-Rivieres (www.narconon.ca and www.rehab-center.com) He lives in Quebec, Canada.