In recent years, the focus of alcohol abuse prevention education programs has shifted drastically. Just a few decades ago, alcohol abuse was viewed as the result of personal weakness. An individual who was addicted to alcohol was seen as a person who lacked self-control and self-determination. For this reason, the approach to dealing with alcohol abuse was to encourage the individual to get control of themselves.
Over time, public health experts began to realize that alcoholism was more than just a problem that resulted from a lack of self-control. In fact, there are many environmental factors that contribute to alcohol abuse. Researchers realized that the environment in which a person lives has a strong bearing on the attitude that they have toward alcohol and how they interact with it.
Society’s Acceptance of Dangerous Drinking
Modern society in general has grown to accept dangerous drinking levels. This can be seen when we look at almost every form of mass media. Movies, television, music videos and popular songs all put heavy drinking in a glorified light. Certain songs have refrains that say things like, “I got a little drunk last night” or “Let’s get tipsy.” These songs promote the idea that an individual can frequently drink at dangerously high levels and have no negative side effects.
Society’s acceptance of over-drinking is also seen by the way that popular sports personalities, actors and political leaders are viewed while they are overindulging in alcohol. For example, many sports stars are depicted as having a good time, enjoying life with beautiful women, and living in lavish luxury, all the while overindulging in alcohol. The media portrays this drunken lifestyle as if it is okay and as if it will lead to no negative results.
Some would also point to relatively lenient laws concerning public drunkenness and driving while under the influence as proof of society’s acceptance of dangerous drinking. Individuals who habitually drive while intoxicated are often given relatively light sentences or fines that are not excessively steep. All of this sends the message that over-drinking is bad, but it is not that bad.
The Accessibility of Alcohol
Another environmental factor that can be considered a contributor to alcoholism is how easily available alcohol is. It can be viewed as a simple math equation. The more liquor stores there are in a particular area, the more likely it is that individuals will drink excessively. Statistics have backed this up, showing that areas with a higher concentration of liquor stores report an 11-percent increase in alcohol consumption.
Availability is also reflected in alcohol prices. Studies have shown that college students who live in areas where the price of alcohol is cheaper will drink more, and they are more prone to alcoholism. When alcohol is inexpensive, many individuals take this as an excuse to engage in binge drinking.
Finally, the availability of alcohol will affect the age when people start drinking. When there are more vendors who sell alcohol in a particular area, the more likely it is that an individual will begin to drink alcohol at a younger age. This is because they have more access to it.
Advertising and Alcohol Consumption
A final environmental factor that contributes to alcoholism is advertising. It is estimated that every year more than $3.7 billion is spent advertising alcohol. In all of these advertisements, people who drink alcohol are portrayed as happy, confident, attractive and sexually desirable individuals. As a result, people viewing these advertisements see alcohol consumption, and worse yet, over consumption of alcohol, as normal activities, or activities that happy people engage in.
If you or someone you love is currently battling alcoholism , let us help. We understand the negative impact that environmental factors can have in a person’s view of alcohol, and we know how to help people change the way they view alcohol and its use. Call us today and let us use our expertise to help you or your loved one on the road to recovery.