Occasionally imbibing is about as common as going out for ice cream or taking a walk through the park – in fact, for many, drinking alcohol occurs more frequently than both of these activities combined. For as long as we can remember (sans prohibition, but even then), drinking alcohol has been both prevalent and socially acceptable. Why is this the case if alcohol damages your health? Drinking heavily in college is almost considered a rite of passage; at the very least, it is expected. In our 20’s we continue drinking – our 21st birthday is expected to be a drunken blur, and no one bats an eyelid if we blackout and have no recollection of what happened when we wake up the next morning.
During our 30’s, we celebrate the last and final decade before actual adulthood; we spend our time at trendy bars and restaurants, drinking with friends… we brunch on Sundays, drinking as many bottomless mimosas as we can muster before 11 am.
Binge Drinking – Socially Condoned
Not only is drinking socially acceptable, but the majority of American adults consider binge drinking to be socially acceptable. Not just occasionally, but on a somewhat regular basis. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that binge drinking is the most common and costly form of alcohol abuse throughout the United States. Binge drinking refers to a pattern of drinking an excessive amount of alcohol in a short period. Binge drinking is defined as males drinking 5 or more alcoholic beverages in one hour or females drinking 4 or more alcoholic beverages in one hour.
This may seem like a significant quantity, but consider a “normal” night out on the town. You “pregame” with one cocktail, take a collective shot of tequila, order a drink when you get to the bar and then have another drink ordered for you 20 minutes after you finish your first. Binge drinking is common, socially condoned… and serious.
Why is Drinking Alcohol Socially Acceptable?
Why is drinking to excess so normalized in American culture? First of all, alcohol is the easiest chemical substance to obtain – even for those under the legal drinking age of 21. Alcohol use is commonly depicted in television shows, movies, and all other forms of mainstream media. American culture is as drenched in alcohol as it is in baseball and fast food.
The problem occurs when an individual is struggling with an alcohol abuse disorder, and cannot differentiate between “normal” and “problem” drinking. Everyone blacks out, right? Everyone drinks so much they can’t stand from time to time; everyone wakes up sometimes not knowing where they are. Right? The truth is, while blackout drinking is normalized – and drinking is considered the social expectation – those who do not struggle with an alcohol abuse disorder will either learn from their mistakes or avoid making mistakes altogether. Most people will cut back significantly after experiencing a blackout, or they will never drink to the point of blacking out.
If you think your drinking patterns are normal because they are socially acceptable, but you have experienced consequences as a result of your drinking, there is a good chance that you have been abusing alcohol. If you have tried to quit or cut back repeatedly as a result of these consequences and found yourself unable to do so for any period, you may have an alcohol abuse disorder.
Fortunately, there is help available – no matter how mild, moderate, or severe your alcohol abuse disorder might be. It is important to recognize that alcoholism is a chronic disease, and without professional treatment, it will only continue to get worse. Alcohol abuse and alcoholism will never resolve on their own. For more information and to see how Garden State Treatment Center can help, give us a call today.