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Social Problems Associated With Alcohol Abuse

Lisa Taylor
Lisa TaylorAddiction Counsellor

Most of our discussions about alcohol abuse are centred on the physical and psychological harm that heavy drinking causes the drinker. Indeed, all of these things are of serious concern and should not be ignored. But at some point, we need to get beyond the individual abuser to understand how a person in the midst of a drinking problem affects others as well. We need to understand the social problems associated with alcohol abuse because they can be just as serious.

The starting point for this discussion is an understanding that none of us lives on an island. When a person abuses alcohol, he or she interacts with other people who will also be affected by that person's drinking. It is unavoidable. If you have a drinking problem, rest assured that your choices and actions are affecting and influencing everyone else you come in contact with. More often than not, that influence will be negative.

We have outlined below five specific social problems that are directly related to alcohol abuse and/or alcoholism. We urge you to pay heed to what you read, especially if you or someone you know has a drinking problem.

1. Alcohol Abuse and the Family

The first area of social breakdown related to alcohol abuse is the family. This is so because family members are the first ones to encounter the problems that arise from early-stage problem drinking. It is the drinker's spouse or partner who is first to notice changes in personality and habits. It is partners and children who first experience the arguments, financial issues, and other challenges related to alcohol abuse.

Also, keep in mind that drinking negatively impacts a person's ability to be a good parent or partner. This diminished ability makes it more difficult for the drinker to maintain family relationships over time. Marriages and civil partnerships tend to rapidly deteriorate, and children tend to lose respect for their drinking parent rather quickly.

2. Alcohol Abuse and Domestic Violence

One of the most serious social problems associated with alcohol abuse is that of domestic violence. All forms of domestic violence are bad enough by itself, but things are made worse when alcohol is added to the mix. And unfortunately, a significant portion of the victims of domestic violence live in homes where the abusive partner is an alcoholic.

Studies from the World Health Organisation suggests that in some countries, more than half of the domestic violence cases that law enforcement officials deal with are the direct result of alcohol abuse. Other countries may have a lower rate of closer to one-third, but the problem is still serious nonetheless. The reality is that alcohol abuse often leads to the physical and verbal abuse of spouses and partners.

3. Alcohol Abuse and Poverty

Alcohol abuse left untreated almost always becomes an addiction. And as you may already know, addiction is expensive from a financial standpoint. It should be no surprise that alcohol abuse and poverty go hand-in-hand. There are a number of things to consider in this regard:

  • Alcohol abusers spend a disproportionate amount of income on alcohol
  • Alcohol abusers tend to have higher medical expenses than non-abusers
  • Alcohol abusers are much more likely to lose their jobs or be passed over for promotions
  • Alcohol abusers are much more likely to be unemployed or stuck in low-wage jobs.

Alcohol abuse contributes to poverty by creating a cycle that can be hard to break. The alcoholic may spend too much money on drinking, then find matters made worse by the loss of a job. Losing one's employment can create a level of stress that causes the drinker to drink more, requiring more money he or she does not have. This is how the drinking and poverty cycle works.

4. Alcohol Abuse and Performance

Persistent alcohol abuse most certainly affects one's performance at work or school. To start with, being under the influence of alcohol prevents a person from doing his or her best – even in routine tasks. It is normal for the alcohol abuser to not be able to meet the standards set by employers or teachers; it is normal for abusers to either quit their jobs or drop out of school.

Alcohol abuse negatively affects performance in other ways as well:

  • Alcohol abusers tend to be late for work or school on a regular basis
  • Alcohol abusers are more likely to experience a greater number of absences
  • Alcohol abusers experience a higher rate of workplace accidents
  • Alcohol-abusing students experience a higher rate of disciplinary issues.

It is clear that abusing alcohol affects one's performance at work or school. However, let us go one step further. Alcohol abuse also disrupts the workplace or learning environment for everyone else involved. The actions of one alcohol abuser can hurt the productivity and success of everyone else.

5. Alcohol and Society At-Large

All of the things we have discussed thus far are in the context of the individual alcohol abuser's life and those with whom he or she has immediate contact. But what about society at-large? What are the impacts of alcohol abuse on communities, regions, and nations?

Social problems associated with alcohol abuse can be devastating to communities. When communities suffer, so do larger regions – and even entire countries. Adverse impacts can be felt in multiple areas including economic activity, crime, poor academic performance, urban development, and so on.

Countries with high rates of alcoholism tend to experience:

  • consistently lower GDP
  • higher costs for public healthcare
  • higher rates for certain kinds of crime
  • higher rates of domestic abuse
  • a larger volume of the population on social assistance
  • consistently lower educational performance
  • less stable families and communities.

Some scientific studies have established a very solid link between higher rates of alcohol abuse and chronic poverty that prevents a nation from improving its overall social and cultural condition. Additional studies have documented how high rates of alcohol abuse have harmed previously advanced nations by creating conditions that reduce production, stifle GDP, and increase social ills.

It is clear that the social problems associated with alcohol abuse are real and damaging. You may not be concerned about the socio-economic problems of alcohol abuse on a national scale, but we hope you are least concerned about the impact of alcohol on your family. Remember that your family is part of a larger community. If it should falter, your family will affect others in your community.

You can do your part to bring an end to the social ills of alcohol abuse by getting help for the drinking problem you might have. Getting that help starts by contacting us on our 24-hour helpline. We are an independent service offering our clients free alcohol evaluations, confidential advice, and referrals to treatment providers throughout the UK. We are standing by to assist you and your family in any way we can.

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