According to surveys published by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, as many as 86 percent of Americans over the age of 17 say they consumed alcohol at some point during their lives. More than half said their last alcoholic beverage was within the last month.
In short, alcohol plays a large role in overall American culture, and consumption of it is socially acceptable in many circles.
At the same time, alcohol is clearly a dangerous substance that can lead to severe issues. Consider these statistics:
- According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, around 800 people daily are injured or killed in an accident that involves drunk driving.
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that around six people a day die from alcohol poisoning.
- Emergency room visits that are linked to alcohol use are rising; between 2006 and 2014, those visits increased by 61 percent, according to research published in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.
Why is alcohol socially acceptable for adults across the nation, given these facts?
Some Reasons Why Alcohol Is Socially Acceptable
While some people do look askance at adult beverages, there are numerous cultural and historical reasons for alcohol’s seeming popularity.
- Alcohol has sheer numbers on its side. With the majority of the adult population having tried alcohol at some point and over half using it regularly, it’s not something many people are going to want to cast aside socially.
- Alcohol has history on its side. Hard beverages have been around since almost the beginning of human history, and there are times and places in the world where liquor might have been the safer alternative to water. With such a long tradition, it’s not surprising alcohol is still socially acceptable to many.
- Alcohol does have medicinal properties. Historically, it was used as a pain reliever and antiseptic, for example. Even today, some medical professionals encourage a very moderate addition of alcohol to the diet to promote certain types of health.
- Wine and other spirits play a role in religious customs, such as the Eucharist ceremony in some churches. Outlawing alcohol could impede on religious rights guaranteed by the Constitution.
- Finally, there’s a lot of money in the alcohol industry, which employs millions of people and accounts for billions of dollars of the U.S. economy.
But Why Is Alcohol So Popular?
Being socially acceptable and being popular are two different things. After all, it’s socially acceptable to get a root canal when necessary, but you don’t tend to see individuals hosting BYORC parties or binging dental procedures. Here are a few reasons why alcohol may be popular among adults.
- Beer and other alcoholic drinks have long been marketed as a necessary component for having a good time or relaxing. Many Americans may see alcohol as synonymous with parties and barbecues.
- Some people don’t feel they can have a good time without alcohol, which does act on the body to promote feelings of giddiness or reduce inhibitions. Because of this, many people turn to an adult beverage to “prime” themselves for a party or entertainment.
- The culture often encourages alcohol as a coping mechanism. Many people, for example, encourage each other to “relax with a glass of wine” at the end of the day.
- Others see alcohol as an ideal taste pairing for some foods; there’s a reason pizza and beer or wine and cheese are popular phrases.
These are just some reasons alcohol is a popular beverage in the United States — and reasons that individuals who are struggling with alcohol may find themselves in a position where drinks are present or they are even encouraged to enjoy them.
Tips for Dealing With the Presence of Alcohol
If you’re in recovery or trying to break a habit of abusing alcohol, it’s a good idea to avoid places where you might be triggered (such as the local bar). But since alcohol is socially acceptable in many situations, it can be almost impossible to avoid it altogether.
Here are some tips for avoiding alcohol use in social settings.
- Be honest about your recovery, if appropriate. This works best with close family and friends, who are more likely to support you and make arrangements for nonalcoholic drinks at gatherings.
- In settings where you don’t want to share your recovery status, simply have a prepared response. “No thank you, I’m driving,” is almost always an appropriate way to decline a drink offer.
- Bring a friend who is also sober to social engagements so you have support.
- If your friends are not supportive of your recovery journey, you may need to consider how good of a friend they are. It might be time to make new social connections with people who don’t drink as often or who are supportive of your decision not to drink.
- When you find yourself at a professional or social gathering and you simply don’t want to call attention to yourself, consider ordering a nonalcoholic cocktail to sip on.
Seeking Help for Alcohol Addiction
In some cases, the social acceptance and pervasiveness of alcohol in our culture is what leads some people into the addiction cycle.
A busy working mother who unwinds every night with a glass of wine may eventually move on to two glasses or even three. She may realize she can’t go a day without those glasses of wine or find herself turning to alcohol earlier in the day when she experiences stress.
A professional with many friends may find himself invited to numerous events, both career-based and otherwise. These events may all serve alcohol, which the man partakes of on an increasing basis. That may cause his body to build a dependency even if he doesn’t use alcohol to assist with mental or emotional needs.
Whether you realize you have a dependency on alcohol after imbibing in social situations over the years or you turn to liquor as a way to make problems in your life less pressuring, we have alcohol rehab treatment options to help you escape the hold of addiction and find joy in a sober lifestyle. Contact or call 800-626-1980 today to find out more.