Alcohol Addiction – Awareness

Both tobacco and alcohol are legal substances.   Cigarette smoking is addictive and the drinking of alcohol can become addictive; but both are clearly self-inflicted.  It’s because of their addictive nature that they have both become big hard problems for ordinary people and society generally.  As explained in the section on “Cigarette Smoking” addiction, Australia is one of the few western counties to reverse the trend in this addiction.  Unfortunately the same cannot be said of our “Alcohol” addiction problem.  In Australian “alcohol-use disorder” is worsening and has become a national disgrace.  Western society is losing the battle to solve most of its big hard addiction problems, so our next discussion on our “alcohol-use disorder” addiction problem is a reasonable way to appreciate and compare these two forms of addictions.   

Alcohol-use disorder is much more sinister; being ranked as one of the most dangerous drugs in the world.   Alcohol is ranked as more dangerous than cannabis, cocaine and heroin combined (which ironically are all illegal drugs in most of western society).  And once addicted to alcohol it’s for life.  The only cure is total abstinence.

Western democratic laws allow people to freely consume alcoholic beverages.  When alcohol is consumed sensibly, responsibly and in moderation it is deemed to be an enjoyable social activity known as “social drinking.  It’s only legal restriction being the supply and consumption of alcohol by those under the ages of 18-21.years.  Other than this age restriction, alcoholic beverages in their many and varied forms are freely accessible to ordinary people, just as are normal food and drinks.  Like all other food and drink, alcohol is expected to be consumed “in moderation”.   Even drinking too much water can kill you, if not drunk in moderation.   Drinking alcohol “in moderation” means containing total alcohol consumption to no more than 2 standard drinks per day and having at least 2-3 alcohol-free days per week.  As mentioner earlier, ordinary people abiding by this standard are categorised as being “social drinkers who drink in moderation”.   Generally speaking, authentic “social drinkers” tend not to suffer the long term effects experienced by those with an alcohol-use disorder who regularly drinking above the accepted standard.  

The sinister side to this alcohol standard is that it’s akin to playing a game of “Russian Roulette”.  Each spin of a drink of alcohol contains a fatal bullet; easily triggered by a simple “now” life event or illness (like boredom, depression, anxiety, partying, facing one’s mortality, etc.).  Such an experience has the potential to shift an innocent social drinker into a hell-hole of alcohol addiction for life.   Once a person becomes addicted to alcohol, it is virtually impossible to shake off its addictive urges.  You become under its spell for life.   Even for those who may have given up drinking alcohol for many year and maintain their sobriety, the urge remains and the effects of a single drink of alcohol continues to trigger the constant need to keep on drinking.   It’s virtually impossible for an alcoholic to ever become a social drinker again.  So any drinker of alcohol is theoretically exposed to becoming a victim of this highly addictive substance.  Once bitten, exceptionally strong will power is required for an alcoholic to maintain their sobriety.  This is why it’s ranked as one of the most dangerous drugs in the world.  

Ordinary people with an alcohol-use disorder usually start as normal every-day “social drinkers”.   A very small percentage of ordinary people are born with an inherited gene deflect that makes them more susceptible to addiction than others.   In these rare people, it’s that first drink of alcohol that puts them at risk.  A person with such a genetic defect, that never drinks alcohol, will be immune from its power while they persist with their sobriety.   Alcohol when consumed affects the brain’s receptors not only activating the sensation of pleasure but also attacking brain cells.   Normal every-day “social drinkers” get the same sensation of pleasure from drinking alcohol but do not experience the need to keep on drinking, as do alcoholics.  Social drinkers either knowingly or socially restrict themselves to drinking only a few drinks of alcohol each day, thereby not expose themselves to becoming addicted to alcohol (ie. becoming an alcoholic).  Untreated, a person with addictive tendencies will progress to alcoholism far quicker than normal every-day “social drinkers”.  While a “social drinker” may not feel the need to keep on drinking, each time they do drink alcohol to excess (above the prescribed standard) they increase the risk of their brain being damaged in much the same way as those with a genetic defect. Eventually a social drinker who regularly drinks above the recommended standard will incur varying degrees of brain damage putting them on a dangerous path to alcoholism, leaving them with a permanent addiction to alcohol and an equally more difficult path to giving it up.   

Recent IUS research has shown that typically 88% of ordinary people aged over 18 years (200 mill. people) report having drunk alcohol sometime in their life.    Around 77% have drunk some alcohol in the last year and 57% in the last month.   In 2016 an estimated 17 million Americans were recorded as having an “alcohol-use disorder”; with 4 million classified as being “addicted to alcohol” (2%).  Excessive drinking (above the accepted standard) also increases the risk of liver disease, cancer, and chronic inflammations.   Alcohol is now the fourth leading preventable cause of death in the US costing $225bill per year or about $1.90 per drink (according to 2014 research by US Centre for Disease Control & Prevention). The Australia figures are even worse, especially the percentage of addicts.

In Australia 34% of ordinary people drink to get drunk.   Interestingly 75% believe Australian’s have a drinking problem.   From these figures you can only deduce that many are seeking help for their drinking problems.  Over the last 20 years, since peaking in the 1970s, Australian alcohol drinking consumption per head of population has remained relatively constant. 

There are three recognised treatments for alcoholism:- 

  1. Total Abstinence – Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is committed to making confirmed alcoholics abstain from all alcohol for life. Their 12 step approach does work, for some.  In the book “The Sober Truth” published in 2014 its research showed that AA’s success rate is between 5-8%
  2. Prescription Medications – Reducing alcohol consumption to an acceptable level through the constant use of prescription medications (such as naltrexone & acamprostrate) can curb drinking to a point where alcoholics are able to regain control of their life. Some of these types of medication makes the drinking of alcohol a dis-tasteful and unpleasant experience. Unfortunately only around 4% taking such medications do eventually solve their drinking problem by giving it up.
  3. Pro-active Medications. A new pill (nalmetene, sold as “Selincro”) has been devised recently by the Amsterdam Institute for Addiction Research to allow alcoholics to keep drinking.  Trials have shown pill recipients reduce their intake of alcohol by over 60%, in many cases bringing them back to within the accepted standard of a “social drinker”. However, this new pill is required to be taken (by an alcoholic) just prior to drinking any alcohol.   So a person with an “alcohol-use disorder”, must already have a strong commitment to managing and curing their disease by  knowingly taking the pill each and every time they are about to embark on a drinking session.  The pill affects the brain by diminishing the desire to keep on drinking.  It binds to opiate receptors in the brain and reduces the rush of pleasure associated with alcohol. It puts the onus on the recipient (while sober) to take control of their alcohol consumption.  This pill is still undergoing trails and medical clearance for its wider use remains pending.  Its therefore not currently an option.   

The above data on alcohol treatment is not particularly hopeful.  The good news is that only 4-5% of ordinary people reach the state of having an alcohol use disorder.  It does illustrates the massive treatment gap when it comes to alcoholism.  The success rate is extremely low.  Unquestionably the most effective treatment for “alcohol use dis-order” is total abstinence.   The above findings suggest that any other option is simply tempting fate – a return to the initial “Russian Roulette” situation of testing a person’s will power and commitment to the few forms of treatment available. All research shows that once alcohol has hold of a person, it is extremely difficult to escape its clutches.   Many have tried alternatives but very few succeed.

Alcohol suppliers and their associated lobby groups are very much aware of the creeping hold alcohol has on ordinary people.  In fact, they are probably the foremost authority on the subject; because of the amount of money they have obtained from alcohol sales and the amount invested into research on the addictive effects of alcohol.   Have no doubt – alcohol lobby groups’ addiction is to money, not their product.  As discussed numerous times, these Food and Drink lobby groups (F&D) consistently blame the addiction problem on ordinary people (their own customers). They claim, if ordinary people chose not to eat and drink to excess then the problem wouldn’t exist.   While there is an element of truth in this claim, make no bones about it, the F&D lobby groups (the supplier of these addictive substances) well know how alcohol effects the brains of ordinary people by progressively and ever so slowly seduce them into their excesses.  They also pray upon the weaknesses in ordinary people seeking instant gratification and relief from the problems and concerns of everyday life.  They know by simply getting ordinary people to try alcohol as a social beverage opens the way to the path to an alcohol use disorder.  They also know the more you drink alcohol the more you will increase your desire for it’s because of its ability to damage the brains receptors towards addiction.  

At the outset these addictive substances are purposefully designed to be trendy, produce a pleasurable effect and do contribute towards take ordinary people’s minds off their problems through the effects on the brain.   That is why we constantly claim addictions and most of the other self-inflicted big hard social problems are in the mind.  By alcohol enabling ordinary people to bury their heads in the sand to ignore or avoid what whatever is troubling them, this in itself reduces the likelihood of ordinary people addressing the issues in their life.  The F&D lobby know full well that their addictive substances cause the constant need for the drug which in turn has a diminishing pleasure hit unless more is taken.  Eventually addicts lose control of their life and are at the mercy of their addiction. Once this insidious cycle of excess and addiction takes hold the F&D lobby groups money making strategy is achieved, all at a cost to the health and well-being of ordinary people.   This explains why most of the F&D lobby groups marketing targets the young by making alcohol appear trendy, making it as cheap as possible, as sweet as possible, especially while they are able to make a choice and not yet under the clutches of the drug.. 

Interestingly, once a person becomes a declared alcoholic, F&D lobby groups typically distance themselves from the stigma and the problem, showing little interest in them as either a customer or a social patient.   For they know the brain of the alcoholic is now damaged and wired for excessive alcohol consumption and their plight is set – “no further action required” (NFAR). Their focus on the young (under 18-20) and experimental social drinker, with both discretionary spending power, also have the propensity to commence the journey of an alcoholic to hell as they progressively become more and more addicted to their products. 

Let’s summaries the F&D Lobby Groups’ strategy:-

  1. Take advantage of ordinary people’s every day concerns and issues by making it appealing to seek relief from all this through experiencing the pleasurable effects of alcohol
  2. Market their alcohol products as being a part of everyday life – evening dinner, sports events, watching TV, at special family occasions, at social events, outlets everywhere mixing the pleasure of alcohol with their other pleasures in life, like sex and celebrations.
  3. Target the young especially those above the regulatory age (18+) who have discretionary money’s to spent and seek to be trendy, fun-loving exciting and attractive
  4. Provide readily accessible outlets available everywhere, strategically placed where people seek to get away from work and the more serious side of life
  5. Make products cheaper, the more that is acquired
  6. Get into the pockets of the government, business and the media with the promise of making more money and getting more customers, etc. to secure the status quo
  7. Dis-associate from all the social fallout (from alcoholism) – domestic violence, marriage & family break-ups, binge drinking, related heath diseases, stretched hospital emergency centres, mental illness, unemployment, etc.

All the while F&L groups become more wealthy and power and all at the expense of ordinary people and at a cost to society.  

In recent years the major cities (especially across Australia & UK) have witnessed another alcohol culture phenomenon called “binge drinking”.    While not necessary connected with addiction to alcohol, it’s an excellent example of how the liquor trade outlets and lobby groups are getting to our very young. 

The demographic is primarily the 16-30 year olds.  To again better understand the sinister nature of “binge drinking”, you need to have an appreciation for the underlying strategy behind this alcohol-use disorder.  Our young children are staying at home with their parents for much longer a period than ever before: up until they are in their 30s.  Lack of affordable housing and young people choosing to delay having children until much later in life has all contributed to this opportunity phenomenon.  Rather than being parental role models to their children, many parents prefer to relate to their children as friends in an attempt to regain that feeling of being young again.  Children under the drinking age of 18-21 stay at home with their parent who readily share their alcohol with their children and their friends to enjoy their youthful company.  The younger children obtain access to illegal alcohol via their parents, saving money getting drunk at the expense of their parents.  After “getting a skinful” of free illegal alcohol, towards 10pm the young proceed into the city.   Using modern social network media, the youth effective organise large gatherings at nominated hotels and clubs where this cult is encouraged by wealthy alcohol interest groups, keen to exploit their situation and bolster their profits. Against this background of poor behaviour, we have ineffective government responses; happy to capitalise on the high taxes paid on alcohol sales and instigate give-back to the powerful and wealthy alcohol industry lobby groups for their lavish donations to their expensive electoral campaign.  All becoming “cashed up” from the growing success of this binge drinking culture. 

This latest cultural fad, fanned by our youth, has major consequential effects on increased street violence, vicious random unprovoked attacks upon innocent by-standers (“king hits”), even killings.  This problem has been selected as a new emerging modern issue associated with a demographic mindset requiring urgent attention. In many cases their parents are an accessory to this problem.  

Yet Australia & the UK have some of the tightest restrictions on venues and the service of alcohol.  Industries like the advertising agencies and business owner groups (pubs, clubs, gambling outlets, entertainment venues, restaurants, etc.) operating 24×7 trading are able to extract enormous profits from this booming trade. Their goal is to attract young binge drinkers to their businesses, thereby benefiting financially from the problem.  In contrast, the youth that are not part of this binge drinking cult are actually reducing their alcohol intake. This trend is clearly of concern to the Liquor Trade Industry.

Based upon public outcry and complaints from the police and health workers (ambulance, emergency staff and doctors) that “something needed to be done about this serious problem”, experiments in smaller cities have found that initiatives such as earlier closing times, the introduction of “lockouts” and the provision of ID scanners and CCTV systems have all made a positive contribution to taking the shine off binge drinking.   However, the majority of the more serious offences resulting in serious injury and even death tend to occur in the earlier hours between 9-10pm when the binge drinkers first descend on their chosen hotspots very much under the influence of alcohol. 

Simply put, what’s the problem with binge drinking?

  • Individual youths are choosing to binge drink illegally, by obtaining alcohol from their parents and older friends. They gather together in well-known violent action-packed hotspots and behave badly, sometimes causing serious harm to one another, even death (murder)
  • Liquor Lobby Groups are wealthy, powerful organisations claiming to operate within the constraints of the law, yet aiding and abetting this bad behaviour. They have strong connections with Government for both election funding, employment numbers and alcohol related taxes.  Through their highly effective advertising, fast money can be made, assuring the continuance of their wealth and power
  • Business venues are making a fortune from the binge drinkers both from the profit of alcohol, drug, prostitution and entertainment sales. In one hotspot alone (Sydney’s Kings Cross), there are 35 venues already classified as high risk locations, all clustered together. 
  • The Government is doing too little too late. They say there are no simple answers other than their continued “knee-jerk” actions to be seen to be active, like installing more CCTV devices and insisting on ID tests. The usual price hiking of favourite binge drinker alcohols has done little but increase Government revenue flow from the alcohol tax increases and contributed to the earlier binge drinking at home where alcohol is cheaper. 
  • Support organisations like the Police are pouring massive resources into patrolling hotspots especially over weekends, but lack the required legal & government backing to eradicate what has become an entrenched cultural issue. Emergence wards at hospitals are over flowing with alcohol & drug affected young patients, many of which have been assaulted.  These surges in demand for social services come at a great cost and inconvenience to the police, hospital staff, ambulances, already struggling with excess demand, not to mention all the concerned parents.   
  • The Public continues to plead, why isn’t somebody doing something about this important matter and their voice is, as usual, falling on deaf ears. It has taken several deaths (murders) to increase awareness of the issue and to awaken people to the realisation that they that must do something.

There is clear consistency in all these addictive cognitive behaviour patterns.   It re-occurs over and over again, no matter what the self-inflicted drug problem. As stated before on numerous occasions, all such self-inflicted addictions are self-preventable and self-controllable if the inflicted are prepared to commit to a shift in mindset by being more mindful of the problem, its causes and their committed action plan (eg. keep to the recommended alcohol drinking standard).  No one makes ordinary people take these addictive drugs, it’s their choice.  Once a person get to become an “addict” he/she begins to lose control of their own life.   The highly effective advertising from the associated Lobby Groups is about making big money from addictive behaviour and, as such, are the main culprit.  Politicians appearing powerless because of our flawed democratic processes, become dependent upon massive tax revenue on such products and the political funding contributions from the chief culprits (the F&D lobby groups).  Governments are typically slow to act and only do so once it at crisis level when most of the damage is done. 

The call to action, towards reversing the addiction trend, tends only to occur once ordinary people become determined to put a stop to its continuance.   There is no other apparent answer to the problem.  No silver bullet.  No technological or medical breakthrough.   Untreated, it becomes yet another problem added to the long list of big hard complex issues needing to be faced by ordinary people and society generally.   Why are people so complacent about such big hard problems?   In the main, ordinary people simply want to keep their head in the sand and hope that it will all just miraculously go away.  Most ordinary people, like addicts, prefer to bury their heads in their Facebooks, mobile phones, TVs, in an attempt to take their minds off such problems by keeping their brains pre-occupied with trivial gimmickry and gadgets, while Rome burns.

In taking the next “Awakening” step, you begin to consider your unique situation in regard to alcohol consumption, whether you are a non-alcohol drinker, social drinker or known alcoholic.  You will initially be invited to answer some common questions and issues raised on alcoholism and be encouraged to identify with your specific situation.   Finally the questioning turns to the more important question of yourself as a social creature living in a fuzzy world of relationships with others, inextricably linking us to others – in our family, in our community, in our society and to even our spiritual connections or love of nature.  Alcohol consumption in Australia remains one of our most serious social problems principally because of our lay back fun-loving culture, warm climate and love of the out-doors and sport.  Too many Australians have serious drinking problems across our full socio-economic spectrum.  

Simply “click” on the Alcohol “Awakening” button to take the next step in your self-transformation journey.  Even if you already know that you do not have an alcohol drinking  problem, then you could well be a much sought after candidate as a possible volunteer for helping and caring for others that do have some sought of drinking problem who do need help especially from those that were in a similar situation to themselves. Better still, if you are an expert in this field you may be interested in updating or even owning the above layman and non-professional version of this Alcohol “Awareness” material and all that follows.   

Awakening

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