What is secondhand drinking? Secondhand drinking is a term that many individuals have probably never thought about before, but it has certainly impacted their lives. Secondhand drinking is when an individual is affected by someone else’s drinking habits, often having negative effects. These negative effects can be inflicted on literally anyone. Secondhand effects of alcohol can impact someone simply in the wrong place at the wrong time and are injured or killed by an intoxicated driver. College students fall prey to secondhand drinking and are often dismissed because that is the accepted culture. Children at home learn from the actions of older individuals and can face physical and emotional harm. There are ways to try and fix the problem, but it starts are the individual level and will need support all the way to the government. It is also possible that a chronic drinker is not aware of the harm they are committing and need to be educated.
If you or someone you love struggles with alcohol addiction, call us at 385-327-7418 today. We want to help you get started with the journey to sobriety. Alcohol causes damage to not only your health but those around you. Entering treatment will help you overcome addiction and become educated on short-term and long-term damage you are avoiding.
When the term secondhand is mentioned, many individuals will think of secondhand smoking. In regard to alcoholic consumption, what does secondhand drinking mean? The National Library of Medicine (NLM) simply defines it as, “negative experiences directly resulting from someone else’s drinking.” This definition is similar to that of secondhand smoking which involves an individual inhaling the smoke of someone using cigarettes or other smoking substances. Media attention is often focused on one form of secondhand effects of alcohol, injuries or death by a drunk driver. Additionally, the effects of secondhand drinking related to college students around the world are often ignored.
It is common for people to excuse the effects of secondhand drinking as a part of the college experience. The NLM found that college students in New Zealand have a high rate of dangerous alcohol use, so they used their experiences to conduct research on secondhand drinking. Out of 1,910 University of Otago students, 1,564 responded, stating that they had been affected by secondhand drinking. The primary harm that occurred was sexual abuse. The data collected found that a tenth of women and a fifth of men experience sexual abuse from an individual under the influence of alcohol. They also found among college students that 16 to 24 years old were most likely to experience some secondhand effects of drinking. There are several kinds of harms that are associated with secondhand drinking. These harms are not exclusive to college individuals either. Adults, children and unborn babies are also at risk of being affected.
Harms of Secondhand Drinking
Many individuals that are addicted to alcohol are unaware of the damage they are doing to those around them. The different harms from secondhand drinking can vary from slight annoyance to physical harm. It depends on the scenario and the severity of the addiction. Some of the more severe harms faced by individuals include:
- Involved in a motor accident
- Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD)
- Sexually transmitted diseases
These are certainly the more serious, overreaching secondhand effects of alcohol but for individuals in college, it can be a different combination of secondhand harms. Data collected from Research Gate found that many secondhand effects of alcohol included:
- Lack of sleep from noise
- Increase in failing grades
- Taking care of the individual drinking
- Being insulted and/or humiliated
- Major injuries
- Death from a motor accident
Furthermore, young children living in homes with chronic alcohol users face severe secondhand harms. According to Research Gate the effects of secondhand drinking on a child include:
- A decrease in finishing primary school
- Lower grades in secondary education – evidence shows individuals score 20 percent lower on a regular basis.
- Developing an alcohol addiction
- Being left in risky, unsafe locations or situations
- Facing verbal and physical abuse
- Witnessing domestic violence against another individual
Harms for secondhand drinking do not stop with individuals merely taking care of a drinker. In fact, pregnant women cause a lot of secondhand harm to unborn children. According to the American Public Health Association (APHA), drinking while pregnant is the leading cause of preventable disabilities in children. The APHA found that several secondhand drinking harms include:
- Small, underdeveloped head size
- Below average body weight
- Hyperactive disorders and behavioral patterns
- Underdeveloped memory abilities
- Learning disabilities
- Damage to hearing and vision
- Underdeveloped reasoning skills
Secondhand effects of drinking do not only apply to older individuals helping their intoxicated friend or family member. Unborn children face the secondhand effects of drinking in a more severe and developmental way. This does not take away from those involved with chronic drinkers. The physical and emotional damage that can be done often takes years to repair and overcome.
Consequences of Excessive Drinking
Alcohol consumption is like most other drugs; it has consequences that affect your life for a long time. Both the short-term and long-term effects must be in your mind at all times when consuming alcohol, especially large amounts of alcohol. Each gender will react to alcohol differently for a variety of reasons. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), both men and women need to ingest alcohol at a slower pace to reduce the short-term and long-term effects of alcohol.
It is unwise to not acknowledge the short-term damage that alcohol can cause. Excessive alcohol use can create problems in the immediate time as an individual becomes more intoxicated. The CDC lists short-term effects as the following:
- Injuries from falling, driving, drowning or burns.
- Violence from homicide, sexual assault or domestic violence.
- Immediate health problems such as alcohol poisoning and high blood alcohol levels.
- Risky sexual behaviors such as unprotected sexual intercourse, unintentional pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases.
- Pregnant women experiencing stillbirth, miscarriage or FASD.
The long-term damage that alcohol can cause is extensive, often leading to diseases. The damage to an individual’s health is slowly and progressively gets worse as they continue drinking. According to the CDC, long-term effects include:
- Increase in high blood pressure, heart and liver disease, stroke, and digestion complications.
- Cancer development in the mouth, throat, esophagus, breast, liver or colon.
- Your immune system weakens, increasing the chance of getting sick.
- Memory problems which affect school and work performance.
- Social problems cause stress at work, school and family.
- An official diagnosis of Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD).
Not every short-term or long-term effect will apply to everyone. The severity of alcohol addiction will influence the direction a person goes. Additionally, the damage of secondhand drinking is prominent, causing several issues for the individuals around a chronic drinker. This does not have to be the only way to live through. Individuals struggling with alcohol addiction can get help by entering treatment and overcoming their AUD.
Preventing the Effects of Secondhand Drinking
The effects of secondhand drinking will not simply go away as long as alcohol is easily obtainable. There is little that individuals can do by themselves to prevent the catastrophe of alcohol abuse, except give up alcohol. If it is a personal matter, entering treatment and becoming sober is a positive step to reducing secondhand effects. Not everyone will be willing to give up alcohol use though. Research Gate presented some ideas that impact Sweden and other Nordic countries that American associations are also considering.
First and foremost, public support needs to be changed to increasing policies against alcohol use. Data collected by Research Gate in Sweden found that on an individual level, people believed that alcohol was more positive than negative. In contrast, the same survey that was used to collect this data found that 75 percent of Swedish individuals believe that alcohol has more negative effects than positives within society. When asked how alcohol perception could be changed, many answered with policy changes including:
- Implementing higher taxes on alcoholic sales.
- Reducing or eliminating privatized alcohol sales completely.
- Enforce stricter alcohol rules in restaurants.
- Alcohol licenses must be harder to obtain by restaurants.
These kinds of policy changes would make the consumption of alcohol a more thought-provoking concept. Furthermore, in order for policies to be considered, individuals must feel the harmful effects of drinking. A survey conducted in Canada found that many individuals support policy change on alcohol. Those that responded to the survey stated they support changing the current policies because they have personally felt the impact of drinking and are concerned for others. This ranged from individual living with someone addicted to alcohol or strangers to a drinker who could face death or injury. Research Gate also found support that policy changes can work. The harms of secondhand drinking decrease when certain measures are put in place, including high alcohol prices and high age limits to purchase. Policy changes might not be perfect, but they can decrease individuals harming themselves and others while drinking.
Secondhand effects of alcohol are avoidable if individual drinkers decide to make a change. Policy changes should also be discussed at a large scale in order to prevent these preventable harms. It also needs to be acknowledged by everyone that adults, college students, children and the unborn are all victims of secondhand drinking. By approaching a chronic drinker, help them understand how their decisions are causing negative effects on those around them. These harms can range from failure at work or school to more emotional and physical damage. By entering treatment, overcoming addiction is possible. With the right help, alcohol can become a memory.
In order to get started, call us at 385-327-7418. We want to get you or a loved one set up in a personalized treatment program that will educate them on alcohol addiction. The journey to sobriety is long and time-consuming but has more positives than staying addicted. Call us now to get started on a brighter, alcohol-free future.
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