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Alcohol Abuse and Economic Downturns

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The economy is cascading downward at a rate unheard of since the early thirties. Unemployment is rising at a staggering pace, and many flagship industries are closing their doors or cutting production, adding thousands more workers to the unemployment line. President Obama's stimulus package is designed to stop the economic hemorrhaging and return the nation to full employment. However, in the meanwhile, many unemployed and stressed individuals will turn to alcohol and other drugs to ease their personal pain and psychological stress. 

Several studies have provided robust evidence that the prevalence of binge drinking is strongly connected to the psychological stress of recessions. And, even among those who remain employed, binge drinking increased substantially during economic downturns. 

This combination of results suggests that recession-induced increases in the prevalence of binge drinking do not simply reflect the increased availability of leisure time but may instead reflect the influence of economic stress. 

Millions of Americans are turning to alcohol and other drugs to relieve the discomfort of their stress-filled lives. However, like stress itself, this method of "self-medicating" is far from being considered a new approach. In the United States alcohol is the most widely used drug today, but certainly not the only one. 

As a nation we are materially rich and technologically brilliant, but we are also a nation of drug users. In homes across America you will find medicine cabinets with large quantities of drugs both over the counter and those prescribed by physicians. In fact, one recent study showed that many teenagers use drugs that are easily available in their parents' medicine cabinets.

 The mass media will call into action its vast arsenal of resources to inform the public of the dangers of cocaine, heroin, and other addictive substances. Yet, the same mass media is impotent when it comes to educating the public on the danger of alcohol abuse. It appears that alcohol, the drug that is used more flagrantly than any other drug in man's history, is relegated to the back burner. 

Most studies show that among our youth, especially college students, the switch is from a variety of unfamiliar and esoteric drugs to the drug of alcohol, commonly found in the most respectable and law abiding homes across the nation. 

 In this society we use alcohol for a variety of reasons: to be sociable, to be accepted, to relax, to gain courage, to improve self-esteem, and yes, to add romance to our lives. And for many of us alcohol is used to escape from depression, fears, anxiety, and other inadequacies real or imagined. It is for these and other reasons the abuse of alcohol is on the rise. 

For most users alcohol appears to be a relatively safe drug, but not for everyone. In fact, for those who are unable or unwilling to control their alcohol use, the personal price of alcohol abuse is enormous on all level. 

The psychological pain that it may relieve is a high price to pay compared to the pain it causes as they slowly become addicted to the drug of alcohol. Sooner or later alcohol will weaken and destroy those components of one's self that give life meaning. 

How long man has used alcoholic beverages as part of his social activities is unknown. It is known, however, that "booze" or alcohol was in use many thousands of years before the World Health Organization declared alcohol a habit forming and addicting drug.

 Neolithic man, for example, discovered and used berry wine since about 6400 BC. And there are those who have suggested that the use of some form of alcoholic beverage goes as far back as 300 or 400 BC. A by product of honey, called mead, is reported to be the oldest alcoholic beverage known to man. 

 It's further suggested that mead first appeared during the Paleolithic age. It is well documented that beer drinking by Native-Americans was well on its way when Columbus reached these shores. 

Fruits and cereal grain are the most common products that are fermented to produce alcoholic beverages in many cultures, including the Untied States, while other cultures commonly use plants as the base for fermentation of alcoholic beverages. During his expedition to Mexico in 1518, Cortez commented approvingly on the locally distilled beverage called "pulque." 

Pulque is made from the cactus plant and has an alcoholic content of about 6%. Mead, on the other hand, has an alcoholic content of appropriately 10-12% and is believed to be presently available in some cultures. The traditional rice wine of the Far East, called "sake" is well-known to many Americans, especially servicemen of World War II and the Korean conflict. The alcoholic content of rice wine is said to be 12-18%.

 A nineteenth century Swedish physician is credited with being the first to use the term "alcoholism." Ancient Romans were the first to recognize the pattern of alcohol use between those who drank to excess by choice and those who could not control their drinking. Several centuries later the English language distinguished between drunkenness and addition to alcohol. 

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William(Bill)Smith, Ph.D. an author, psychotherapist,consultant and personal coach. My practice focuses on online counseling, phone and face-to-face session with survivors of personal trauma,childhood abuse, relationship concerns, and individual (more...)
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