Throughout history, society has engaged in taking substances such as alcohol, that alter our physical being or our psychological state of mind. There are many experiences and pressures that force people to feel like they have to drink in order to cope with life, but for many alcohol is a part of everyday life, just like any other beverage. Alcohol is introduced to us in many ways, through our family, television, movies, and friends'. These "sociocultural variants are at least as important as physiological and psychological variants when we are trying to understand the interrelations of alcohol and human behavior"#. How we percieve drinking and continue drinking can be determined by the drinking habits we see, either by who we drink with, or the attitudes about drinking we learn over the years.
The chances of people drinking in ways that can harm others and ultimatley themselves can be seen by the correlation of educational lessons, cultural beliefs and the usage of alcohol. Looking at all the possibilities, the complex question we must ask is why do people drink? Is it through their defiance of law, the accessibility of alcohol, teachings of others or the values set in place in their society? Every society has its own views on how the consumption of alcohol should be handled and regulated. Their differences create a trickle effect of how it is used, and is distinctive to that culture or society. Many cultures drinking habits go hand in hand with religion, and social customs. Drinking alcohol is in many cases a part of extensive learned tradition, where people pride themselves with their ability to hold their liquor. In countries where alcohol is part of the "norm", the outcomes of drinking habits or the effects of alcohol are much different, "A population that drinks daily may have a high rate of cirrhosis and other medical problems but few accidents, fights, homicides, or other violent alcohol-associated conflicts; a population with predominantly binge drinking shows the opposite complex of drinking problems"#.
It has been observed that cultures with rich traditions and acceptance of alcohol use tend to deal less with the typical alcohol related problems, compared to the cultures who treat alcohol as an escape or something that will make them better in the eyes of others. In these societies, like the U. S. alcohol hasn't always been present and grown to be accepted through rich tradition. The amount of regulations and negative views on drinking in the U. S.
has led to abuse and deviancy, creating a high frequency of alcoholics. People drink in many ways, for many different reasons. We drink socially, to gain acceptance into a group. We drink alone to ease stress, to cope with our problems, or we "drink because we like the taste or how it makes us feel"#. Often drinking is a learned behavior, starting out as a social drinker; you quickly become psychologically and physically dependent. When someone reaches this stage they are often classified as an alcoholic.
To an alcoholic, drinking becomes a compulsion; they cannot stop themselves from having another drink, like a social drinker can. In many cases alcoholics don't even have to drink continuously in order to be an alcoholic. One the problems of alcohol addiction is that it's something that doesn't just effect the individual but it effects, friends and family as well. Spouse abuse, child abuse and dysfunctional family relationships can all be influenced by alcohol abuse. In the United States alone the drinking patterns throughout history have changed dramatically to reflect the times. Starting out in colonial times the usage of alcohol use was seen as a blessing, and harmless to society.
It was acceptable to drink while at work, and during social events, however drinking alone was highly frowned upon. Many early religions believed that alcohol was a gift from God, "man should partake of God's gift with out wasting or abusing it"#. To enhance and encourage the social aspect of drinking, Taverns were built as a meeting hall where people of all ages could go and drink; it was considered the center of social life. Even children in colonial times were coaxed into drinking as soon as they were old enough to drink from a glass. Parents in this time hoped to teach the children at this young stage to drink in small amounts so that later in life they wouldn't misuse alcohol. Later on in the 19 th century, the Taverns of colonial times eventually all changed into the more modern Saloon.
A place where all men could gather to get away from their families. During the existence of the saloon the Christian church began to see the consumption of alcohol as an evil, and no longer accepted alcohol as the universal drink of the church. Today the effects of history are seen through the defiance of alcohol use and the probing reverence to abstinence, which is rarely practiced, but when it is, it goes largely un-respected by society. In many cultures through history, alcohol has been viewed to have positive influences in society.
Its usage has been seen to enhance social abilities within a group, as well as increased relaxation and enjoyment in the company of others. The usage of alcohol extends further than social aspects, until the early 20 th century alcohol had been used in medicinal practices and was a key ingredient in most over-the-counter medicines. Supporters of early alcohol use argued, "It gave courage to the soldier, endurance to the traveler, foresight to the statesman, and inspiration to the preacher. It sustained the sailor and the plowman. The trader and the trapper"#. In the United Kingdom for example, society favors drinking so much that bars in that country now attract people of both genders, through new legislations in that county social drinking is widely accepted, but heavy drinking and alcohol related problems remain in disapproval.
To many, alcohol use is an aspect of their way of life, that if left out could possibly change their culture forever. Many people would argue that drinking is a learned behavior, however everyone learns about alcohol differently, causing different cultural and social views of acceptance. The U. S.
treats alcohol as a substance that our children should never come in contact with. In many other societies it is believed that the earlier you encourage drinking among children the better drinking practices they will retain through out their lives. Italian culture allows their young to drink moderate amounts of alcohol as a part of everyday life, at family gatherings it is seen as a normal and natural food. Jewish culture treats alcohol as a sacred part of everyday life; their religion and rich culture create a continuous relationship with alcohol.
Compared to the U. S. , there are many countries that do allow their youth to drink to start drinking at a young age, and they have seen decreased problems with violence, vandalism and drinking and driving. Children outside of the U.
S. , who are introduced to alcohol as a part of their regular family life, learn to drink more responsibly and drink moderately while still young. Alcohol has been a part of Western Civilization for over 25 centuries. Over time there have been many governmental controls placed on the usage of alcohol in the U. S. When the need for control over this substance was demanded by a large part of the American population, the government responded with the Prohibition of alcohol in 1920.
Largely influenced by religion and the temperance movement, many thought this measure would eradicate the use of alcohol. What they didn't know was that laws couldn't always be enforced. What did erupt out of Prohibition was an even higher demand for alcohol, which was met by the Mafia, who made millions by selling alcohol on the Black Market. Often time's fear of something can be our biggest downfall.
It effects our ability to move forward, to accept things the way they are and have the confidence that everything is going to be all right. When something such as alcohol is defined as bad or harmful to us, it becomes a psychological battle, to find good in it. So in our country the fear of alcohol gives it a negative image, it is rejected as a normal part of behavior because of its destructive effects, through peoples' abuse of the substance. The negativity of alcohol in our country out weighs any potential to look at it the way other societies do, and change our views on it.
"When, alcohol related problems do occur, they are clearly linked with the modalities of drinking, and usually also with values attitudes, and norms about drinking"#. We are stuck knowing, thinking and feeling the way we do about alcohol because that is what has been driven into our minds. If our society could look outside the box, we could see the effects of tradition, family and culture that have totally transformed how alcohol is used and seen in other societies. Lessons can be learned from the experiences of other countries but it would take a long time to effect them into our society and tradition.
We have tried to educate our youth on the dangers of alcohol and problems associated with it. Through educational programs we have tried to teach them to stay away from this so-called drug, that we have enabled ourselves to label as dangerous. These programs such as D. A. R. E.
have failed in every attempt because the information that is taught often contradicts beliefs and conduct seen everyday by these children in our society. Understanding that we have failed as a society in how we treat alcohol, leaves no question that we should look to evidence from other cultures and humble ourselves that our existing argument on alcohol needs to end. "It is apparent that certain ways of thinking and acting in respect to alcohol, ways that are consistently associated with drinking problems, might fruitfully be rejected, while others; those that correlate with unproblematic drinking might well be fostered." #Our attempts of labeling alcohol as a "dirty drug," a substance to be despised and shunned should change to "choose or not to choose." We must teach children the modern practices of moderation, respect for alcohol and that you do have a choice in what you do. Damaging social and personal consequences stemming from alcohol abuse are not completely related to the prevalence of alcohol consumption, we know that cultural, historical and social comparisons truly show that alcohol has many uses, both good and bad.
However, cultures that have a predisposition for low rates of alcohol abuse are more comfortable about the consumption of alcohol, and the behaviors seen as a result from drinking. These responsible drinking habits are taught at a young age as well as teaching that alcohol is a controllable a force that can offer pleasure and positive social experiences through implementation of successful cultural controls on drinking. Knowing how our society in the U. S. views the usage of alcohol, I believe that we should seriously reflect on the practices of the above mentioned cultures, and formulate a drinking model for alcohol that suits our culture and traditions, that gives a positive perspective on alcohol. This model would allow us to improve our way of living, teaching responsibility and respect, qualities needed in every aspect of life.
Notes 1. Heath, D. B. (1982)." Sociocultural Variants in Alcoholism," Encyclopedic Handbook of Alcoholism. New York: Gardner Press: 382. Heath, 4293.
Varley, C. (1994). Life Issues-Alcoholism. New York: Marshal Cavendish. 4.
Rorabaugh, W. J. (1979). The Alcoholic Republic: An American Tradition. New York: Oxford University Press: 265. Levine, H.
G. (1995)." The Good Creature of God and the Demon Rum," International Handbook on Alcohol and Culture. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press: 1156. Heath, 1217. Heath, 436.
Bibliography Claypool, J. (1981). Alcohol and You. New York: Franklin Watts- An Impact Book. Dolmetsch, P, and Maurice tte, G.
(Ed). (1987). Teens Talk About Alcohol and Alcoholism. New York: Dolphin Book.
Heath, D. B. (1982)." Sociocultural Variants in Alcoholism," Encyclopedic Handbook of Alcoholism. New York: Gardner Press. Hornik, E.
L. (1974). You and your Alcoholic Parent. New York: Association Press.
Levine, H. G. (1995)." The Good Creature of God and the Demon Rum," International Handbook on Alcohol and Culture. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.
Rorabaugh, W. J. (1979). The Alcoholic Republic: An American Tradition. New York: Oxford University Press. Varley, C.
(1994). Life Issues-Alcoholism. New York: Marshal Cavendish.