Stop Drinking Alcohol…An Issue Of Mixed Messages}

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Stop Drinking Alcohol…An Issue of Mixed Messages


Ed Philips

If it is that alcohol brings about such a number if negative issues, why is it not only legal, but in some cases accepted? Although it is that we have placed a limit on what we as a society will tolerate, we still allow the use and consumption of a potentially unhealthy, dangerous, and even deadly substance when consumed at sometimes even moderate amounts. So why is it that there is even the mixed message that exists in our society?

Alcohol has become almost mainstream in our society today. It has made its way out of the local bars and pubs and is now found in an assortment of locations. Once you factor in the number of restaurants, sporting events, festival, county fairs, night clubs, hotels, casinos, the list goes on, you come to realize how accessible alcohol has become. Then adding in the convenience stores, liquor stores, package shops, and grocery stores, the places you might go to every day stand a good shot at legally selling bottles, cans, cases and even kegs of alcoholic beverages to adults.

Alcohol exists in many places throughout our advertisements today and they all help to reinforce the concept that alcohol is both acceptable and “cool”. These ideas combined with accessibility can be confusing. From glitzy and sophisticated magazine advertisements to some of our funniest, and most memorable television commercials, alcohol is advertised for no other purpose than to get the product sold. We look forward to our favorite band’s tour that’s sponsored by a liquor label, or watching during Super Bowl halftime to see which beer commercial makes us laugh the hardest, never thinking that the promotional product could be harmful. People we look up to such as professional athletes and movie stars who affiliate themselves with alcohol either by their actions or advertisements can also send the message that alcohol is “cool.”

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Religious Rituals and Cultural Traditions. When religious rituals that make use of alcohol, cultural traditions that encourage drinking alcohol, special events and holidays that are associated with drinking alcohol, and the increasing popularity of adding alcohol to food for enhanced flavor–when all of these are factored into the equation, it becomes obvious that alcohol is deeply ingrained in our society. The point: when people are surrounded with alcohol and bombarded by events, traditions, holidays, and advertisements that are alcohol-related, it becomes part of their socialization process that in turn makes it easier to simply accept that they should drink alcohol if they are to “fit in” and become members of our society.

Alcohol Abuse and Drinking While Driving. If the prevalence, acceptability, and accessibility of alcohol represent the one side of the coin regarding the mixed messages in our society, then the dangerousness, unhealthiness, and illegality represents the other. Indeed, consider the numerous negative and harmful messages and statistics associated with alcohol abuse and drinking while driving that we have heard from the medical community, federal government, police, politicians, organizations such as MADD, and school and college administrators.

The ability to intervene against alcohol use and abuse effectively becomes much more difficult when considering it’s integration into our society. With the messages being mixed from our media to our culture, to is hard to discern the negative side of alcohol use itself. Many individuals, especially our youth do not see the harmful, unhealthy and sometimes deadly aspects of alcohol abuse.

The Influence of the Judicial System. Unfortunately, the judicial system and the ways in which it has dealt with alcohol-related offenses is another example of the mixed messages in our society about alcohol. For instance, until very recently, people who have received multiple DUIs have, in many instances, simply received a “slap on the wrist” for their alcohol-related behavior.

Now however, some states are becoming more reality and accountability based in regards to these offenses. Laws have been passed making it a felony when a person receives his or her 4th DUI within a ten-year period. This sentence also carries time served in prison and hefty fines of thousands of dollars.

Jail time itself is not the only solution to those with alcohol issues. Unless the underlying need for drinking is discovered and dealt with while being incarcerated, many will return to the same self destructive habits once they are released. With alcohol intervention and treatment in jail, the individual is in a stable and environment with a positive success rate. Those who have participated in a alcohol treatment program are more likely to return to society as a productive and responsible person, ending their drinking and driving and therefore avoiding becoming a repeat offender in the system.

I am not necessarily disagreeing with those who preach “responsible behavior” regarding drinking. The bottom line, however, is one’s definition of “responsible behavior.” Let me explain. Let’s say that I have a lake that is used for swimming and that for whatever reason, hundreds of snapping turtles have populated this lake. Some people may say that “responsible behavior” in this example consists of warning all swimmers about the turtles and telling them to “be careful” while swimming. Others with a different point of view, however, might say that “responsible behavior” in this instance means warning the swimmers about the turtles, telling them to be careful while swimming, AND, at the same time, significantly reducing the turtle population so that there is less chance that the swimmers will get bit.

If our society is more enlightened and more aware of the health hazards, fatalities, and destructive consequences of alcohol abuse and alcoholism, then why don’t we practice “responsible behavior” and make alcohol less available, less advertised, less glamorized, and less “cool” while at the same time increasing the advertisements, commercials, and public service messages that emphasize healthy and safe alcohol-free activities and lifestyles?

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Stop Drinking Alcohol…An Issue of Mixed Messages