Let’s go for one drink? That is often the rock people perish on! One turns into two which turns into three and so on. What often starts as one drink can turn into an all-out binge. In Ireland drinking alcohol (by the gallon!) is engrained in our culture. We are a nation of binge drinkers, that’s just the way it is, we have no off button, no meter to say when enough is enough. When working will clients to reduce their alcohol consumption they are genuinely shocked when I tell them the recommended limit; 11 units per week for a woman, 17 units per week for a man. We genuinely don’t know this, it’s not that we are ignoring the information it’s just that if we don’t have any serious negative consequences (except the odd hangover!) we don’t seek out this information.
Drink Vs Drugs
What interests me is the comparison we make between alcohol and drugs. I have often had clients say to me ‘I don’t mind if he/she drinks. If he/she could get off the drugs and just drink that would be ok’. It’s nearly better to be a problem drinker than a drug addict, ‘druggie’ or ‘junkie’ (labels I really dislike by the way). We separate the two substances because one is legal and the other is illegal.
Beer Vs Spirits
We also make comparisons between drinking beer and spirits thinking it’s safer to drink Heineken than vodka. We tell ourselves we are cutting down by changing from spirits to beer. Alcohol is a legally sold substance so it’s not as bad as drugs, right? Wrong! Alcohol is the most widely abused substance in Ireland. The level of alcohol related harm is rising steadily in Ireland: http://alcoholireland.ie/download/reports/FinalAlcohol-factsheet-November-2016.pdf. Something has to change.
Bringing About Change
At the moment I am part of a committee that is looking at the effects of alcohol related harm in my local community. As part of this, a survey was carried out which found that people recognise the effects of alcohol abuse in their community and want change. To me this is very promising. It means as a community we recognise the need for change. It’s not about pointing fingers or judging, it’s just about exploring as a community how we can raise awareness and develop a healthier relationship with alcohol. It’s everyone’s responsibility, adults, parents, teachers, doctors, nurses, garda, and teens. Its okay to drink alcohol, drink socially, have a few beers just know your limits (which is a lot less than a gallon by the way!!)