Why is alcohol such a large part of our society?
By Cazzy Lewchuk, Opinions Editor
Almost everybody drinks alcohol, to some degree. Most live events serve booze, and enjoying drinks in a social atmosphere at home or out is the norm.
Alcoholism is one of the more common and serious problems across our society. It is probably the most common addiction, and also one of the most dangerous. In addition to the many physical and mental effects of alcoholism, it is one of the few substances that can cause death by withdrawal. Things like heroin withdrawal might feel terrible for those who are addicted, but going cold turkey won’t cause death.
Alcohol isn’t just normalized; it’s actively encouraged, mostly because of the money that it makes. Venues rely on drink sales to stay open. Restaurants and pubs make far more off liquor than they do food. It’s the most socially-acceptable drug in the world, and the most damaging one, as well. Excessive consumption of alcohol leads to the deaths of millions around the world each year, and it is the equivalent of 1 death every 10 seconds.
Drinking excessively causes problems. While alcohol ads do show “please enjoy responsibly” in tiny text, there is very little discussion about the acceptable limits while boozing. Everyone wants you to buy alcohol, and to buy as much of it as possible. Drinking dangerous amounts is seen as the norm, particularly among younger crowds. We’ve all seen people throw up, make stupid decisions, or put themselves in danger, all because they were too drunk. Many of us have our own memories of doing the same thing. Hey, it’s normal, isn’t it?
Every illicit drug—including marijuana—has its own side effects and addictiveness. However, many drugs (particularly marijuana) are safer and cheaper than alcohol. No one ever died from marijuana poisoning, but alcohol poisoning is a common and often fatal occurrence. Additionally, while the stigma of marijuana and other lighter drugs has become more relaxed in recent years, the stigma of having a sore head because you drank nine beers is much more socially acceptable than having a sore head because you did a single pill of MDMA.
Those who choose not to drink are seen as abnormal. Saying “no” when offered booze is perceived as unusual, and is certainly less common than a “yes.” There are many valid reasons for people to not drink, but society pressures us to drink at as many events as possible. Non-drinkers are often questioned or otherwise stigmatized for refusing to partake. Some controlled substances, like cigarettes, have restrictive packaging and advertising standards. However, marketing for alcohol is not subjected to the same rules, despite its potential dangers.
I like drinking. I do my best to do it in moderation, and I have felt the effects of overconsumption and addiction in myself, and seen it in others. However, I strongly feel the dangers and risks of a pro-drinking culture are often ignored in favour of profits—and to avoid ruining the fun. Alcohol shouldn’t be illegal, but it also shouldn’t be found everywhere you go.