In many societies, alcohol problems are rarely out of the news, and the situation appears to be getting worse. With stories of ever more bizarre forms of binge drinking (Neknominate, anyone?) and proposals to make it illegal to drink while pregnant, is our society really in the grips of an alcohol crisis? Or does the media merely highlight and exaggerate things that have always gone on, in one way or another?                                                

We have been reflecting on this issue as the Christmas party season is once again in full swing. Our book Stop Drinking Now by Allen Carr (available here) deals with the “Alcoholic” stigma and society’s contradictory attitude towards alcohol. We wanted to share this quote from the book with you:

Why do they conceal it? Because they fear the stigma. Society is intolerant of those it calls alcoholics. In fact, society’s attitude to alcohol is riddled with contradictions. Alcohol is a drug, nobody disputes that, but while all other so-called “recreational” drugs (including, increasingly, smoking) are marginalized or criminalized, for some reason alcohol is embraced as not only socially acceptable but as a social necessity. Try throwing a party without booze!

As soon as we’re old enough to drink legally in public (and often before), adults take great joy in buying us our first alcoholic drinks, encouraging us to force down those first repulsive sips and “develop a taste for it”. They laugh knowingly when we feel awful afterwards, and when it comes to celebrating, how do they go about it? Champagne!

And yet when the woman next door starts smelling of booze; when you see her smashed at one party after another; when she asks to borrow money and you know she’s lying about what she needs it for; when she’s spotted drinking on a bench in the park; when she fails to turn up at school to collect her kids; how does society react? With tut-tutting, shaking of the head and disapproving whispers of “How could she be so irresponsible?

The general assumption is that alcoholics have only themselves to blame, that they’re weak or self-indulgent and that it’s their fault for failing to control their drinking. No wonder people with a drink problem tend to do their utmost to hide it.

What do you think? Is it time to change our attitude towards alcohol?