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Alcohol Awareness in a Sound Byte Culture

Every April since 1987, the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence promotes awareness of alcohol abuse and addiction by organizing local and national events for “National Alcohol Awareness Month.” I’m a bit embarrassed to have just learned of this (I’ve been an addictions counselor for many years). It seems a likely indicator of their effectiveness that I find out about it 28 years later, by accident, after clicking a link on Facebook.

Remember when we used to laugh at public service ads like, “This is your brain. This is your brain on drugs. Any questions?…” or “Who taught you how to do this stuff? You! I learned it by watching you!” For as terrible as those ads were, at least they were memorable. The stuff we’re churning out nowadays doesn’t grab anyone’s attention. Except mine. Because the ads are stupid.

Latest thing to give me an aneurysm: Project SAM (Smart Approaches to Marijuana) They’re a collaboration of health professionals working to affect public policies on the dangers of marijuana. They released a video yesterday comparing the efforts of marijuana proponents/businesses to the efforts of “Big Tobacco.” The following quote is highlighted in their video:

“We were once fooled by a powerful industry living off of addiction for profit. Let’s not let it happen again.”

Once? Really? Once? I get that tobacco companies did/do that. How about producers of alcohol? Do they have difficulty deriving profit from addiction? The ad was created by professionals in the field and somehow this didn’t occur to them. The fact that some folks can use alcohol safely and enjoyably takes the issue off our radar.

It’s time to put it back on. We’re a society that not only celebrates drinking but expects it as normative social behavior. Hypocritically, we condemn those who develop a problem with it. The stigma of alcoholism gets perpetuated by our propensity to view alcohol as something other than a substance that constitutes little more than a calculated risk.

Those of us genetically predisposed and/or with addictive personalities can’t afford the risk.

To my brothers and sisters who are questioning whether they have a problem: The fact that you’re wondering is a strong indicator that you do. No shame. No stigma. Let’s move out of the problem and into the solution together. Recovery is possible – now more than ever.

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