Teach Safe Alcohol Use to Reduce Alcohol-Related Problems

How can we reduce alcohol-related problems? One important way is to teach safe alcohol drinking to young people.


I.   Goal: Fewer Alcohol Problems

II.  Our Past

III. Keys to Success

IV.  Logical Steps

V.   Resources

Teach Safe Alcohol Use to Reduce Problems

I. Goal: Fewer Alcohol Problems

Many societies and groups have successfully prevented alcohol problems. That is, they widely and daily drink. Yet they have few alcohol problems. We can use their techniques both in our families and in our society. Thus, we could reduce the abuse of beer, wine, and distilled spirits (liquor).

We seem to be a nation petrified by the thought that someone, somewhere may be drinking too much. Many activists feed this paranoia. They do this by talking about alcohol in the same breath as illicit drugs.

II. Our Past

And yet, humankind has had a relationship with beverage alcohol for over 6,000 years. This suggests that we need to divorce the subject from the emotionalism that has engulfed it. And we need to approach it from a more intelligent, reasonable perspective.

teach safe alcoholAbusive drinking is, without question, a serious problem. But we won’t make progress against it until we learn from others. So we must examine how successful cultures do it. That is, those whose members drink frequently with few problems. They include Greeks, Portuguese, Italians, Jews, and many, many others.

III. Keys to Success

And what exactly is the model these cultures share? It can be described on three levels.

    1. Beliefs About the Substance of AlcoholIn these cultures, the substance of alcohol is seen neutrally. It is neither a terrible poison nor a magic potion.
    2. The Act of DrinkingThe act of drinking is seen as natural and normal. At the same time, there is little or no social pressure to drink. On the other hand, there is absolutely no tolerance for abusive drinking.
    3. Education About DrinkingEducation about drinking starts early and starts in the home. Young people are taught–under their parents’ supervision, through their parents’ example–that if they drink, they should drink moderately. In short, they teach safe alcohol use from an early age how. They think it’s better to learn about alcohol in the parents’ instead of a fraternity house.

teach safe alcohol

This three-part approach has allowed many cultures to avoid the alcohol abuse problems. Still, our federal government and many others in the U.S. fail to learn from their example. Instead, they opt to depict alcohol as a “dirty drug.” As something to be shunned and feared. They promote abstinence as the best choice for all people. And they work to reduce all drinking.

IV. Logical Steps: Teach Safe Alcohol Use

We can contrast alcohol “policy” in our culture with the policies promoted elsewhere. Then we have several logical steps.

1. Promote Moderation among Drinkers

Encourage moderate use of alcohol drinking among those who choose to drink. Moderate drinking and abstinence should be presented as equally acceptable. Those who choose to drink should not force drinking upon abstainers. Those who choose not to drink should have similar respect for those who do. We should teach safe alcohol drinking to reduce abuse.

2. Promote Important Distinction

Promote the distinctions between acceptable and unacceptable drinking. Effective education is based on much more than telling people what not to do.

3. Penalize Unacceptable Drinking

Firmly penalize unacceptable drinking. And do it both legally and socially. The criminal justice system has an important role to play. Yet peers play the basic role. We should never humor being drunk. Nor should we ever accept it as an excuse for “bad behavior.”

4. End Reduction of Consumption

End the current reduction of consumption approach to dealing with alcohol. This approach wrongly assumes that the substance of alcohol is the necessary and sufficient cause of all drinking problems. It assumes that the availability of alcohol determines the extent to which it will be consumed and abused. Accordingly, policies developed from this approach focus on limiting (or reducing) availability.

These policies are based on false assumptions. So they will fail to reduce alcohol problems. In fact, they may be counter productive. They may also reduce health and long life. That’s because moderate drinking tends to improve health and long life.

5. Stop Stigmatizing Alcohol

Finally, end all attempts to stigmatize alcohol as a “dirty drug.” As a poison. As inherently harmful. Demonizing alcohol adds to cultural emotionalism and ambivalence. Thus it makes worse the very problems it seeks to solve.

Reasonable people should give this proven approach a chance. If so, we will surely place ourselves on course toward a far more successful relationship with beverage alcohol.

V. Resources: Teach Safe Alcohol Use to Reduce Problems

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