This year (2012) is the 10th anniversary of the publication of a book that I co-authored with two colleagues – Dr. Bernard
Nisenholz and Gary Robinson, MEd – entitled “A Nation Under The influence: America’s Addiction to Alcohol.”
Although the book was written as a college textbook for use in graduate counselor education and social work drug awareness
courses, it does have a provocative title and point of view. And reflecting over the past 10 years, the title seems more accurate than ever. Little if anything has changed to positively reduce the influence of alcohol in America or the addiction rate thereof. The obvious conclusion is that both have increased.
The book begins with a discussion of whether a nation in which not all citizens use alcohol can in fact be addicted to the drug. The
discussion includes a description of the characteristics which are part of the dynamics of creating an alcoholic as well as maintaining this condition. These dynamics include people who are “pushers” and/or ‘’enablers,” people who are not necessarily
alcohol users but who make it easy for others to have access to alcohol. Alcoholism has long been considered a family
disease because of these active dynamics. It really isn’t too much of a reach to consider it a community or even a national disease.
The media serves as a powerful pusher/enabler in this regard. Perhaps one of the most notable markers of this kind is the recent
American movie geared for young adults titled “Hangover.” This is a movie with a alcohol using theme which made a comedy out of what is generally considered one of the most objectionable aspects of alcohol use: the morning after hangover. This movie was such a commercial success that they almost immediately made a sequel: “Hangover II.”
Another aspect where the media has been quite favorable to the alcohol industry relates to the fact that alcohol is a recognized cancer producing substance or carcinogen. We reported this discovery in our book, but have been greatly impressed by the fact that it has almost never been reported on by any health newsletter or prevention magazine in America. On occasion, a newspaper may pick up a news item on the subject from Canada or Great Britain but no big deal is made of it.
A third issue that we raised in our book was the Second Hand Effect of Alcohol Consumption. Much like the Second Hand Effect
of Tobacco, this is a major factor in alcohol use and abuse, yet it is virtually ignored in the USA.
Scientists in Great Britain have studied this and have found that the second hand effects of alcohol are of greater detriment
than the primary effects –and together they overwhelm any one of the other psychoactive drugs in terms of negative impact on the society. (Nutt, D., et al, Drug harms in the UK: a multicriteria decision analysis; The Lancet, Volume 376, Issue 9752, Pages 1558 – 1565, 6 November 2010)
These are just a couple of findings from our book that suggest that, even though statistics would have to be updated, the basic
content is still quite up to date and valid 10 years later.