The consumption of alcohol dates way back in time. In ancient years it was said that alcohol was used for medicinal purposes or as an offering to gods. Nowadays the consumption of alcohol little changed. Of course, people do not use it as a remedy for illnesses, yet its use is popular amongst people with mental problems. These people use it to escape from their own minds. Alcohol is a depressant, which means it can induce feelings of relaxation and stress relief. Consequently, many people with stress turn to alcohol neglecting the adverse results that can be caused by its consumption.
What is more, nowadays people do not offer alcohol to their gods but it can be found in religion and more particularly in religious rituals. An example can be set in the orthodox church where people in order to repent of their sins take part in a ceremony of drinking the sacrament wine. Other religions incorporate the consumption of alcohol as well. Hence, it is understood that the use of alcohol remains in the same spheres but differently.
Nowadays people consume alcohol for various reasons. Some do it for social reasons, for example when they get together with friends, during celebrations, or other social situations. These are called social drinkers. Social drinkers can stop consuming alcohol without any disruption and without significant health problems in the long run. Other people, usually the young ones, drink alcohol due to peer pressure and because they want to ‘fit in’. Or, it’s because alcohol is easily acessible and enjoyed by many.
The environment in which a person is situated has a significant impact on alcohol consumption. The same thing occurs when a person has a family history of alcoholism. It is rather unfortunate, but a certain fact that heavy drinkers can pass their drinking problems down to their children. Drinking a lot of alcohol appears in countries where alcohol is easily accessible. The fact that is so easy to find means also that is acceptable, therefore people consume it in larger portions.
There are three categories of drinkers based on the frequency of alcohol consumption:
Light or social drinkers: They generally do not face any problems or negative consequences, since they drink on occasion. These individuals possess the maturity and self-control to handle their alcohol consumption without losing consciousness or control. Their thoughts are not occupied with alcohol, and hence, they are never inclined to mood swings, fighting, or any other type of violence.
Moderate drinkers: It is a fine line and light drinkers can convert to moderate drinkers when they start to consume alcohol more often. Their alcohol intake leads to negative consequences and detrimental effects on their health and well-being. In this category, people withdraw from drinking alcohol for long periods, but they might binge after seeing alcohol. Bingen drinking will be defined later on.
Heavy drinkers: People in this category are seriously addicted to alcohol. Alcohol inhibits their thoughts and behaviors, leading to volatile mood changes and a tendency towards confrontation and violence. They require a higher quantity of alcohol to get intoxicated as they may experience high tolerance. Some of the negative consequences faced by heavy drinkers include problematic relationships, social problems and problems at work, and last but not least hazardous health issues.
photo by Anna Bratiychuk
When people consume alcohol on occasion is not harmful and cannot lead to health problems or alcoholism. The problem is when people start to drink frequently or heavily. Moderate alcohol consumption can escalate into binge drinking and eventually progress to alcohol abuse and addiction (alcoholism).
Binge drinking is defined as consuming 5 or more drinks on an occasion for men or 4 or more drinks on an occasion for women. Alcohol can harm their health and impair their ability to make sound decisions. It is appointed that the more someone drinks, the more likely are that they will engage in more dangerous behavior. On top of that, drug use and abuse will most likely appear in heavy drinkers as well.
The UK Chief Medical Officers’ (CMOs) low-risk drinking guidelines recommended that both men and women limit themselves to no more than 14 units per week, spaced out over at least three days with several alcohol-free days, and without indulging in binge drinking.
As mentioned earlier the environment plays a significant part in drinking habits or forming a culture around alcohol. There are many demographic differences considering the consumption of alcohol. Religion can play a significant role in drinking habbitsn of populations.
In Muslim countries for example drinking alcohol is altogether prohibited. An interesting fact is that in Albania, a country without an official religion, drinking in public spaces is frowned upon as well. In Austria, different federal states have different laws. Therefore, it can be a bit confusing. What is surprising is that people are allowed to drink beer, wine, and cider as long as they turn 16.
In Finland, they drink a lot. In fact, it is a national problem, they even have the word “kalsarikänni“, which means “drinking alone at home in your underwear'” which vividly describes their heavy drinking habit. To eliminate the problem the authorities raised the legal drinking age to 20 years old. Other countries with the same drinking age limit are Norway, Sweeden, Iceland, and Lithuania.
In France, Uk, and Germany, the legal drinking age is 18 but beer, wine, and cider can be consumed by a 16 or 17-year-old, as long as they are accompanied by a parent or a legal guardian. These countries have a long history with alcohol, especially France with winemaking, which has been practiced for thousands of years. Similarly, in Germany is beers and in the UK is gin.
In Italy, they serve “corretto”, which means corrected coffee; it is a shot of espresso mixed with a shot of grappa. In Lithuania, people consume more alcohol per capita than in any other nation worldwide. That explains why they also raise the legal drinking age to 20 years old. Liquor stores stop selling alcohol after 8 p.m on weekdays and after 3 p.m on Sundays. To sum it up, every country has its own rules and regulations as well as interesting distinctions and different alcohol habits.
Culture, social circles, race, religion, socioeconomic status, and home environment can all be involved in the way a person thinks, acts, and feels about alcohol. As well as how alcohol consumption is defined. There are many differences in behavioral effects when people drink which makes it difficult to comprehend. For example, in countries such as the UK, the US, Australia, and Scandinavia there is an association between alcohol and anti-social or violent behavior. Whereas, in some Mediterranean and South American cultures alcohol consumption is generally accompanied by peaceful and harmonious behavior.
This variation in behavior is not due to different levels of alcohol consumption or genetic differences, but rather cultural beliefs about alcohol, expectations of how alcohol will affect them, and societal norms regarding appropriate behavior while under the influence of alcohol. As in everything consuming alcohol in moderation is the wisest thing to do no matter where people come from. This way future problems and alcoholism can be avoided and should be avoided. Considering that people do it for pleasure , only consuming it sparingly cannot have an effect on their health and well-being.