July 12, 2007

Drinks, Anyone?

Author_karenBy Karen Sternheimer

I’m not much of a drinker, but apparently lots of other adults in my age group are. At least that’s what a nationally representative survey, conducted by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), found. 

This study is a rarity in that so much research about drinking focuses exclusively on teens, while this one specifically looked at adults’ drinking habits. My interest in this study was first piqued by an article in the Los Angeles Times, but I always recommend looking directly at the report itself rather than relying on a reporter’s interpretation of research. You can nearly always find something interesting that is left out of or distorted by the news. 

According to the study, which included an unusually large sample of about 43,000 respondents eighteen and over, people aged 30 to 64 are the group most likely to have abused alcohol. 

These are the supposedly solid middle years of maturity and responsibility, but less than a quarter of those the report calls alcohol abusers seek treatment. The authors point out that alcohol abuse contributes to other serious social and mental health problems. Nearly a third of adults surveyed reveal signs of alcohol abuse. Sounds like we have a serious social problem brewing, right?

But when I first visited NIAAA’s website, I noticed that much of the content concentrated on teen and underage drinking. Historically, concerns about alcohol and drugs center almost exclusively on so-called “problem populations,” groups previously singled out as a potential source of trouble. 

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, several states passed laws making drinking alcohol illegal—but only for African Americans and Native Americans. At the same time, many advocates of the temperance movement also feared new immigrants in cities, and blamed a wide variety of urban problems on the newcomers’ drinking habits. 

This movement, of course, resulted in Prohibition, which banned alcohol across the United States. Like Prohibition, anti-drug laws passed throughout the twentieth century were primarily motivated by fear of the people associated with substance abuse, rather than by concern for the health of the users. 

For instance, in the nineteenth century many middle-class whites living in rural areas routinely dosed themselves with “health tonics” that contained substances like cocaine. But cocaine became illegal due to fears that it caused African American men to become violent in the Jim Crow south, not because of the addiction problems the tonics created.

Young people became a “problem population” during the student movements of the 1960s and early 1970s. Restrictions on drug use, seen as part of the counter-culture, tightened. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), created in 1973, was a part of this formal crackdown.

If you check out the "Alcohol Alerts" on the NIAAA website, you will see that we still focus on the alcohol use of those with the least social power. In addition to teens and young adults, the institute reports on alcohol use among minorities, women, and people with HIV/AIDS.

But back to the recent report. Guess who is most likely to have problems with alcohol: white men in middle adulthood, especially those who earn $70,000 or more.

Why no hue and cry over these drinkers? We know that men are much more likely to be arrested for drinking and driving, and according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) drivers aged 21-54 involved in fatal accidents are more likely to be drunk than teens and “underage” adults. So this population of drinkers does cause problems. 

Many children live with parents who abuse alcohol; the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) estimates that nine percent of American kids have at least one parent who has a serious alcohol problem. These children likely experience high levels of instability and perhaps become alcohol abusers themselves.

But white, middle-class men over thirty typically have more social power than the groups commonly targeted as problems. They also vote, and no sane politician is going to campaign warning of the danger some of these men cause and how we can control them.

And let’s not forget that alcohol is a huge industry that depends on well-off men to be their best customers. This industry can well afford the much-touted “We Card” programs because teens usually don’t have the money for the expensive stuff that their parents can buy.

We in America have an uneasy relationship with alcohol. On the one hand, we celebrate many happy occasions, conduct business deals, and mark holidays with a drink. Many people drink responsibly and never let alcohol or drugs impair their judgment or interfere with their lives.

And yet there are still vestiges of the old Puritan ethic hanging around, the same cultural strain that promoted temperance a century ago. Puritans believed in denying pleasure in favor of productivity, and in many ways we have not reconciled these two seemingly opposing forces yet. By focusing so much on trying to control those whom we think cannot control themselves, we can take the focus off of ourselves and our own confusion about where to draw the line between feeling good and being responsible. 

But if people who often hold leadership positions in our society can’t even control their own behavior, we are left to question not just drinking, but the social order itself. Why do you think we ignore many problem drinkers and focus so much on people under 21?


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Thanks for the great post. It is always helpful to hear what others have to say on the matter. I would like ot invite you to read my blog of a live journal of my personal story and hope it brings as much as your story brought to me. Thanks again.

I do concur that that our response to the data is a very strange one. Why would we focus on the smallest piece of a problem? It may simply be amazement; why would teens who have so much to lose so early on be taking the risks? Then again why would adults who have even more to lose be acting like teenagers in staggeringly larger numbers? I would think our rationale is all about prevention—our attention on teen alcohol abuse is all about trying to keep them from succumbing to alcoholism. While they may not be the biggest source of the problem they will be soon enough. The numbers would suggest there was a failing in alcohol education when all of these middle aged to past middle-aged folks were teens. The attention on contemporary teens may be a reaction to this. The cynical way of putting it would be that there is still hope for these young people and not their parents. By targeting the younger problem we may be able to reduce the numbers when they replace their forbearers so that they might teach their children and so on so that the problem becomes miniscule and hopefully a distant memory.

Some of the main points in this post was related to that fact that older individuals over the age of thirty tend to be more of a problem with drinking then teens are. Also that older middle class white men are the majority of alcohol abuse. I think the reason that society crackd down so head on teen drinkers is, because they dont think they are mature enough to handle alcohol. They figure we are not capable of making logical decisions as teens, so drinking would impair our thinking even more so.

Just because people are older doesn't mean that they are less likely to develop a dependancy to drugs or alcohol. Teens drink because it's new and cool. Adults drink to manage stress and to relax.

I strongly believe that at any age alcohol can raise dependancy issues. Many younger people do not usually think of consequences and often feel invinsible. Older adults may drink for different reasons and perhaps middle aged adults are trying to cling to their youth. As a society our responsibility should be focused on educating people and trying to prevent alcohol/drug dependancy.

It is always easy to point the finger at someones else. To foucs on one age group takes the attention off adults. It is always easier for someone who has money to access there wants and who better than set the exaplam for the kids than adults. For what every reason people tagets teens I think it is an excuse like many of the other excuse they use to drink.

dependancy issues is a good question of whom? tons of our kids do not usually think of the what if's and to some point even feel invinsible, adults may drink for different reasons our responsibility should be focused on educating trying prevent alcohol dependancy. do i par take yes !

"They deem him their worst enemy who tells them the truth."

The article found that people aged 30-64 were more likely to abuse alcohol, less than a quarter of alcohol abusers seeked treatment, and nearly a third of adults surveyed displayed signed of alcohol abuse. We tend to focus on the alcohol use of those with least social power. Research feel that children who grew up in a home with at least one parent consuming alcohol were more likely to experience high levels of instability and perhaps also become abusers.

I think that alcohol to any age is not good and whoever sells alcohol to minors should be put in jail.The reason for saying is there have been many death by minors in car wrecks so that speaks for itself.

In today's world with alochol and drug abuse, people tend to think that people underage do the most abusing towards the drug and what this survey shows is that white adult males who have a pretty decent living tend to abuse alochol. Today people want to educate young adults who are under 21 because they don't want them to start this addiction. We never deal with problem drinkers though.

Teenagers have it hard because of the peer pressure and wanting to be cool. The teenagers see their friends doing it and they end up doing drugs and alcohol and they get hook and then their friends leave them alone to die. I don't believe that if one parent consumer alcohol the children will become unstable or consumer alcohol for themselves. I also believe that it is alright for adults to have one drink every once in awhile, but not everyday.

I didn't know that alcohol was a bigger problem for middle aged men who are well off. They probably have high stressful jobs and need a way to "let loose". Their jobs probably do drug testing and they can drink and come into work sober and their bosses could possibly never know that they have a problem. Causal drinking or sociol drinking can turn into a real problem. We should focus more on this age group then we do. They also cause drunk driving accidents,which really needs more attention. I would think that one of the reasons why they seem so worried about underage drinkers is because they ARE under age. They also have their whole life ahead of them so to say. Peer presure is a hard thing to deal with when you are young. Build up the youth so they can handle it better when they grow up.

The article found nearly a third of adults surveyed displayed signs of alcohol abuse and that National Highway Traffic Safety Adminstration drivers age between 21-54 was involved in fatel accidents that are more likely to be drunk then teens. I think society seems to more focused on people under 21 because of peer pressure and do not want them to start the addiction.

The researcher found that people focus more on the "underage" groups and people under 21, when they should focus on the middle-aged male. Middle-aged males have the means to purchase alcohol, but "underage" people do not. The people under 21 most likely get their alcohol from their parents, whether it be by stealing it or by their parents giving it to them. I think that the reason they focus more on people under 21 is because they are trying to prevent them from becoming problem drinkers in the future. But I feel that it is seemingly unproductive because they usually get their alcohol from their parents who can legally buy alcohol.
Not to say it is absolutely unproductive because some of the people under 21 has no choice but to wait until they are of legal age. I think that there are more fatal car accidents between males aged 30-64 than those under 21 because the legal drinkers are more laxed with their drinking because they are legal. Whereas, the others have to be more careful not to get caught.

The key finding of the article is the fact that the emphasis is placed on the wrong group of people. It should be placed less on the underage drinkers and more on the alcohol abusers, who in this study were found to most likely be people from the ages of 30 to 64. Our society tends to ignore the problem drinkers mostly because these people often have more social power.

Teenagers have the peer pressure about drinking and drugs. They often given in and it usually results in major choas. Older people drink because they are stressed and it relaxes them, but they normally think they are mature enough and responsible enough to drink the way they do, and usually that isn't the case. They end up with DUIs and fatal car accidents.

Drinking is not a teenage problem it's an national problem. The way we view drinking and entertaining is so embedded in us that it would take 100 physcologist to figure it out. We focus on teenagers because we're good parents. We care about our children's health and safety. We totally ignore the fact that there's a six pack of corona in the fridge. We sit with our friends and family watch the football game drinking beer, liquor etc. What do you think our kids see and think? The older generation love to say. Do what I say and not what I do to their children. So the next time you take a drink think about whose watching.

People mainly focuse on kids under twenty one because were seen as a stereotype. And people over twenty one are highly influential on our lives, so when we see our parents and elders drinking, occasionally to excess, we see nothing wrong.

I think that people too often assume that a person over 21 is responsible. That is not always the case. Sure people under that age can not drink,but it should not be because they are not responsible enough. That is a ridiculous reason. I know plenty of people who are responsible,but under that age. People under 21 are viewed as heavy drinkers or party people, which is not always the case. People over the age should be looked at in the same light. They are just as capable of abusing alcohol as someone under the age.

teens really do drink more than adults in my opinion because adults mainly drink to relieve stress and teens just do it all the time just to be cool

i believe teens drink more than adults because of peer pressure and to fit in but i also think adults are more selectable to suicide because of alcohol related depression.

I think that people should be the same on everyone. Because at time teens do drink because they think is cool however its said that you learn a lot at home so maybe they see their parent drink and that could be the problem. Adults at times have a drink too many when they have a problem not knowing that what they do their children are watching and learning. Yes we should help the teens out but also help the ones 21 and older first so they can be role models and show you how it is to be done. And not let the whole purpose of having a drink to get drunk.

People mailnly focused on the young adults abusing alcohol while the adults are dependimg on it maybe because of stress but abusing alcohol at all is not cool

Society focuses more on underage drinking then adults drinking because underage drinking is illegal. It's not illegal for an adult to get drunk. So when a teenager drinks its a bigger deal, therefore, we as a society focus more on them.

The focus on teen drinking or under age drinking is mainly because the alcohol company and older adults trying to seem responsible. See if they put the focus on something else their issues will not be brought into the light. They won't see the older mans drinking problem if the spot light is put on the younger person that cannot legally drink. No problem more liquor sales from the adult.

Teen drinking is something that cant be stopped the only thing we can do is educate our kids and let them know that alcohol is dangerous.The group with the most problems was the 30 to 60 group many people in this group have power and vote so many time the government doesn't challenge what this group wants to do because of their voting power

One of the key findings in the research of this article is that the group that was most likely to have abused alcohol was between the ages of 30 and 64. Society tends to focus on teens and drinking more in my opinion because it is against the law for teens to drink. Some teens get a thrill out of living on the edge by breaking the drinking age law. Society tends to be uncaring of the fact that there are many broken homes due to adult alcoholism just because it is not against the law for adults over the age of 21 to drink.

One of the key findings in this article is that it was found that the majority of drinkers are found in older people. The ages of these drinkers range from 34-60. A lot of times we focas on the ages under 21 because it is against the law and teens are just doing it to be rebelious. What society seems to forget is that the real problems with drinking are the older fathers who abuse alcohol on a daily basis and break their homes into shambles over it.

I think underage drinking is wrong and that the companys that sell alcohol should be more stricted and responisble for underage drinkers.

In the article i read that people aged 30-64 were more likely to abuse alcohol, less than a quarter of alcohol abusers seeked treatment, and nearly a third of adults surveyed displayed signed of alcohol abuse. We tend to focus on the alcohol use of those with least social power. Research feel that children who grew up in a home with at least one parent consuming alcohol were more likely to experience high levels of instability and perhaps also become abusers.

I believe that society tend to focus on the people under 21 than older people with a problem because society feels that older people are more responsible while drinking alcohol than under age people.

I believe at any age one can abuse alcohol. I think teens do it to be cool while older people do it as a habit. no matter how old or how young one can damage their mind,body , and soul abruising alcohol.

I think that underage drinking is the main focus because you have all these adults teaching teens that its ok to drink as long as you don't get "carried away". This is where the problem begins because now not only is it ok for the teen to drink but its also ok for them to get addicted to it. We focus more on underage drinking because we need to be trying to prevent it so that when they become adults they can teach children whats right. Society needs to realize its not about who is doing it but changing our society for the better!

Our society is focusing more on underage drinking. While underage drinking is an issue, we can not lose sight of those with an addiction. We feel we should teach our younger children not to drink at an early age, but what about those who are legal and have aproblem with alcohol. We do not do enough as a society to help those who are already effected by alcohol. It is just as important to get an addict some help as it is to prevent a teen from trying alcohol. One is nor more important than the other. Even if we do prevent teen from drinking, we have no control or moral abligation to them when they become of age. This is alarming that we would think this. We are basically saying it is ok to be addicted to alcohol or drink alcohol as long as you are of legal age. What kind of hypocritcal message is this to send to our teens.

Many of the surprising aspects in this article is that many people have a problem and dont even know it. They preetend or dont even ackowledge the fact that they need help. Also, I was surprised at the age group of people who drink the most. The middle aged adults are the majority of the Americans who have alcohol on a regular basis. It seems as if many people ignore the fact that a fellow friend or co-worker might have a problem because it may seem they have there life together. So hey why wouldnt they have there drinking together too. It seems as if most or not all of the attention is on the underaged drinkers than the actual closet alocholics that are right in front of our faces.

It is easier to have help for teenagers who are abusing alcohol instead of 30 to 60 year olds. Usually teenagers take alcohol to the extereme and they like to advertise it all and put many other people in danger. I am not a drinker and I have learned from my grandad who is an alcoholic what is right and what is not. He did not have that opportunity.

I believe our society seems to ignore many problem drinkers and focus so much on people under 21 is because hey could maybe feel like if the issue is targeted and dealt with now, then the problem of alcohol abuse now want be a problem in the young adults future. It may also be easier to convince someone of a younger generation the future effects of alcohol abuse now because after a certain age most people feel like what’s already done is done and there is nothing that they can do to change. It. Also we know what men are much more likely to be arrested for drinking and driving. Drivers aged 21-54 involved in fatal accidents are more likely to be drunk that teen s and “under aged” adults therefore the older population of drinkers does cause problems.

Alcohol, no matter who it is consumed by, should always be consumed in moderation. The middle age generation loves to point the finger to the younger generation and talk about how irresponsible we are. Maturity and responsibility varies with the person. This study proves that.

Some of the key findings discussed in this article is that most of the alcohol abusers are white men in middle adulthood who earn $70,000 or more. Another finding is that people still focus on alcohol drinkers of the lower class and those whom are minorities, women, and people with HIV/AIDS. I believe society ignores the problem drinkers and focuses on people under 21 simply because there is more control to be taken over on individuals under 21. The government can restrict what age we vote, drink, and when we get our license. Other countries allow their teens to drink as early as age 14 and those teens drink responsibly because alcohol is not as taboo as it is in America. By providing or introducing and making these taboo ideas acceptable in our society I believe we can open the doors for less negativity throughout.

This article points out that older people are more abusive to alcohol than younger people.I personally think that younger people drink and doesn't think about the affects it will have on them. Many young drinkers become irresponsible to thier actions.Some adults tend to do the same ,but can limit their use.Not all understand that it affects their mental status.Most adults need to think of the impact it has on their upcoming children.

to me there is really no age for alcoholism because you have under age drinking,middle age drinkers and older age drinkers. true enough older poeple drink because the have problems with health or just everyday issues. you have underage drinkers who see their parents and say well whan mom or dad have a problem they drink or mom and dad drive drunk so why cant i do it. society is influencing kids to do wrong hey say well if u cant buy it let someone who is old enough to buy it get it for you.their is really no certain age for alcohol abuse.

I rarely leave comments on articles, but your article encouraged me to compliment your writings. Thanks for the read, I will tweet your post and come back occasionally.

I rarely leave comments on articles, but your article encouraged me to compliment your writings. Thanks for the read, I will tweet your post and come back occasionally.

True, true. Now, for adults, it's okay to drink in moderation. However, if you have issues and severe drunken behavior, then it's probably time to acknowledge that you have a problem. You need to seek help and control that negative urge of yours.

In turn, success in avoiding severe drinking can provide a positive example to others, both young and adult.

I think it is very interesting how you connected the study to social patterns of the past. Because of past stereotypes, it surprised me to here that middle aged white males were the most likely to abuse alcohol. You made eye opening points that I never thought about before. I never realized how the ones pointing fingers at another group are usually apart of the demographic described in the research. I am apart of the young generation and see problems with alcohol; however, I feel that sometimes, it is exaggerated by media. Other problems that stem from alcohol are pushed aside. This could be because the news viewers are middle aged people who do not want to hear their own problems, but the problems of the younger demographic: their children. I feel alcohol creates a variety of problems and can be a very dangerous thing.

Yes you are right!I'm 23 years old now and to be honest, we drink a lot with my friends when I was in Highschool until College without control. Being a teenager is the age of exploring and trying new experiences. Sometimes it makes me think that drinking alcohol will make me look cool on my classmates and friends. Furthermore, I reached adult life now and I started working, I drink very often. Alcohol makes me relax from stressful work. It should be balanced and moderate.

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