Alcohol is generally regarded as a legally obtainable substance that is often used at social situations. Society regards the use of alcohol as a substance that promotes being social and an enhancement of a person’s social being. In this regard society responds to the use of alcohol as follows:
- Society accommodates the drinking of alcohol. Alcohol is regarded as a socially acceptable way of entertainment and it is publically acceptable to drink and have fun. Alcohol is frequently available at parties and social gatherings where people come together to have fun. In this context, a drunk person is often regarded as funny or different.
- Society actually promotes the drinking of alcohol by means of advertisements and the many pubs / sales outlets that exist in most communities. The sale of alcohol is a major industry in society.
- At times, the environment ‘protects’ a drinking person by treating him / her as a secret or someone who has to be left alone because he or she has the right to make his or her own decision whether to drink or not. Society often turns a blind eye towards excessive drinking. In this way, we may be aware of a person with an alcohol problem but never have the knowledge, courage or skill to intervene. Unfortunately, we may leave such person for years and years without intervening. It is hardly ever realized that some people cannot tolerate alcohol and have a tendency to become severely addicted to alcohol.
- In some workplaces, it often happens that a drinking person is accommodated because after all he is a ‘good worker’ in spite of his drinking. In this regard, the environment allows a person to carry on drinking without putting any pressure on that person to change. In other cases supervisors in the workplace will rather seek opportunities to get rid of drinking employees, putting them out of work because they don’t like them coming to work drunk and they don’t know what to do with people who drink too much.
It may be concluded that in general society is not highly concerned about people who drink, as long as it does not get out of hand too obviously and does not cause a disturbance to society. The above reactions from the environment may be considered tolerant ways in which society responds to alcohol. There are also more constructive ways in which the society responds to alcohol.
- Some people, professionals such as medical practitioners, social workers, psychologists and clergy try to intervene and help the alcoholic in the community by motivating them to get into treatment facilities to arrest their problem of drinking.
- Society may respond more directly by means of legislation that enables the environment to formally commit a drinking person to a state rehabilitation facility such as Magalliesoord (South Africa).
- Organizations and support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous provide an active and supportive environment for the recovering alcoholic, enabling them to live without alcohol in the same drinking environment they come from.
What is Society’s Real Responsibility?
In actual fact, because of the impact of alcoholism on families and communities, society has a responsibility to protect its members from becoming alcoholics. It is up to every person in society to identify the signs of alcoholism and intervene in some way to stop a person from becoming an alcoholic. Far too often the alcoholic is left to drink until he loses everything and end up on the streets. There are many ways in which you can become involved in helping alcoholics to help themselves and recover.
What Can You Do?