Why the term Secondhand Drinking and why now? This article is Part 2 in BreakingTheCycles.com’s celebration of April as Alcohol Awareness Month, 2014.
As shared in last week’s post, Secondhand Drinking (SHD) is the other side of the drinking equation.
What is Secondhand Drinking
Secondhand drinking (SHD) is a term to describe the negative impacts of a person’s drinking behaviors on others. Drinking behaviors are not intentional. Rather they are what happen when alcohol changes the way a person’s brain works.
Secondhand drinking directly affects approximately 90 million Americans. This is five times the number of people who are causing drinking behaviors. These behaviors include verbal, physical or emotional abuse, driving while impaired, domestic violence, committing a crime or sexual assault, to name a few.
What Happens to the Person Experiencing Secondhand Drinking
People on the receiving end of drinking behaviors experience a range of negative impacts, such as:
- Deeply hurt feelings, loosing one’s self-esteem, walking on eggshells.
- Having to deal with the fall-out of someone driving while impaired, whether that is death or injury or ticketed DUI, for example.
- Recovering from a broken arm after a brutal beating or sexual assault.
- Developing depression or anxiety, feelings of hopelessness or helplessness.
- Taking medications for stomach ailments or sleep disorders.
- Unable to concentrate at work or in school, worried about what happened or will happen.
- Losing friends, dreading social events, trying to keep track of a constant stream of white lies and cover-ups.
- Changed family dynamics, divorce.
- Developing a substance abuse problem.
Why the Term Secondhand Drinking
It is similar to the idea that secondhand smoke causes health problems for those exposed to a person’s smoking. This “thing” related to a person’s drinking behaviors (this secondhand drinking) causes health and quality-of-life problems for those exposed to it.
SHD’s negative health impacts are typically caused by the brain’s fight-or-flight stress response system (FFSRS). This system and these impacts will be described later in this series of articles. For now, it is important to understand that people coping with ongoing stress, like many of the 90 million Americans directly affected by SHD, often experience the quality of life impacts described above, as well as physical and mental health problems. These can include: sleep difficulties, migraines, anxiety, depression, stomach ailments, skin problems, obesity, and many other health conditions.
A Common Term for Underlying Symptoms
The 90 million Americans experiencing SHD-related stress have no idea that secondhand drinking is the cause of their health conditions. They have no idea it is a reason for their relationship problems or their quality-of-life or their work and school performance issues. Thus they have no idea how to use “The Science of Why” to counter SHD and avoid these impacts.
Without a common term to talk about the common thread – impacts of a person’s drinking behaviors on others – millions of Americans, like Joanne, Susan, Adam and his mom, experience SHD’s unchallenged march through their lives. Not only this, but their repeatedly coping with SHD experiences changes them in ways that extends SHD impacts to those whose lives they touch. These are the millions more people who are indirectly affected by SHD. (Check out what happens to people like Susan’s partner, Adam’s teacher and classmates and John’s co-workers shared in last week’s article).
These same kinds of situations were true for people exposed to secondhand smoke. They had no idea another person’s cigarette smoke was the reason for their severe asthma attacks, respiratory infections, ear infections, heart disease or lung cancer. Just as things changed for people exposed to secondhand smoke when new scientific research became available, so too can things change for people exposed to SHD.
DISCLAIMER: This series of articles on SHD is NOT about stopping a person’s right to drink. It is about helping readers understand SHD and what they can do to prevent it or to protect themselves if faced with it.
We have been talking around secondhand drinking for ages. We have been using concepts and terms such as:
- Absenteeism, Lost Productivity, Safety Risks, Health Care Costs, Employee Wellness in the workplace.
- A Right of Passage, Something All Young People Do, Just a Phase in our schools and amongst parents.
- Mental illness, Physical and Emotional Health Diagnoses in our visits with doctors.
- Divorce, Loss of Employment, Failure in School, Domestic Violence, Death by Suicide, Child Abuse, Bullying, Alcohol-related Crime and Recidivism, Drunk Driving and Public Health and Safety in our workplaces, families, friendships and communities.
- Codependency, Enabling in addiction treatment and recovery circles.
But these concepts and terms only address the symptoms. Just as treating asthma or respiratory infections or ear infections without removing the secondhand smoke only addressed the symptoms of the underlying cause, another person’s cigarette smoke.
Thus The Time Is Now Because The Science Is Now Available
It is now possible to follow the secondhand smoking prevention model and use 21st century brain research to explain the science of:
- Why is it that exposure to SHD causes stress?
- What stress has to do with possible brain changes and what these brain changes have to do with physical and emotional health?
- Why people keep engaging in drinking behaviors even though it hurts the people they love the most?
- Why alcohol chemically changes how the brain works (which is a key cause of drinking behaviors) and what the liver has to do with it?
No One Sets Out To Cause Secondhand Drinking And No One Sets Out To Cope With It In Harmful Ways
This science and this common term can help those causing and those coping learn what it takes to change.
Visit again next week to read more about this science in Part 3 of my Alcohol Awareness Month 2014 celebration!
©2014 Lisa Frederiksen – the above article shares portions from two upcoming books of mine. One is a book titled, Secondhand Drinking in Our Workplaces, Schools, Families and Communities. The other is a very abbreviated version (from which this piece is taken) for a QuickSeries guide, titled, Secondhand Drinking: Prevention and Protection, to be published later this year for use by the Department of Veterans Affairs, Army, Navy, U.S. Forest Service and similar groups.
If you have questions or would like to talk further about secondhand drinking or my SHD consulting, training and presentation services for individuals, families and businesses, please give me a call at 650-362-3026 or email me at lisaf@BreakingTheCycles.com
In case you are reading this out of sequence, here are the links to all posts in this series: