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Time for an honest conversation about alcohol abuse

Alcohol abuse is rising and, in many countries, young female drinkers are driving that growth. Here’s a provocative opinion piece by Kiri Rupiah, the social media editor of the Mail & Guardian.

The worst part about not drinking alcohol is having to tell people why you don’t drink. It’s difficult because drinking usually occurs at a time when it’s expected for everyone to imbibe — at dinner, at a party or after work when we’re unwinding.

Why don’t I drink? Is it a religious issue? Am I pregnant? Nope. I don’t drink because it is my thing.

In the brief time I did drink, I took to it a little too well, and it scared me. Being unable to remember the time, let alone the good time, was worse than the hangovers or the loss of control.

The frightening thing was realising how easily I could lose myself and, by extension, everything, for the love of a piss-up. The cutesy tongue-in-cheek names for booze and knocking it back don’t change the fact that more women in their late 20s are seeking addiction treatment.

Women’s predilection for wine has an underlying dark side — and the only way to deal with it is to acknowledge the profound differences between how women and men abuse alcohol.

For men it appears to be the result of excess; for women, a habit gone haywire.

Alcohol use and alcohol disorders have historically been viewed as a male phenomenon.

Alcohol abuse is rising and, in many countries, young female drinkers are driving that growth.

The evidence is right before our eyes in inescapable alcohol marketing and the feminisation of drinking culture. Alcohol consumption among women is socially acceptable. Women are independent, making their own money and decisions, and so they deserve a break.

And if drinking is escapism on tap, it is also liquid entitlement and empowerment. There’s this feeling of, “I’m doing it all — why shouldn’t I have something for myself?”

If you’re sophisticated, you know your wines, right? If you’re an adult, you can hold your liquor. That’s what we are led to believe. If women can go toe-to-toe with men in the boardroom and surpass them educationally, why shouldn’t they have their own drinking culture?

Those in high-status occupations, working in male-dominated environments and having higher levels of education are almost twice as likely to drink daily as those without such stature.

The alcohol industry, well aware of this reality, is now battling for our happiest hours and our feminism. Alcohol is being marketed as women’s liberation. A woman exerting her choice by making herself incapacitated does not read as a problem. Control — and the decision of when and how to lose it — is the point.

We know that in the mid-1990s the spirit and wine industries were struggling, compared to the old boys’ club of breweries. So, they invented alco-pop — sugar-laden alcohol drinks in pretty packaging to get women to drink — and it paid off beautifully…..

Mail & Guardian: Read the full article


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