Alcoholism in Three Distinct Societies
This paper will explore the social problem of Alcoholism in three different societies around the world. Alcoholism is perhaps the most common form of drug abuse in North America today. Poet Ogden Nash was quoted as saying “Candy is dandy, but liquor is quicker.” We will first look at Alcoholism in American society today, and also at a sub-culture within the United States, the Amish. This is a culture of people located in North America, primarily the Northeastern region of the United States. The last culture, that of Russia, which stretches from the Baltic and Black seas to the Pacific Ocean and takes up almost half of the world’s time zones. These three cultures differ not only in what types of liquor they predominantly drink, but in how (if) they receive treatment for their problem, and if they even recognize Alcoholism as being a problem.
In 1995, in the United States 67% of all the population over the age of 12 reported drinking alcohol with in the previous year. Even more astounding, is the fact that nearly 50% reported drinking some type of alcoholic beverage with in the past month. Scientists report that the reason alcohol is so popular to drinkers is because it is pleasant, relaxing, and is considered a “social beverage.” But what the drinkers often do not take in to consideration are the facts that alcohol dulls the brain and confuses physical reactions. This leads to numerous injuries, accidents, and death. Roughly 1.3 million people are arrested for driving drunk each year. As a result of the drunk drivers, 25,000 deaths occur each year in America. More 16 to 24 year olds are killed as a result of drunk driving or are involved in accidents where someone is driving drunk than any other age group in the nation.
Many Americans believe that alcohol acts as a “social lubricant.” Many expect all increased social pleasures, talkativeness and even happiness when they drink in these situations. Alcohol is said to reduce tension and anxiety. This in turn allows drinkers to feel more relaxed and comfortable in social situations. However, this also encourages the drinker to drink more when under more stress.
Many scientists believe that alcohol triggers violence. Alcohol is believed to directly stimulate feelings of power and the need to dominate. Often times alcoholic have a tendency to abuse their children and their spouse. Many times, alcoholics come from an abusive home and they have a history of alcoholism in the family already. There are many treatment programs and support groups available in the United States today that can help. However, most of the time the alcoholics refuse to admit they have a problem with their drinking, so it goes untreated.
The Amish are members of a conservative Christian group in North America. While they are part of the United States as well, their culture is significantly different from that of the ‘average’ American in society. The Amish originated in Europe by a group who introduced washing of feet into the worship service and taught that church members should dress in a uniform manner, that beards should not be trimmed, and that it was wrong to attend services in a state church. Amish settlements sprang up in Switzerland, Germany, Russia, and Holland, but migration to North America in the 19th and 20th centuries gradually eliminated the Amish in Europe. The Amish began migrating to North America early in the 18th century and first settled in eastern Pennsylvania, where a large settlement is still found.
Alcoholism is somewhat of a problem in the Amish community. Of thirty-two patients at a mental institution, three of them were there for drinking (Huntington 669). The Amish do not condemn the “occasional’ drinker, only he who “makes a greater effort to fill his wine cup than to attend church” (671). The Amish usually get drunk from hard cider or wine, alcohols derived from fruits.
The Amish are taught not to make spectacles of themselves in front of Englishmen. “I never saw a drunk Amishman, nor did any of the English neighbors” (669). Because of this, the Amish Alcoholic is most likely to drink alone in his home. The problem drinker is not shunned from the church but is banned from receiving communion. When the alcoholic “feels he is ready to take communion” (671), the church welcomes him back.
Help for the Amish alcoholic is usually self-driven. There is no objection from the church to members with problems with alcohol joining Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). “One Amish man I spoke with said he was a ‘better Amish’ since he joined AA” (670). This could be due to the fact that the program is based on spirituality and turning things over to a “higher power.” In fact, one AA group that held meetings near an Amish community said that almost half of it’s members were Amish, though “…they were all Amish men, no Amish women” (671).
Soviet citizens of all types and ages find it easy to purchase alcoholic drinks, especially vodka (as the price is lowest). Vodka is liquor made from fermented potatoes. These drinks are sold everywhere, in the streets, in boots, bars, and “drink stands called ‘green sentry boxes’” (Field 106).
In the Soviet Union there is a “close relationship between housing conditions and the consumption of alcohol” (Sosnovy 219). As dwelling space decreases, the spending on alcohol increases. Hard drinking seems to be most widespread through soviet manual workers. “Apparently it is considered a sign of manliness…” (Field 103). Alcohol consumption produces a negative impact on their output at work. Products are not made as well, production falls, employees are often absent, and this often lead to them being demoted or even fired. Though it seems to be most common in lower sectors of society, “…Gladkov points out that…people in all walks of Soviet culture drink to excess” (103).
The author of one article describes the scene at a Moscow hotel dining room. He compares the number of drinks to “just as many as at American college fraternity dances” (MacDuffie 34). He observed that there were more “drunks” in Moscow itself than other parts of the country.
There is no mention made of “AA” or any such rehabilitation programs, but of “Turkish bath treatments” which are one-night compulsory treatments for drunkards that are arrested in public. The Soviet Ministry of health, however, is trying to help remedy toe problem by implementing a number of programs, including “demonstrations of the harmful consequences of Alcohol for the human organism” (Field 107).
Alcoholism is a problem all over the world in different cultures. Even in cultures, like the Amish, where Americans probably assume that it would not be an issue. People become alcoholics for social and cultural reasons and possibly because of genetics. In all three cultures, the Alcoholism tends to run in families; many children of alcoholics end up alcoholics themselves. Usually these children of alcoholics grow up to marry alcoholics and create the same stressful factors they had in their childhood, passing on their alcoholic genes to their children.
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