This week is Alcohol Awareness Week and the theme is ‘Alcohol and Relationships’.
In our education sessions and, of course, in treatment, Sporting Chance encourages sportspeople to reflect on their own relationship with alcohol.
This week provides an opportunity for all of us to reflect on our relationship with this legal drug, both individually and as a society.
A starting point is the recognition that alcohol is indeed a drug. As a society, we often fail to recognise this. While use of other substances is not tolerated, criminalised and, in some cases, demonised, alcohol use is accepted, promoted and even celebrated as part of our national identity.
For many people and communities, alcohol is a major contributing factor to continuing problems.
The same could be said for use of illegal substances, though we do almost always find that for our clients presenting with addiction to such drugs, alcohol is also part of their problem.
According to the Office for National Statistics, there were 7,423 deaths caused directly by alcohol misuse in England and Wales. That’s a rise of 20% on 2019 and the highest number in any of the previous 20 years.
Many of the reasons people develop problems with and dependency on alcohol are complex and wide-ranging, however one of the contributing factors is the normalisation of alcohol use in our culture.
It is often a problem that is ignored by the media, politicians, friendship groups and in our own families. Is it possible that the reluctance to consider our society’s relationship with alcohol is because that naturally forces us to reflect on our personal relationship with it?
One extreme example was the media coverage of the abhorrent behaviour of a section of football fans around the Euro 2020 final between England and Italy at Wembley.
It is highly likely that the vast majority of people involved in the violent and destructive scenes had been drinking heavily in the day leading up to the match. While it may be too permissive to say that such behaviour is alcohol-induced, it is realistic to suggest that the consumption of alcohol plays a part in this kind of misconduct.
Yet, it was difficult to find any mention of alcohol in most of the widespread press coverage.
Sporting Chance is not anti-alcohol but it is pro-understanding alcohol and our relationship with it. Is it time to change your relationship with alcohol? Is it time for our society to change its relationship with our national drug?