Secondhand Harms of Drinking

Drinking is advertised as a normal, classy, or exciting activity in a lot of cultures. For example, the extreme binge drinking found on college campuses to the vineyard wine tastings—drinking is just what people do. One thing that is not glamorized is the long-term effects of drinking and the effects of secondhand drinking. However, no matter what you drink or how often there are real secondhand harms of drinking. It is important to understand the risks and seek help if the consequences of alcohol have become too much for you. If you are struggling with your drinking and believe it may be a problem, continue reading and then contact our support team at 912-214-3867. We have the tools you need to get sober today. 

The Consequences of Long-Term Drinking  

Drinking has a variety of effects on the body and mind. Over an extended period, these effects grow into lasting consequences. The use of alcohol over ample time can even lead to chronic diseases. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) list some of the other harmful effects of drinking, for instance:  

  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Liver disease
  • Digestive problems 
  • Cancer of the breast, mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, and colon 
  • The weakening of the immune system, increasing the chances of getting sick 
  • Learning and memory problems, including dementia and poor school performance 
  • Mental health problems, including depression and anxiety 
  • Social issues, including loss of productivity, family problems, and unemployment 
  • Alcohol use disorders, or alcohol dependence. 

Also, excessive drinking can be very deadly. According to the CDC, 

Excessive alcohol use led to approximately 93,000 deaths and 2.7 million years of potential life lost (YPLL) each year in the United States from 2011 – 2015, shortening the lives of those who died by an average of 29 years.1 Further, excessive drinking was responsible for 1 in 10 deaths among working-age adults aged 20-64 years. 

So, if drinking impacts so many social, physical, and emotional aspects of a person’s life, why do so many people continue to drink? People naturally like to feel good. Alcohol can provide a fleeting feeling of happiness that makes it so intoxicating. Furthermore, many of the changes alcohol causes are due to the way it activates the brain’s reward system. To put it simply, alcohol triggers the release of positive hormones, like dopamine, making the brain crave it again, so alcohol dependence is one of the risks of long-term consumption. The best way to control these adverse effects is to either stop or limit the amount you drink.

The Secondhand Effects of Alcohol 

Unfortunately, alcohol consumption does not just affect the drinker. Alcohol use, particularly excessive use, can impact everyone around the user. In other words, there is not only harm being done to yourself but harm to the people you love. The secondhand effects of alcohol impact everyone from babies to the elderly. However, let’s take a look at what secondhand drinking is, and exactly how and why it can impact so many people.  

Secondhand Effects on Pregnancy

One of the ways secondhand alcohol use impacts not only the drinker is in the case of pregnancy. The fetus growing inside of pregnant women is impacted by every choice she makes and this includes her decision to drink. According to, “alcohol consumption by pregnant women is the leading cause of preventable birth defects and developmental disabilities in the United States.” Also, if you or a loved one decides to drink while pregnant some of the secondhand impacts on that developing child may include:

  • Small head size
  • Low body weight
  • Hyperactive behavior
  • Poor memory
  • Learning disabilities
  • Vision or hearing problems
  • Poor reasoning

Moreover, this illustrates the power of alcohol dependence and is just one of the effects of secondhand consumption. Not only is it sad to realize these fetal alcohol disorders are completely preventable but also that these secondhand effects can span on far after pregnancy, impacting older children. Likewise, combine the long-term effects drinking has on the pregnant woman herself with what it immediately does to the fetus and it begs you to question if it is worth the risk.

Secondhand Effects on Children and Young Adults

Another consequence of alcohol use is the secondhand impact it has on children and the family unit. Also, heavy alcohol use can create a toxic environment for the entire family. notes the following,  

There are multiple day-to-day challenges that children of heavy drinkers may face. Scientific evidence for impoverished family functioning and ill effects on the lives of children, for example: 

  • Being less likely to complete primary school and among those who progressed to secondary school, grades were some 20% lower when compared to other children 
  • Risk of developing substance abuse disorder themselves
  • Being left in unsafe situations
  • Verbal abuse, physical abuse, or being a witness to serious violence in the home 

Furthermore, people’s decision to abuse alcohol also impacts young adults like college students. Many students reported discomfort with their peer’s decision to drink. According to a survey done by the National Institute of Health (NIH), other secondhand effects included, “interruptions to study or sleep, having to take care of a drunk student, and being insulted or humiliated.” Does that not sound like a pretty awful addition to the stress college students are already facing? Unfortunately, many children and young adults do not recognize that what they are experiencing is the side effects of a disease.  

Moreover, this risk is another reason it is so important to seek help if you struggle to maintain control of your alcohol use. In addition, the secondhand effects of drinking do not stop there, excessive alcohol use can contribute to a variety of risky behaviors that impact society at large. If you are experiencing an secondhand effect, then please contact us today. Let our professionals help you stay safe and healthy. 

The Deadly Secondhand Effects of Alcohol Use

Sadly, excessive alcohol use or dependency impact even those the drinker may not have a personal connection to. One secondhand effect of alcohol use is violence. Some people get aggressive when under the influence of alcohol leading to violent acts like vandalism, property damage, or physical violence.  

Another secondhand effect of alcohol use is risky behaviors. Unfortunately, excessive alcohol use is linked to the spread of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), noise disturbances, and motor vehicle crashes. All of which directly harm the people around the drinker. Nearly, 30 people a day die from drunk drivers in the United States alone. Which means the decision to drink and drive is responsible for the deaths of nearly 10,000 people every year.  

Moreover, alcohol use even has secondhand financial effects. People that suffer from alcohol abuse may spend money they do not have on alcohol, which can impact their families, and people like landlords who are relying on the user’s money management. The Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs (JSAD) notes the following, 

One study found that one in five adults experienced at least one of ten 12-month harms because of someone else’s drinking. The prevalence of specific harm types and characteristics differed by gender. Women were more likely to report harm due to drinking by a spouse/partner or family member, whereas men were more likely to report harm due to a stranger’s drinking. Being female also predicted family/financial harms. 

Alcohol lowers inhibitions. When drunk, you cannot properly assess the consequence of your actions. Your judgment is limited and because of that, sadly, others may suffer too.  

Determining if You Have a Drinking Problem

With all this information how do we combat the secondhand effects of alcohol use? The first step is to identify if you or someone you love may have a drinking problem. If you know that the problem exists you then have the power to make a change.  

Fortunately, most people that may drink excessively are not alcoholics. There are different levels of alcohol consumption. The CDC splits it between moderate drinking and binge drinking. Moderate drinkers stick to only 1 drink a day for women and 2 standard drinks a day for men. While excessive drinkers range from binge drinkers who have at least 4 drinks in one occasion. Or they are heavy drinkers who for women, have more than 8 drinks a week or men who have at least 15 drinks a week.  

Now, if your alcohol usage exceeds even the range for excessive drinkers, you may have alcohol use disorder. Some symptoms of alcohol use disorder or alcoholism include 

  • Inability to limit drinking. 
  • Continuing to drink despite personal or professional problems. 
  • Needing to drink more to get the same effect. 
  • Wanting a drink so badly you can’t think of anything else. 

If you notice alcohol taking a toll on your life and the life of those around you it is time to seek professional help. Most importantly, the sooner you tackle this problem, the sooner you can get rid of the secondhand harms as well. Have you determinded that you have a drinking problem? Then call us today. Our specialists can help you get the help that you need today.  

How to Find Help 

If you are being impacted by your loved one’s alcohol use it can be easy to feel frustrated, angry, or sad. Substance abuse is far from simple and there are so many factors that can go into why someone may become dependent in the first place. Furthermore, it is important to remember to practice compassion with yourself and your loved one. Set the boundaries you need but try to understand what is going on with the drinker.   

Excessive alcohol use not only impacts the user in the long-term, leading to early aging and chronic disease. It is also a financial burden. Alcoholism can destroy families, hurt communities, and even kill. It is worth nipping the problem in the bud immediately before it grows into something worse.  

To summarize, if you suspect you or your loved one cannot control their alcohol use, we can help you. By giving us a call, we can answer any questions you may have, find a treatment center appropriate for you or your loved one, or simply help facilitate your next steps. The last thing you want to do is tackle an issue as big as alcoholism alone. The fostering of a solid support system can be monumental in reducing the secondhand effects of alcoholism. Every action a person takes impacts those around them. As long as you remain aware of your influence on others then no problem is too big to solve. Let us help you start your journey to a happier and healthier life today.

By Meccah Muhammad

secondhand drinking


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