Impacts of Secondhand Drinking are as Real as those of Secondhand Smoking
Recall the early 1970s – many adults smoked cigarettes, we didn’t use bike helmets, infant car seats hadn’t been invented, and we rarely used our seat belts. And think about how we viewed and treated HIV-Aids!
All of that changed drastically in just 20+ years — simply because people started talking about and sharing the new research about the impacts of a person’s cigarette smoke on the health of others; the lives that could be saved if seat belts were used; the head injuries that could be prevented when bike helmets were worn; and the health crisis that could be arrested and the lives saved when people understood HIV was a body fluid to body fluid transmitted disease that could be treated and prevented. But it was not just their learning of the research, it was their taking action as they gathered knowledge.
There’s a similar sea change when it comes to secondhand drinking – the other side of alcohol misuse.
The science is now available to help the 90 million Americans who struggle with secondhand drinking change how they cope with and how they protect themselves from the negative impacts of a person’s drinking behaviors. Drinking behaviors occur with alcohol misuse, which is when a person drinks more than their liver can metabolize causing the ethyl alcohol chemicals in alcoholic beverages to change the brain’s cell-to-cell communication. This in turn changes a person’s behaviors and results in their doing things they just wouldn’t do if sober, such as: verbal, physical or emotional abuse, crazy arguments, yelling, blaming, shaming, sexual assault, DUI, passing out, showing up for work hungover….
The Science Behind the Impacts of Secondhand Drinking
When a person regularly deals with someone’s drinking behaviors, it changes them. It changes them mostly because the emotions it triggers (fear, anxiety or anger, for example) trigger the brain’s Fight-or-Flight Stress Response System (FFSR).
Like other instinctual or automatic neural network wiring occurrences in the brain (puberty, for example), the FFSRS is hardwired. It is a system that was intended to kick into gear when a person is faced with physical danger. This makes sense when we think of “back in the day,” when the main danger humans faced was physical danger, as in, “Run or Fight but don’t just stand there!”
This connection is described in my article appearing in the University of Texas Center for Neurobehavioral Research on Addiction’s CNRA Connections, “Secondhand Drinking” (begins on pages 7-8).” This is important to understand for it is ongoing stress that causes the physical, emotional and quality of life impacts that make secondhand drinking a health concern and a workplace issue.
Note: these same concepts apply to secondhand drugging – the negative impacts of a person’s drug misuse behaviors on others.
Following the Secondhand Smoking Pevention Model
When, as a society, we took the focus off the smoker and instead focused on the new science that explained what a person’s cigarette smoke did to the health of others in its proximity, we had a sea change. Finally, people could understand 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 secondhand drinking (SHD). Finally, people experiencing SHD-related stress can understand coping with a person’s drinking behaviors is the cause of their health conditions. These can include: sleep difficulties, migraines, anxiety, depression, stomach ailments, skin problems and many other health concerns. And like the secondhand smoking prevention model, they can employ new [brain] science to prevent and/or reverse these impacts.
And just as smokers started changing their smoking patterns once they understood what their cigaratte smoke was doing to others, so too have alcohol misusers changed their drinking patterns once they understood what their drinking behaviors were doing to others.
Secondhand drinking prevention is not about stopping a person’s right to drink. It’s about stopping drinking behaviors, which occur when a person drinks more than their brain and liver can process.
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 it is 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.
And Why Take on Secondhand Drinking Prevention in the Workplace?
To answer this question, I refer you to my blog post, “Why Take on Secondhand Drinking in the Workplace.”
And for a workplace prevention training program, I refer you to my blog post, “Solution to Reduce Workplace Impacts of Alcohol Misuse | Secondhand Drinking.”