Report: The effects of "second-hand" drinking

Second-hand drinking

The consequences of alcohol abuse extend well beyond the actual drinker, as illustrated in a new study that examines the peripheral damages known as second-hand drinking. The study, which surveyed 8,750 male and female US adults, found that one in five US adults had experienced harm within the past year due to someone else’s drinking – be it emotional or physical abuse, damage to property, etc.

As you may have seen in our recent special report about unhealthy behaviors in the workplace, alcohol abuse affects almost a quarter of all US adults. In the country, 6.2% of all adults struggle with alcoholism and 16.7% binge-drink (about 7 drinks) at least four times a month. It is a profoundly expansive problem that disrupts the American workplace, wrecks relationships and homelife, and poisons communities.

Considering the ramifications alcohol has on sleep, stress levels, and general personal life (just to name a few things), it takes little imagination to realize the impact alcohol abuse can have on a worker’s efficiency and ability to work with others. Yet in our opinion, most workplaces are still falling short in helping their employees effectively deal with drinking issues. Here’s why, as well as a simple fix…

Alcohol Abuse and the Workplace

A drinking problem—whether a daily addiction or, more commonly, a regular compulsion to over-indulge (as in binge-drinking)—carries with it a societal stigma and personal shame. Because of this, it’s very difficult for many drinkers to proactively seek help until it’s too late. Waiting to hit the ominous rock bottom is therefore a common strategy—however, the trip there is simply too long and costly for everyone involved. Modern companies would benefit themselves and all their employees (even the teetotalers) by taking rock bottom off the map and making it a destination nobody has to reach before getting help.

Unfortunately, most companies still offer their over-imbibing employees little or no support other than their employee assistance program (EAP), which is typically not well-utilized. Some of the main reasons are that many employees don’t think it’s truly confidential, there’s a stigma attached to reaching out for help (especially for many men), employees often think they have to ask permission from their boss or HR, or they simply aren’t aware of it.

If a drinking problem is noticed by a supervisor, an employee can indeed be referred to the EAP. But the reality is that without intervention by the employer, an employee with a drinking problem is not likely to engage their EAP before their life goes seriously wrong.

In our opinion, this issue can be solved by actively promoting a suitable alcohol management program to the entire organization—not as something that carries a stigma, but rather as an appropriately incentivized activity that is built into the regular employee wellness program.

The SelfHelpWorks Solution

The human brain is a magnificent machine, to be sure, and it defines the human experience: it decodes our surroundings, interprets information, and generates the emotions that drive our actions in life. When a human develops a pattern of abusing alcohol, the effects go beyond the physical. The emotional area deep within the brain begins to interpret the drinking behavior as something essential for survival, as a need rather than a want. This false perception of drinking being necessary for survival creates a debilitating sense of overwhelm for many drinkers who desperately want to stop. They remain stuck in their addiction because “alcohol, the problem” plays a nasty dual role as “alcohol, the relief”—both physically and psychologically.

As earlier noted, the alcohol addiction manifests differently for different people—some feel a regular compulsion to drink every day, while others over-indulge regularly but less often (on weekends, for instance). Our LivingSmart online program is designed to meet participants “where they’re at” and target the addiction at its roots, regardless of what type of drinker they are. By addressing the psychological aspects as well as the physical, LivingSmart empowers the drinker to retrain their brain so that they can effectively and permanently release themselves from the grasp of their drinking addiction.

Companies that offer the LivingSmart program give their employees the opportunity to access the help they need without feeling as if they are exposing some deep, dark secret. The program can be taken from any device that connects to the internet; participants can take the program privately and on their own schedule, devoid of any coercion or pressure. As a participant progresses through the course, they are ushered through a process that gradually exposes and replaces the false beliefs and unconscious thought patterns that have kept them drinking even when they wanted to stop. In short, LivingSmart equips a drinker to literally retrain their brain to break free of the perception of alcohol as a need.

Rock bottom is a cruel place to land and the trip towards it impacts far more than the individual drinker. LivingSmart is the opportunity for employers to benefit the entire organization while offering employees a gentle place to land and a new lease on life.

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