Losing our addiction

Alcohol is the great social lubricator, the crutch, the seemingly indispensable part of celebrations great and small.

Wind down after work with a few beers, head out for a big night on the town, or luxuriate in a few fancy reds because it’s the lifestyle you want. When you have a drink you don’t really think of the costs; of the dislocation, the violence or the enormous health ramifications.

Again, it’s just a couple of drinks, no harm in that, which of course is the widespread thinking that means society still has a mighty struggle in accepting the devastating reality.

Alcohol isn’t illegal, is almost omnipresent at so many gatherings, and so just doesn’t have the societal taboos readily attached to supposedly more evil vices.

Mention methamphetamine or cannabis or heroin and many will nod in agreement.

Addiction to these drugs can be devastating, in ways ranging from the physical impact on users to the radiating effects felt by family and the wider community, the latter often because of the law-breaking that goes hand-in-hand with feeding the beast.

Indeed, many say we have gotten nowhere in the “war against drugs” simply because we haven’t worked out an effective approach that goes much beyond the culture of calling it a crime.

And yet so so much closer to all our homes is alcohol. Responsible consumption is the mantra, but this substance’s very chemical nature means that can easily slip beyond our control.

That results in the devastation mentioned earlier, which is why the statistics show the jarring reality. Albury Wodonga Health nurse Gary Croton has pointed out how alcohol and tobacco are the leading causes of drug-related deaths in Australia.

“It really is the elephant in the room, alcohol,” he says, “and the damage from alcohol.”

From there springs a web of damage, of chronic disease, of mental health issues and of violence on the streets and in our homes.

Because it is so entrenched in our everyday lives, there are no simple solutions to the scourge of the booze.

But at the least, taking the very small steps that come with a greater awareness, getting over the denial at the true dangers, can create a society where we all take more responsibility.

That might well be the only true path we can follow, though travel it we must.