When toxic friends make for toxic drinking

Have you ever had a really bad toxic drinking experience as a result of a toxic friend? You’ve been trying to reduce your drinking, but allowed yourself to be seduced into drinking as I was here?

Many people who have tried to reduce their drinking probably have had this experience. We’re told we’re

“No fun”

“You’re boring, for not drinking”


Living in a toxic allogenic culture

The reason we get this harsh attitude from friends is we’re living in a toxic alcogenic culture. Alcogenic means heavy toxic drinking is normal.

As Ann Dowsett Johnston says

“We live in an alcogenic culture, awash with cheap liquor, where drunkenness is normalised..

We’re swimming in an ocean of cheap alcohol. Our children are in trouble. Women are too. We’re medicating what ails us with our culture’s cheapest drug. And as a culture, we’re in deep denial.” (Link here)

This culture is so strong that even at events for doctors and nurses on public health, you can buy wine at the welcome receptions.(Link here)


Paddy’s Day makes it worse

Paddy’s day makes this sense of being an outsider for not drinking heavily worse. The level of drinking has got so bad the Gardaí even issue warnings not to spoil the day.

Thankfully we’re seeing some chinks of light in this toxic culture. Examples include

Nation currently caught between embracing drunken stereotype or only having a few

Public told to re-evaluate Paddy’s Day Piss up Plans in Event of grand slam win

Young Michael Fry’s Sean Nos send up. The Minster for Cans denying that he does not like drinking

Foil Arms and Hogg’s video at the Patrick’s day parade with the 10 year old being told to drink.


We need to feel connected

After air, food and liquids, the need to feel love- to feel connected to other people is essential. We know that loneliness- not having regular connections to people is a greater risk factor for poor health then even smoking. In England they’ve even appointed a Minister for loneliness.

This is why it is so difficult to go against the social norms which is to drink heavily. So looking at the comedy links above can help us feel less isolated when we feel lost from our friends for drinking less.


Friends may not like us drinking less

We’ve talked previously about how to say no when friends keep pressuring you to drink. But maybe the problem is bigger than simply saying no. What if the only thing you have in common with your friends is drinking as Lucy discovered?

This is pretty tough. At the very time we’re trying to get our drinking under control, we find our friends don’t want us to have a healthy lifestyle. It can really feel like rejection. If we’re also feeling guilt or shame about drinking it can leave us feeling pretty low.


What to do?

Ask yourself a few questions

  • Have you anything in common with these friends other than drinking?
  • Do you enjoy their company when not drinking?
  • Are they likely to keep nagging you if you’re not drinking as much as them?

If most of your answers are no, then sadly you may have to accept these people are not able to provide the friendship you need.   Don’t blame yourself for this though. The problem is with your friends not you.  Allow yourself to grieve and feel sadness over this, that way you’ll be able to move on.


What next?

After you’ve accepted the loss of your friends, it’s time to take action. After all, those hours spent toxic drinking now have to be filled as well. Lucy has some tips on this.

In our toxic alcogenic society it can be hard to find other friendships. So next week we’ll have some tips on this.





Even moderate drinking affects your brain power

It’s so hard to know what is safe moderate drinking. Different countries use different measures and there are so many  research studies saying  different things from moderate drinking protects your heart to there is no safe level of drinking.


 Why is there so much confusion about moderate drinking?

A big problem is the money spent by big alcohol to fight  efforts by government and public health care professionals  to develop common standards. Recently here in Ireland they launched an “independent” report stating alcohol consumption was declining when alcohol consumption actually went up 5% in Ireland last year.

Many of the earlier studies showing there are health benefits from moderate drinking are now shown to be flawed. They compared people who had given up drinking for health reasons to people who were still drinking. This meant the people who had given up drinking had more health problems than the people who were still drinking!


There is no safe level of drinking

The reputable British journal  the  Lancet brought together a number of experts who concluded that overall alcohol is a more harmful drug than even heroin or cocaine.

So the public health experts have concluded there is no safe level of drinking.

So now they talk about low risk drinking limits and moderate drinking.  For women this is  eleven or less standard drinks and two drink free days. See the picture below for an example of a low risk drinking week.

  moderate drinking


Even moderate drinking decreases your brain power

Worryingly a new research study states that even moderate drinking can affect your brain power. The researchers did brain function tests including  MRI scans and adjusted for age, social class and smoking. They found that even those people drinking to low risk guidelines were more likely to have damage known as hippocampal atrophy. The hippocampus is a key part of the brain for remembering and learning. The researchers found  even moderate drinking  affects memory and ability to move around spaces.

The more people drank the more brain damage they had.

 You can see a report on the study here.


The majority of people who drink, drink too much.

In the same article, of 800 people who responded 57% felt they needed to reduce their drinking. This confirms earlier HRB reports that the majority of Irish people who drink are abusing alcohol.  


 moderate drinking



Reducing your drinking is a good idea

So for the sake of our poor brain and to reduce the risk of dementia we should reduce the amounts we drink. For some quick tips on reducing the harm that drinking can cause  please click here.

Remember the 7 myths of alcohol advertising

On St Patrick’s Day, our annual festival of binge drinking, we’re surrounded by the 7 myths of alcohol advertising  that drinking  is sexy, desirable and harmless.
Research shows that Irish children as young as 8 years believe  drinking is part of being Irish. This  was not always so. In the 1960’s on average each person drank half of what we drink now.
The alcohol industry has had a key role in promoting increased drinking and has created these 7  myths about drinking.

1.Drinking is a risk free activity that does not harm

Ads  tell us it  is all right, to be obsessed by alcohol, to consume large amounts of it on a daily basis and to have it be a part of all our activities. At the same time, all signs of trouble and any hint of addiction are erased.

2.You can’t survive without drinking

In general, advertising is expert at making the celebration of drinking itself – not a holiday, festivity or family event – a reason for imbibing. It creates a belief that alcohol is essential for life, it is essential to help us connect to other people. We’ll be condemned to a lonely, grey and two-dimensional wasteland, a half-life if we don’t drink.

3.Problem drinking behaviours are normal

A shot of a sunset-lit bridge, captioned “At the end of the day, even a bridge seems to be heading home for Red,” is actually advertising not just Scotch, but daily drinking. Often symptoms of alcohol, such as the need for a daily drink, are portrayed as not only normal, but desirable.

 4. Alcohol is a magic potion that can transform you

Alcohol advertising often spuriously links alcohol with precisely those attributes and qualities – happiness, wealth, prestige, sophistication, success, maturity, athletic ability, virility and sexual satisfaction – that the misuse of alcohol destroys.
For example, alcohol is linked with romance and sexual fulfilment, yet it is common knowledge that drunkenness often leads to sexual dysfunction. Less well known is the fact that people with drinking problems are seven times more likely to be separated or divorced.

5. Sports and alcohol go together

Alcohol consumption actually decreases athletic performance. However, numerous sponsorships like Leinster’s rugby official drink of Guinness, wrongly imply that sports and alcohol are safe complementary activities.  The importance of these sponsorships to the alcohol industry is demonstrated by the approximate forty times in just three months our Government was contacted when they proposed to ban these sponsorships. The proposed  legislation has now been watered down.

6. If alcohol was that  dangerous the media would tell us

The drinks industry spend a lot of money with the media so they are often reluctant to bite the hand that feeds them.  Although many media feature occasional stories about alcoholism, they usually treat it as a personal problem and focus on individual treatment solutions. Reports that probe alcohol’s role in violence and other chronic problems are rare. For example when discussing the hospital  trolley bed problem, there is never any mention of the fact that 1,500 of our 11,000 hospital beds are occupied by people with alcohol related illnesses. The role advertising plays in encouraging alcohol use are  almost never discussed.

7. Alcohol companies promote moderation in drinking

Campaigns say, “Drink sensibly”” as opposed to “Know when to say no.” In the guise of a moderation message. This slogan actually suggests to young people that drinking alcohol is one way to demonstrate their control. It also perpetuates the myth that  people abusing alcohol are simply people who “don’t know when to say when,” irresponsibly engaging in wilful misconduct. Rather than people who are suffering from a problem,  that afflicts at least one in 10 drinkers.

A recent Irish campaign promoted “Don’t see a great night wasted”.
Sadly the research shows that many young people actually go out to get wasted so this ad could actually encourage more drinking.

See yourself as some one with more insight

While we all have a personal responsibility for our alcohol misuse, knowing & understanding these myths are important.  It  enables us to understand how brainwashed we are into believing that alcohol is essential to a happy and fulfilling life and why it is so difficult to manage our drinking.  When we talk to our clients about this, many of them get so angry because they’ve seen their alcohol misuse as a very  personal failing, rather than a result of a  society in denial about our drink problems. One comment says it all.

 “Only in Ireland, would the person with the  mineral  be seen as pregnant or an alcoholic”

So this  St Patrick’s day,  try not to  feel isolated and lonely because you’re not drinking the way the rest of society does. You’re not taking Jameson’s advice to “be  orignal and pick a whiskey to match your  Paddy’s day celebrations”!
Maybe see yourself as some one with more knowledge and  insight into the damage alcohol does than most people.

We’ve drawn much of this article from the excellent work of Jean Kilbourne and if you’d like to read more on this topic please, click here.

A  happy St Patrick’s day to you all.