For as long as alcohol has been around, there have always been negative effects that come from drinking on the individual, their family, and society at large. When alcohol is consumed, it immediately alters a person’s brain chemistry and can lead to impaired thinking and judgment. While the “buzz” or desired effects of alcohol can be enticing, prolonged alcohol use can easily result in alcohol abuse.

Just like any substance that affects the brain’s reward system, alcohol has a high potential for addiction. As you drink more and more, the brain gets rewired and depleted of dopamine, the chemical that is largely responsible for positive mood, memory, and other important functions. As someone continues to drink alcohol over time and in large amounts, they will usually become dependent on alcohol and experience physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms when they stop drinking.

Being addicted and dependant on alcohol has destructive consequences, creating problems at work and home, lost opportunities and mental and physical health problems, among other issues.

While the symptoms of alcohol addiction and the problems it causes are not new, having a better understanding of how alcohol affects the body has improved treatment methods and led to the recognition that addiction is a disease, not a moral failing. Researchers continue to learn more about addiction and dependence, which has led to more effective treatment options. While this progress is encouraging, it’s also important to recognize that the effects of alcohol abuse go beyond the individual who is struggling with addiction.

Researchers are beginning to give attention to the effects of alcohol on society and family, or the “secondhand” effects of alcohol.

What Is a Secondhand Effect of Alcohol?

Alcohol is not just harmful to the person who is drinking. Just like inhaling secondhand smoke from someone else’s cigarette, the harms of alcohol affect those around them.

A 2019 study showed that 1 in 5 American adults were harmed or negatively affected by someone else’s drinking. Of course, “harm” or “negatively affected” are broad terms, so what is a secondhand effect of alcohol and how do you know if you have been harmed by someone else’s drinking?

According to the study, harm referred to any of the following that happened due to alcohol use:

  • Being harassed, bothered, called names or being otherwise insulted
  • Feeling threatened or afraid
  • Having clothes or belongings ruined
  • Having one’s house, car or other property vandalized
  • Being physically harmed
  • Being in a traffic accident
  • Being a passenger in a vehicle with a drunk driver
  • Having family problems or marriage difficulties
  • Having financial trouble

Sometimes, it can be easy to lose sight of how someone else’s drinking is affecting you. When something happens on a daily, weekly or monthly basis, it can become normalized.

Nevertheless, it’s important to acknowledge that these types of behaviors are harmful and can lead to negative short-term and long-term effects like depression, sleeping problems, anxiety, migraines, and digestive issues.

If you recognize that you have been negatively impacted by someone else’s drinking, support groups like Al-Anon can be extremely helpful. If you are looking for treatment for yourself or someone else who is struggling with alcohol addiction, there are many different treatment options. Call or reach out to The Recovery Village today to speak to a representative who can guide you as you begin your path to recovery.