Secondhand Drinking

How Alcohol Abuse Hurts People Around Us

Secondhand drinking is a real issue. While most who struggle with alcohol abuse or dependence are convinced that they’re only affecting themselves, unfortunately, this couldn’t be farther from the truth. 

A recent study published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs found that around 53 million people in the US – that’s one out of every five adults – experience harm by someone else’s alcohol use. The report showed that, not unlike secondhand nicotine use related smoke, drinking “causes significant harm to those other than the drinker.” 

That harm can come in the form of harassment, violence, property damage, car accidents or family and interpersonal problems. Researchers are calling for more attention to what they see as a “significant public health issue.”

Alcohol’s Profound Effects On Those We Love

When in the throes of alcohol abuse, it’s easy to miss the larger picture – one that includes a worrying amount of collateral damage. This can range from feeling threatened or unsafe, to finding yourself in the passenger seat with a drunk driver, to incurring financial problems as the partner of someone struggling with alcohol addiction. 

Recovering alcoholic Sean Mahoney recalls the people he later realized were caught in the wake of his alcohol-addicted behavior: “From the landlords I didn’t pay and the employers I worked for while intoxicated… to the cab drivers I would harass from the backseat, there were a slew of people taken down by my tequila-soaked tsunami. When you add those people to the list of family members, friends, coworkers, roommates, and neighbors who all suffered some sort of emotional fallout due to my drinking, the damage doesn’t look so minimal.”

How Alcohol Addiction Hurts Our Families

Alcohol addiction often has as serious consequences for family members as it does for those doing the drinking. That’s because, while in the worst moments of addiction there is an unconsciousness as to the full extent of what is happening. While families are sober, they are experiencing actions in full. Watching your child, sibling or parent turn into someone you don’t recognize – or even someone whose behavior you fear – can be anxiety-producing to say the least. If they’re concerned about high-risk behavior, your family members may harbor feelings of stress and depression every day, and may eventually develop their own mental health issues as a result. 

Alcohol abuse can affect your family in a number of ways – from seemingly minor issues like embarrassing others at a family get-together, to serious concerns like forgetting to pick a child up from school. Grandparents who struggle with alcohol misuse may find themselves being denied access to seeing their grandchildren. This can be the final straw to compel many older people to finally seek treatment.   

Relationship Conflict: Are Secondhand Drinking Effects of Alcohol To Blame?

Numerous studies show the negative impact that alcohol has on relationships. It comes as no surprise that people report higher rates of harassment, sexual assault and violence from partners who are under the influence of alcohol. 

But what may surprise you is just how harmful even small, technically “moderate” amounts of drinking can be to relationships. Because alcohol alters your mood, clouds your judgment and lowers your inhibitions, it’s a leading cause of conflict. But because it’s socially acceptable, the extent of its effects on your relationship can easily go unnoticed. 

Think back to the last few fights you had with your partner – how many times was alcohol a factor? 

“Alcohol can impact your mood.” Says marriage and family therapist April Eldemire. “To be more specific, heavy or even moderate drinking can cause a person to be more aggressive, disinhibited, defensive, sensitive, and irrational. These psychological effects can persist even after alcohol is out of your system, and in the long term can change brain function.”

And it’s not just romantic relationships that become casualties of alcoholism – friendships are often broken off as an eventual outcome of alcoholic behavior, too. 

Secondhand Drinking – Related Career Costs

The effects of our drinking also extend to another important type of relationship in our lives: those of our workplace. While we may not realize it, alcohol abuse negatively impacts our employers and coworkers. Whether it’s due to drinking during work hours or coming into work severely hungover (or not at all) after a long night out. The consequences of alcohol abuse in the workplace include: 

  • Hours that coworkers must cover
  • Lost productivity 
  • Increased workplace injuries and worker’s compensation claims
  • Decreased employee morale  
  • Mistakes on the job
  • More illness and sick days 
  • Problematic interactions with coworkers, e.g. aggressiveness, disrespectfulness and sexual harassment
  • Mentally checking out of tasks and/or sleeping on the job
  • Inefficient or otherwise poor performance 
  • Increased rates of theft
  • Altercations with supervisors

The National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information estimates the cost of substance abuse-related losses in the US to be around $100 billion per year. This figure doesn’t include unquantifiable expenses like diverting company resources to employees’ alcohol-related problems, or their emotional costs to colleagues. 

Alcohol Abuse Affects Us All – Secondhand Drinking & Even Thirdhand Drinking Effects

While alcohol use may remain widely culturally accepted, the truth is there is no safe level of drinking. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse defines binge drinking as five or more drinks at a time for men or four or more drinks for women, once a month. Even drinking levels well below that have a pronounced impact on those around you. 

And in addition to those in your immediate sphere, alcohol abuse hurts us as a society. Alcohol leads to more impaired driving, more police and ambulance calls and more hospital services. Says Timothy Naimi, M.D., M.P.H., of the Boston Medical Center, “[T]he freedom to drink alcohol must be counter-balanced by the freedom from being afflicted by others’ drinking in ways manifested by homicide, alcohol-related sexual assault, car crashes, domestic abuse, lost household wages, and child neglect.”

Alcohol Addiction Treatment Can Turn It All Around

If you’re starting to see the negative impacts of alcohol in your life, the people around you are likely feeling them too. The time to do something about it is now. 

The good news is that compassionate, comprehensive alcohol rehab is available. In recovery, what were once secondhand drinking effects can turn into secondhand recovery benefits. At Serenity Vista, we believe that is possible, and see this amazing transformation commonly. The entire family system begins to heal, and relationships and careers improve.

We offer a deeply personal, small-scale private alcohol addiction treatment program. Our peaceful retreat space is located in the lush mountains of Panama. Boquete is easily accessible from the US and Canada. This perfect setting provides the start of your journey of profound life transformation. Contact us today to learn more.  


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