What Are the Secondhand Harms Caused by Alcohol?

Woman holding bottle of alcohol with little boy sitting on the couch in the background

The secondhand harms heavy drinkers cause to others been recently recognized as a significant public health issue, according to a new study funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. While secondhand smoking has been extensively studied as harmful, little has been researched to show the secondhand harms of heavy drinking; however, many have anecdotal evidence of the harms they have endured because of someone else’s heavy drinking. While being subjected to secondhand smoke has an obvious correlation to harming a person’s health by breathing in the noxious fumes from tobacco smoke, the secondhand effects of heavy drinking on other people is less direct. According to new research published in The Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 1 in 5 U.S. adults (approximately 53 million people) are harmed by someone else’s alcoholism.

Types of secondhand harm non-alcoholics reported experiencing from an alcoholic were:

  • Threats or harassment: This was the most common harm experienced by non-drinkers who associated with alcoholics, and reported by 16% of survey respondents.
  • Ruined property or vandalism: This harm was especially prevalent among male respondents of the survey.
  • Physical aggression: Women who associate with alcoholics are at considerable risk of physical aggression, particularly from intoxicated men.
  • Harms related to driving: Drunk driving continues to be a huge issue nationwide, and hundreds of thousands of individuals get behind the wheel drunk every single day.
  • Financial problems: Women were more likely to report this problem than men.
  • Other prevalent problems reported: Homicide, domestic violence, alcohol-related sexual assault, car accidents, lost household wages, and child neglect were all reported as secondhand harms experienced by non-alcoholics.

Other statistics from the report considered the age of the respondents and whether they consumed any alcohol themselves. The survey found that people younger than age 25 had a higher risk of being harmed by someone else’s excessive drinking compared to older survey respondents. Another interesting finding was that almost half of the men and women who reported that they themselves were heavy drinkers had been harmed by another person’s heavy drinking. To quantify it, “heavy drinking” was defined as consuming 5 or more drinks at a time for men and 4 or more drinks for women, on a monthly basis. Yet, even those who only drank in moderation were 2 to 3 times as likely to be harassed, threatened, or harmed in a car accident by an alcoholic, compared to those people who did not consume any alcohol at all.

If you or someone you love has alcohol addiction, there is hope. Contact us at Dana Point Rehab Campus today by calling [universalphone] to learn more about how we can help you.

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