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Alcohol is a part of society in many ways: festivals, sporting events, weddings, backyard barbecues, concerts… For many Americans, drinking is a normal part of spending time with friends or family. There’s nothing to worry about, right? As long as it doesn’t get in the way of normal life, and they always make plans to be safe when drinking, and they don’t have any health problems from it? Well, maybe not. The more you know about the problems connected to alcohol use, the more you begin to understand the burden of alcohol on society, regardless of whether you drink alcohol or not.

Take drunk driving, for example. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, among children 14 years old and and younger who were killed in motor vehicle crashes, almost one-fifth (19%) were killed in drunk-driving crashes. In addition to the human toll drunk driving takes on our country, the financial impact is severe: based on 2010 numbers (the most recent year for which cost data is available), drunk-driving crashes cost the U.S. $44 billion annually.

Another example of how alcohol misuse can affect non-drinkers occurs in the workplace. According to the National Safety Council, “Employees with an alcohol use disorder miss on average 34% more days than other workers and are more likely to experience workplace injury.” Non-drinking employees may be called on to work shifts left vacant by problem drinkers or may have to absorb the work of the absent workers.

About half of all sexual assaults on college campuses involve alcohol. (drugabuse.gov/sites/default/files/sexualassault.pdf) And, 69% involve alcohol use by the abuser. While alcohol use does not cause sexual assault, it can be a major contributing factor.

According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, the following are some additional ways problem drinking affects non-drinkers who may include family members, employers, colleagues, fellow students, and others:

  • Neglect of important duties: Alcohol reduces a person’s mental and physical functions and this, at some point, will likely result in neglecting responsibilities at work, home, and/or school.
  • Needing time to nurse hangovers: Alcohol has various short-term side effects, such as hangovers. The physical state of a hangover may be temporary, but it can definitely disrupt a person’s ability to keep commitments.
  • Encountering legal problems: Drinking can increase the likelihood of getting into fights, being disorderly in public, driving under the influence, and becoming involved in domestic disputes or violence.

Prevention education and treatment services are available at the Garrett County Health Department for individuals struggling with alcohol use disorders. For prevention services, or to become involved in the Drug-Free Communities Coalition Action Team, call 301-334-7730 or 301-895-3111. For behavioral health treatment, call 301-334-7680 or 301-895-3111.