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  • Writer's picturemichellepugle

Why We Need to Abandon the Term "Alcohol Abuse"

We need to abandon the terms alcohol abuse. Why? Because the word "abuse" implies there's a right way- some proper way- to consume alcohol. And that's mostly BS, now isn't it?

The "right way" or responsible way to use alcohol, for example, has been defined by governments based on drinks per man or woman per hour and day and week. To be clear, many recommendations now state that the healthiest amount of alcohol to consume is zero. They know, though, that people will continue to drink, so they have set restrictions. The idea is that if you follow the responsible drinking guidelines (now called "low-risk guidelines" which is more accurate), you won't end up abusing alcohol.

Oh, how short-sighted.

Here are the guidelines set by the Canadian government:


  • limit alcohol to no more than:

  • 2 standard drinks per day

  • 10 standard drinks per week

  • 3 standard drinks on special occasions

  • avoid drinking alcohol on some days


  • limit alcohol to no more than:

  • 3 standard drinks per day

  • 15 standard drinks per week

  • 4 standard drinks on special occasions

  • avoid drinking alcohol on some days

And! new! YOUTH DRINKING GUIDELINES. Yep, so long as you have parental consent and following the low-risk guidelines... Kids, you'll probably be okay.

Call me pessimistic, but what teenager is going to limit their drinking to a drink or two at a time and no more than twice weekly? And what is this telling the next generation about alcohol? That it's okay as long as your parents say so and as long as YOU CONTROL YOURSELF.

Blaming it on the person, not the alcohol

The term alcohol abuse suggests fault on the person consuming the addictive conconcotion: It puts a great divide between the alcohol and the person. Any problems that come from alcohol, then, are simply because you are abusing the substance.

How convenient for the makers and marketers of alcohol!

Ashley Marti - Below Deck Sailing Yacht

Below Deck Sailing Yacht castmate Ashley Marti put it perfectly this season: "I want to get so drunk I don't remember my bad choices."

Now, where I come from, that's called "letting loose," "blowing off steam," or "partying." It's not associated with alcohol abuse unless it becomes a constant thing AND you start slipping up in other areas of your life. If you can get back up the next day and work, no worries, right?

All of this is wrong.

And it's why the CDC says some 90% of people who EXCESSIVELY DRINK don't fall under the definition of having an alcohol use disorder.

Under this framework, if you develop problematic drinking or start drinking in such a way that begins harming your health, relationships, career, etc. it has nothing to do with the way society glamorizes binge drinking or blaming their bad choices on alcohol. You probably just can't handle your booze like the rest of the society, right?

And so, what happens?

You're labeled an alcoholic, a problem, or a lightweight, and are removed. The only way to return is to: a) start drinking again but try not to be such a messy human (good luck), or, b) go down this vortex of self-shame and distrust to wind up somewhere you believe the problem is with you: Your genetics, your risk factors, your family and friends. Suddenly, it all comes back to how you abuse alcohol, not how easy alcohol is to abuse.

For the record, it's an addictive substance that literally changes the way your brain operates. This means the more you drink, the harder it becomes to change your behavior or course-correct. It's so much less about "abusing" something (which, again, implies there's some proper way to consume a poisonous and lethal substance) and so much more about self-soothing some form of discomfort in life or physical/emotional pain.

You're not abusing alcohol. It's not a person- it's a drug meant to get people intoxicated. Your reasons for wanting to get intoxicated don't make you an abuser of anything other than yourself. If you really think about it, isn't that such a better distinction?

You're not abusing alcohol, you're abusing yourself with alcohol.

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