Secondhand Drinking: How to Protect Yourself against It While Caring For Someone with Alcohol Problem

Did you know that there is a kind of drinking behavior that is becoming a serious public health issue? Based on a study using 2015’s United States national survey data, around 53 million Americans are victims of secondhand drinking or SHD, which is at par with the number of secondhand smoking victims.

What is Secondhand Drinking?

SHD is the effect of an alcoholic individual’s behaviors and actions on other people. Some of these include domestic violence, bullying, driving under the influence, as well as verbal, physical, and emotional abuse.

In a commentary, Doctor Sven Andréasson of the Stockholm-based Karolinska Institutet cited alcohol as the substance with the most harmful effects on other people. He claimed that alcohol’s adverse impacts on the users and their victims are the highest among the addictive substances, far ahead of cigarettes, cocaine, and heroin.

Signs and Symptoms of Alcoholism

To avoid experiencing the effects of SHD in your household, you should be aware of the signs and symptoms of alcoholism that could be affecting one of your loved ones. Alcohol addiction may be hard to recognize because drinking is seen every day in society. Here are some signs of addiction:

  • Drinking in unusual places and at inappropriate times
  • An increased volume of alcohol consumption or frequent drinking sessions
  • Lack of ‘hangover’ symptoms or high alcohol tolerance
  • Urge to look for events or situations where alcohol is present
  • Failure to do his or her everyday chores without drinking alcoholic drinks
  • Friendship with people who are also heavy drinkers
  • Hiding alcoholic drinks or his drinking habit
  • Distancing self with loved ones
  • Loss of job and unruly behavior leading to arrest and incarceration

Tips on Protecting Yourself and Caring for Someone with an Alcohol Issue to Prevent the Adverse Effects of SHD: 

While you have the responsibility to care for a loved one with an alcohol problem, give attention also to your wellbeing. Here are some ways to take care of yourself while helping a family member recovers from his or her addiction:

  • Accept the situation and maintain your self-love or self-esteem – Do not blame yourself and try not to be too negatively affected by the behavior and decisions of your loved one.
  • Distance yourself emotionally – Do not take the personal issues of your family member as your own. Practice loving detachment as a way to help him or her recognize that he or she is living a harmful and distressing lifestyle. 
  • Practice self-care while trying to find ways to cure your beloved – Improve your physical, social, mental, and spiritual health to avoid caregiver burnout. You can seek help from local public health personnel or online resources to treat your loved one appropriately.
  • Refrain from abusing your patient verbally or physically – Always try to deal with the behavior of your family member calmly. Whenever he or she tries to make irrational demands or actions, subtly change the topic. Do not yell or scream back.
  • Develop a vision of personal excellence through reflection – Maintain your inner strength and spirituality at a high level to have the power to overcome all your challenges.

Ultimately, secondhand drinking considerably impacts families and societies. You can prevent this by recognizing the signs and symptoms of alcoholism early on for proper treatment.