Alcoholism and the Economy: The Cause and Effect Relationship

Our nation’s poor economy is a sore subject for many people to talk about. After all, who wants to talk or think about falling victim to corporate downsizing and having to barely scrape by on unemployment benefit checks until you’re – by some miracle – gainfully employed once again. You would think that having less money with which to pay bills and no extra spending money that being unemployed would serve as the reason for someone to quit drinking alcohol or using drugs. Seems logical, doesn’t it?

Alcoholism and the Economy

Hold on there. Not so fast. A health economist by the name of Michael French of the University of Miami wrapped up a research project on the correlation between alcoholism and the economy, unemployment and alcohol consumption. In his research, French found that with the rise of unemployment, there is also a measurable rise in alcohol consumption, abuse, and instances of drunk driving.

Analysis in the study shows that heavy drinking and alcohol addiction tends to increase rather than decrease in an economic downturn. According to the research, alcohol abuse increased across the board without respect to sex and race. Since the data that was used came from 2001 through 2005 — before the economy really went south in 2019 and 2020 – imagine how much more severe the problem would be today than before the recession.

Alcoholism and the Economy

The study also found that people with a higher level of education are more likely to go on a drinking binge as a result of bad economic conditions. Such a finding makes sense because usually (not always) people with a higher education tend to make more money than people with less education. Therefore, the ones with a higher education and making more money stand to lose the most compared to people who do not make as much money and did not get as high of an education.

Why do people who are unemployed drink alcohol into excess?

For some, it’s out of complete boredom. They feel they don’t have much to do to pass the time when they’re not looking for a job. Time seems to go by more quickly for the person who drinks too much. That, of course, is a lie people who abuse alcohol tell themselves so they don’t have to wrestle with the overwhelming pressure of getting through the bad economy our nation is in.

When bad times strike in a person’s life, that person looks for an escape – even if it’s temporary. For some people, drinking alcohol to the point of becoming drunk is there a solution for blocking the psychological and emotional pain of losing a job and worrying about making ends meet. Those who choose to self medicate with booze set into motion a domino effect as the alcoholism progresses. Losing a job because of the bad economy may seem like a raging fire in a person’s life. But when that person adds alcohol to the situation, alcohol only adds fuel to the fire of job loss and continued unemployment.

What can start off as a few drinks a night to calm the nerves and slow down the mind in order to get sleep at night can ignite the urge to drink a higher volume of alcohol with each passing day, week, and month without finding a new job. The daily struggle to search for new employment can become suppressed or even extinguished by heavy drinking.

Alcoholism and the Economy

Before long, the negative effects of drinking too much catch up with the alcoholic. Sometimes it’s in the form of legal trouble with a DWI. If an alcoholic racks up enough DWIs and his driver’s license is suspended, that could have a major impact on his job search. He’ll either have to find a job close to home so he can walk, take a bus, or beg a friend or family member to drop him off and pick him up again from work.

With limited means of transportation and limited opportunities for securing new job, if the alcoholic has a family at home, anger, resentment, and despair will rear their ugly heads throughout the entire family. These negative feelings manifest themselves by physical and emotional abuse, which breeds mistrust and fear on the parts of both the alcoholic and those living with the alcoholic. Before long the alcoholic has estranged himself or herself from family and friends. Prior to turning to alcohol, the person may have had a marriage thriving on mutual love and respect in which divorce was something that happened to “other people.” However, the one hurt by their spouse’s alcohol abuse filed divorce papers and subsequently kicks the alcoholic out of the house. Another broken marriage is chalked up to alcohol abuse and addiction. If there are children caught in the crossfire of such a divorce, the possibility of alcoholic forfeiting custody is strong.

No job. No spouse. No kids. No place to live. No hope for surviving. Four out of the five losses are preventable. Think of what it would be like for someone who lost his or her job and turned to the bottle for relief, but…but…had a friend or a family member attempt to put a stop to their alcohol abuse.

Even though alcohol abuse and alcoholism can produce serious problems for everyone associated with the alcoholic, something can be done to try and prevent further harm. A formal intervention can help get the alcoholic to realize the amount of pain and suffering everyone around him experiences as a result of his alcoholism. The goal of an intervention is to get the alcoholic into some sort of treatment, whether it is inpatient treatment, outpatient treatment, or counseling.

If no one in your family is comfortable enough to spearhead the intervention process, give the toll-free number at the top of the page a call. One of our alcohol and drug intervention specialists will be able to guide you through the intervention process or come to the place of your choosing to lead the intervention.

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19 comments

  1. R

    Rachel Hassinger

    Reply

    The USDA has proposed new Dietary Guidelines for Americans that include significant changes on alcohol that concern many public health experts.

    Every five years, the Departments of Agriculture (USDA) and Health and Human Services (HHS) revisit the dietary guidelines “to promote health and reduce risk for major chronic diseases.” The dietary guidelines include a chapter on alcohol (PDF). (A summary is on page D7-15.)

    The Advisory Committee is recommending an average (weekly) rather than daily consumption guideline. Tim Naimi’s accompanying commentary and Marin Institute’s talking points (PDF) outline the issues. “The proposed change amounts to an endorsement for most men to consume up to 4 drinks and for most women to consume up to 3 drinks on days they actually consume alcohol,” said Dr. Tim Naimi.

    The real-world effect of the proposed new alcohol guidelines would likely be to encourage greater daily consumption of alcohol, discourage appropriate caution about using alcohol for health benefits, and open the door for the alcohol industry to misrepresent federal alcohol consumption guidelines to consumers, according to the Marin Institute.

    • K

      KRISTAN HILCHEY

      Reply

      Do any of us honestly believe that people who have a problem with alcohol actually look and use these guidelines? Or that any adult isn’t capable of understanding that using three drinks all in one day is a whole lot different than using one drink a day, three times a week? The only people who look and even consider these guidelines are people who are dieting. I don’t know a grown up alive that actually reads and adjusts their alcohol intake according to these things! The only way we are ever going to do any good making alcohol and drug use safer is if we finally decide to come at it from a realistic and honest manner that includes the concept that when people don’t trust or look at information given to them as irrelevent, it does no good to offer it!

    • L

      Leisa Ensworth

      Reply

      The responsible thing to do at a time when alcohol is the most widely abused substance for ages 12 to 20 years is to leave the standards as they stand or to decrease the amount of alcohol consumption per week. As a woman, I do not know any other woman who can safely consume 3 drinks in one day. We do not need to belittle the dangers of alcohol; we need to strengthen them!

      • R

        Ray Daugherty

        Reply

        Following is an abridged version of Prevention Research Institute comments submitted on the Dietary Guidelines website:

        1. Lower the peak guidelines. The proposed peak guidance is based on the research standard of 5 or more drinks for men and 4 or more for women being binge drinking. While these levels increase risk for a variety of problems, so would other numbers had they become the research standard. These cutoffs were arbitrary and do not represent the level at which risk emerges. Thus, data on binge drinking is a poor basis for guidelines.

        2. Keep both daily and weekly guidelines. The report is correct that weekly guidelines are more consistent with the research in that daily guidelines are an extrapolation from weekly studies. However, most research on drinking risk ignores peak consumption; 2 drinks X 7 days and 7 drinks X 2 days both equal 14 drinks yet carry very different risk. Focusing only on weekly guidelines codifies this limitation. Weekly limits also ignore the reality that people count drinks in one day more easily than drinks in a week or drinking days in a week. They could easily lose track of how many days it takes to exceed the weekly limit.

        3. Include pacing in the guidelines. Three drinks consumed in one hour is very different than three drinks consumed in three hours.

        4. Develop guidelines based not just on research but on how people hear and apply the information.

    • L

      Linda Verst

      Reply

      Where did the USDA come up with these guidelines? Were there those in the alcohol industry who helped? Alcohol’s legality does not indicate its harmlessness. Particularly in the case of the unborn child. Alcohol should never be used by pregnant women. I find the proposed guidelines shocking and unacceptable.

    • C

      Charley Bill

      Reply

      There are no comments on alcohol shown on the USDA site. I submitted one that is not whown. Couldthis be caused by the lack of a “SUBMIT” button? USDA has missed some great comment ththat should beconsidetedbefore this change is finalized.

    • J

      Jessica Lordman

      Reply

      The gudelines for alcohol should not change. I think the prices of beer and liquor should be raised just like the cigarettes.Alcohol kills people everyday, not just by people drinking but drinking and driving and killing innocent people. this had got to stop.

    • F

      Frances Wood

      Reply

      I have just sent the following to the USDA but I am not sure they are receiving the postings above as I did not see any of them when I reviewed the comments on the USDA site. My comment: It is my understanding that you are considering changing the guidelines for consumption of alcoholic drinks. The proposed changes would give the affect of approval for increased consumption. Health Day News reported Feb. 24, 2009 that even one alcoholic drink for middle aged women increases their risks for developing breast, liver and rectum cancer. . Those who promote wine for heart health need to realize that drinking red grape juice provides the same health benefit without the hazards of consuming alcohol. The amount of alcohol – 4 drinks for men and 3 for women would lead to serious impairment in driving. Alcohol is our most abused drug. No way should the USDA be encouraging greater consumption of this drug

      • R

        Roy DiVincenti, LAC, AADC

        Reply

        I just sent this message to the USDA. I am alarmed to read that you may be changing the guidelines for alcohol consumption. I am an Addiction Counselor and all of my clientele are people with substance abuse issues. We continue to act as if alchol is different than all other mood altaring substances. It is just as deadly if not more and the alcohol industry has been running the show for years. Here in Louisiana as well as other states we have a very high DWI problem. People use all sorts of excuses about why it’s ok and changing the guidelines will open the door to more problems with DWI and highway fatalities This decision certainly is not based on hard science. This is a country that is always looking for the quick fix, instant gratification. Our legal system is already burdened with dealing with those who are charged with alcohol related crimes. Telling someone its ok to drink what you are suggesting, would put folks over the legal limit in some instances. And that’s just what we need! Please use your intellect and reason in making this decision. These new guidelines have the alcohol industries fingerprints all over it. I think it is irresponsible for the USDA to have even entertained this idea much less spend tax dollars to investigate and publish this report. You people need eduction!!

    • D

      DonnaB

      Reply

      Are you kidding? Do we not know that alcohol kills more people than any other drugs. Who writes this garbage. I am a recovering alsoholic and I have to watch everything I consume because of the alcohol content in things over the counter much less them telling me it is ok to drink three drinks. Lord I wish I Knew how to just drink three. I have been rewarded the gift of 24 years sober and to work with adolescents in which I see first hand what alcohol does to our future so I pray and hope they will reconsider.

    • C

      Caley

      Reply

      Living in Wisconsin with the highest number of bars per person 357:1. I see it as a disservice to the people and our health care system to diminish the health risk of alcohol by the standards you are proposing to change. It is already an uphill battle to convince people in Wisconsin, at least, that 4 servings per day for a male age 21-65 is the recommnended daily allowance to give permission for 14 in a sitting is unconscionable.

      • C

        Connie Owen

        Reply

        I am concerned about significant increases in “dangerous” drinking if the new Dietary Guildelines re alcohol are adopted. Suggesting safety with 4/3 drinks per episode ignores the high BAC level and impairment which can result in injury. dangerous behaviors and increase addictive potential. And where is the reminder of the size of the drinks?

    • D

      Dupire-Nelson (PART 2)

      Reply

      The probability is very high that these Guidelines, which are incomplete and flawed on their face, will be used to twist national health mandates that caution against alcohol consumption. What you are contemplating will most likely result in very significant unintended consequences, which will do major damage to our national population, including children, pregnant, and lactating mothers. These are just a few of the possible classes of victims of this proposal. Further harm will likely be caused to the public good by the general increase in alcohol-related injuries and deaths, and their economic costs to the general public. What you propose, though likely well-intentioned, is just plain wrong, and a bad deal for America.

    • D

      Deborah D. Dupire-Nelson (JT Fellow)

      Reply

      JUST SENT TO THE USDA, UNDER THE HEADING ALCOHOL. It has recently come to my attention that a USDA advisory committee has proposed new Dietary Guidelines for Americans including substantial changes about alcohol that concern many public health and addiction experts. I am one of those concerned public health and addiction practitioners. I urge you to seriously consider both intended and unintended potential consequences of this proposal, which I have studied at length. The real-world effect of these proposed new alcohol guidelines would likely be to encourage greater daily drinking, discourage appropriate caution about using alcohol for health benefits, and open the door for the alcohol industry to misrepresent federal alcohol consumption guidelines to consumers. I am sure that the USDA is populated by well-intentioned, public service personnel, interested in doing what is best for the general public. In the interest of serving the public good, it is imperative, in my opinion, that ANY set of Guidelines issued by a US government entity NOT suggest that alcohol consumption can be taken to be a good thing — for the individual, or for society in general.

    • R

      Rick Miceli-Wink

      Reply

      I work for a Human Services agency as an Alcohol and Drug Counselor. I have been employed in the counseling field for about 27 years. Alcohol abuse and alcoholism are often connected to many of the problems individuals and families have. Children often experience abuse, neglect and abandonment by parents due to parental drinking. Teenagers continue to experience massive pressure to conform to societal norms of irresponsible use of alcohol. Drunken driving continues to be rampant and enormously destructive and devastating. It would be foolish to have a governmental body raise the levels of “acceptable” frequency or volume of alcohol consumption. I live and work in the Green Bay, Wisconsin area and our high schools, universities and adult social gatherings most often revolve around binge drinking. In our community, having only 4 or 5 drinks per episode is not viewed as binge drinking or pathological by most parties involved in that level of consumption. Rather, it is considered “just getting started”. Don’t make any changes to the 2005 guidelines. Those were appropriate and should be left as is.

  2. E

    Eugene Cypress

    Reply

    As a student of substance abuse prevention, please reconsider this change.

  3. A

    Angria Bassett

    Reply

    Thanks for the oppurtunity to share my comments. Based on my experience working in the field of Nursing, and substance abuse prevention and treatment, I am amazed that this committe would consider releasing this guideline for use of alcohol not only on the USA, but as leaders in nutritional research and resouce ;on the entire world. Is there not enough evidence of the dangers of alcohol? As it is still very much a legal drug which needs no prescription and is still pretty loosly controlled. So at this time, this committee seeks to make alcohol a dietary supplement? What is it replacing in the body? Alcohol defeciency? According to the report, alcohol related deaths tops 90,000 and alcohol related health benifits about 26,000. Why not then regulate alcohol for the health benifits? Let the physicians prescribe “brandy” or what ever to those who need “alcohol supplementation” Where is the Committee placing alcohol on the Food Pyramid? It seem to me that up to 4 drinks daily for women and up to seven drinks daily for men should be placed right along with Carbohydrates or fruits and veggies . Please understand that many people will think that it is okay to drink up to (21 / week) women and 28 drinks / week) men. Please consider that an increase in limit will send the wrong message to those millions of people who are not able to control their intake of alcohol. Thanks.

  4. C

    Charley Bill

    Reply

    Some of the comments above should bew submitted to USDA, but none of them appear on that site. Are you posting to this blog or to the USDA? Please try posting to USDA if you have something important to tell us about this change to the alcohol consumption guidelines.

  5. V

    Virginia, LCSW,CASAC

    Reply

    Silly me, here I am an addictions professional and not even knowing that alcohol is a food!! I thought it was a DRUG!!!! I cannot believe we are assigning dietary values to DRUGS!!!! Have they included marijuana eaten in brownies as a food as well?

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