One in ten
Would we continue to advertise and sell and glamorize chocolate hither and yon? Would we have whole magazines devoted to the preparation and consumption and presentation of chocolates from around the world? Would we continue to include chocolate at our tables for special holidays or everyday meals? Would directors include chocolate-eating in their movie scenes?
Or would we begin to see articles detailing the dire consequences of chocolate consumption? Would we be shown the “face” of chocolate-intoxication? The staggering, the drooling and slurred speech, the rage, the rotting teeth, the poverty and homelessness, the violence, death and disease, the despair and suicidal depression?
Obviously, I am writing not about chocolate, but about alcohol, the world’s most-abused drug, the drug that causes more heartache than any other, as it rips apart families, leads to fatal car collisions and most domestic abuse, and causes severe-to-fatal injury to brain, liver, and other essential organs of those ensnared by its addictive lure.
One in ten people who consume alcohol end up having a major problem with it for which they require outside help, help that all too often is unavailable. One in ten! Think of how many families are faced with one or more of their kin struggling with this deadly drug!
And yet, the pervasive messages about alcohol in every medium are positive ones, extolling flavor, and status, and glamour, and fun, and excitement, and sociability. Everywhere you look, alcohol positively sparkles!
Unlike tobacco, alcohol has no major advertising campaign detailing the realities of alcohol and its effects on the mind, the body, and society. The closest would be the MADD ads, but what we need is to de-glamorize its use.
Instead of gorgeous, gowned models tipping back their martinis, we need images of habitual drunks, staggering and drooling and fighting and retching on the floors of dirty restrooms. We need images of drunks veering down the highways, killing innocent people, and then in the dock being sentenced for murder. We need images of long-term drunks, with yellowing eyes and the glassy stare of cerebral edema. We need the images of lovely holiday dinners shattered by the excess drinking of one family member, the terror in the eyes of children when a parent is drinking. We need to hear the stories of families who have tried to rescue their kin from the street when drinking has resulted in homelessness and all the person wants is that next drink. We need all of these images, and more, lurking everywhere, on billboards and in magazines, on the sides of buses, on television and in movies and in newspapers.
Prohibition clearly does not work. But an ad campaign that focuses on the reality of alcohol abuse, if all those images could possibly be lodged in the memories of drinkers, just might provide enough of a reality check that people who begin to have problems with alcohol will recognize that fact, and address it at a much earlier stage, when it is more easily treatable. And, if such a campaign prevents some people from drinking at all, so much the better. Because “one in ten” turns out to be a very large number!