The Rise of Social Cultures Around Substance Abuse

Drinking culture

We’ve all seen them: the memes, the social outings, the trends, and the posts from friends and families on their Facebook that are centered (possibly unknowingly) around excess or unhealthy ways of consuming alcohol. Multiple alcohol and drug trends have started sprouting their own cultures. Information gets around so quickly now that once an idea pops up, it’s typically forged into a trend that people want to repeat, retweet, or replicate.

Unfortunately, what was once meant to be light-hearted has actually turned a little facetious in the face of substance abuse.

Life is full of trials and tribulations, but it’s also encompassed by times of celebration and socialization. However, substance abuse remains teetering and tip-toeing around a healthy balance for both, and it’s important to at least be aware of the situations we may be putting ourselves in. 

Social Media Culture

Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok have been some of the most influential social media apps for teens and young adults. Unfortunately, despite some of these trends being funny or even fostering community unity, others encourage risky behaviors like substance abuse.

But what role does social media play in glamorizing drugs and alcohol? Don’t people know how dangerous they are? In some cases, they do, but everyone’s been there when sound judgment was abandoned to fit in. The use of drugs and alcohol on social media is romanticized by hiding it inside posed and edited pictures and videos. 

It is not unusual for people to spend hours a day scrolling through Instagram pictures or making their next video on TikTok hoping that it will go viral. The goal of these platforms is to provide entertainment and get people to socialize online. However, too much screen time could be causing unforeseen problems.

Social media can influence drug use in a number of ways, including:

  • FOMO (Fear of Missing Out): When someone doesn’t participate in their friends’ activities, they feel like they’re missing out. As a result, people often behave in ways they might not otherwise.
  • Peer pressure: It can be an innocent comment, such as encouraging unhealthy behavior in pictures or videos, such as, “You look like you’re having so much fun!” or using a tongue-in-cheek joke on your caption like,”The alcohol made me do it.” It’s a powerful tactic that many people fail to recognize until it’s too late. It’s already begun desensitizing the negative effects of substance use on all who see these types of comments.
  • Trends: Like FOMO and peer pressure, people often want to stay on top of the latest trends. Specific trends, however, may promote drinking and drug use. Substance abuse is visibly linked to some trends but is less obvious with others. As an example, TikTok had a viral trend called “chugging”. This is where the user would choose a type of liquor and try to chug the entirety of the bottle in one video, which usually doesn’t end with positive results. 

Some of the suspected reasons for the connection between social media and drug use may be that social media glorifies substance abuse, hurts mental health, leads to more exposure to such substances, and offers another means of buying drugs. It has also become increasingly easy for celebrities and influencers to make money and advance their careers on social media. People follow certain people on social media because they like their lifestyles. So whenever a celebrity or popular influencer posts anything, that thing becomes popular. Unfortunately, this “power” has caused significant issues among younger generations despite its potential for good. 

Mommy Wine Culture

There are groups like “Moms Who Need Wine” on Facebook. 

A wine glass that reads “Mommy’s Sippy Cup.” 

A baby’s onesie that says, “I’m why my mommy drinks.”

Printed throw pillows that say, “Mama Needs Some Wine.”

After a long day of children barely napping or dealing with a sassy teenager, these memes, posts, and tangible items can probably send anyone into a fit of giggles. And what’s wrong with that? Well, some have accused wine-mom humor of glorifying excessive drinking or promoting alcohol as a coping mechanism.

In mommy wine culture, mothers accept or even joke about the idea that they need wine (or another alcoholic beverage) during the day to function. The wine culture perpetuates the idea that women need alcohol to cope with being moms; portraying that as parents, if they spend more time with their children, their alcohol consumption increases.

The most urgent issue revealed by wine-mom jokes is that parenting has become more all-consuming and isolating than it used to be. Also, parents have been unable to count on the support systems they once had. Since child-care costs have skyrocketed recently, many parents sacrifice their careers to stay home with their children, thereby losing out on extra income and social interaction. Consequently, many moms – and parents in general – feel trapped, overwhelmed, and under pressure to “keep up appearances.” 

Therefore, is it any wonder that mothers joke through gritted teeth about how they desperately need a moment to unwind? Whatever the case, it’s clear that “mommy deserves a drink after a hard day” has struck a chord with many.

Ultimately, self-medication is a questionable practice, especially when it is known to be addictive or harmful. Instead of developing the ability to regulate their emotions, parents who self-medicate with alcohol are making short-term decisions that have long-term adverse effects. Anyone who relies on a substance to cope with their problems is at risk of this.

After-Work Happy Hour Culture 

People celebrate with it, commiserate with it, and relax with it. But when does alcohol consumption cross the line to unhealthy or abusive?

One of the biggest forms of stress humans deal with on a daily basis is their job. In a 2017 study, the results found that work was the second highest stress factor in America, and it’s only been steadily increasing since. 

Work brings a ton of undue stress and worries into the lives of many. If someone doesn’t have a reliable or steady job, it’s hard to maintain a positive financial situation. If there’s not a decent financial situation, circumstances become negatively affected, and their mental health can decline with it.  The once innocent comment of, “work was ridiculous today. I could use a drink,” now has the potential to create more chaos within it. 

For some, meeting up at a local pub, bar, or restaurant with co-workers after a draining day of work can be beneficial in many ways, such as filling their socialization meter, venting about the day, or being around people that make them happy. For others, it could be an excuse to cling to a coping mechanism that they don’t realize they’re creating a habit of before it’s too late. 

With stress comes a lot of understanding and learning about triggers, emotions, and combating negative thoughts with positive ones. But it’s not as easy as it sounds, especially if someone has a difficult time navigating their feelings. Fight or flight kicks in, and people either fight the intrusive thoughts or fly to a scene that brings them instant gratification. If their friends are going out for a drink – the desire to go is almost innate. They’re out with friends, and they’re forgetting about what happened that day, but – they may be numbing the pain they have without even realizing it. 

Happy Hour is a manipulative name for an occasion. It promotes the idea that people are happier when they have a drink in hand, especially when those drinks are discounted. It’s a win-win situation for most. For others, it opens a door for dependence, and it flirts with the idea that it’s okay to drink when other people are drinking around them. But if it begins to add up, people may begin noticing a shift in their priorities and a monopolization of their time at a bar after work. This is when Happy Hour becomes a not-so-happy hour.  

Sports Culture

The tradition of drinking at sporting events is somewhat of a staple of the entire sporting experience. Enjoying a few cold ones with friends while watching their favorite sports team defeat the rival team sounds like the perfect weekend activity. During a match’s most exciting or dramatic moments, adrenaline seems like it can only be fueled by anyone’s favorite alcoholic beverage. Some people might even say that sports and alcohol go well together.

There are many types of social gatherings in the sports world, and tailgating is one of the most popular. Pre-game tailgates can take place in a sporting facility, a neighborhood, or even a parking lot. These tailgates can often involve drinking contests, like Beer Olympics, or chugging some type of alcohol if their specific team loses. Various games are also played at tailgates, most of them revolving around alcohol, such as beer pong, corn hole, keg stands, and power hour. As a result, there is likely to be a lot of alcohol on hand while tailgating with family and friends.

For college students, binge drinking during tailgating eventually leads to Extreme Ritualistic Alcohol Consumption or ERAC. According to a study published in the National Library of Medicine, ERAC is “defined as consuming ten or more drinks on game day for a male, and eight or more drinks for a female.” With rituals comes dependence; ERAC often leads to vulnerability to developing a substance abuse problem for those who engage in it.

Sports bars are another popular place to observe how sports influence drinking. ABUt while you might love sports, sports bars can catalyze your drinking desires. 

Sports were created for entertainment, but it’s important to stay aware of how many drinks go down during the “casual social drink” with friends. This type of behavior can result in the onset of addiction if not mindful or responsible; especially at college, where drinking is typically normal, encouraged, and celebrated with a side of raging peer pressure. Sports are never going out of style, but drinking an abnormal amount while partaking in the entertainment should be watched closely.

Recognizing Signs of Dependency

Unfortunately, sometimes those with drinking problems are in denial when they are criticized for drinking. The act of denial will create boundaries between them and a healthy lifestyle which could include alcohol if they handle it responsibly. Knowing personal drinking habits can determine whether or not someone falls deeper into alcoholism.

Substance use is accepted and glorified in television programming, movies, music, literature, and even art. These influences are not lost on our youth, nor are they isolated from adults. Alcoholism occurs when someone doesn’t drink occasionally or casually anymore. In order to determine when you or your loved one needs treatment for alcohol abuse, it’s important to understand the signs and symptoms. Here are some things to look for:

  • An inability to limit alcohol intake
  • A strong desire or compulsion to drink
  • Developing a tolerance and requiring more in order to feel satisfied
  • Alcohol-related problems such as legal issues, relationships problems, and financial difficulties
  • When you or  a loved one doesn’t drink, they experience withdrawal symptoms
  • The practice of drinking secretly

If someone you know seems to be struggling with the fine line between enjoying a drink or abusing a substance, you shouldn’t hesitate to talk to them about it. If it’s not approached when signs and symptoms are emerging, it could potentially lead to life-threatening effects later on in their lives. 

To regain sobriety, seek help as soon as these behaviors begin. Discovery Point Retreat offers a variety of treatment options for alcoholism, including detoxification, residential rehab, and outpatient programs, as well as counseling and support groups. All methods aim to cease drinking altogether and reclaim the life that you or a loved one deserves. 




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