Financially as well as socially, the importance of alcohol in America cannot be denied. There is an ironic contradiction between the selling, marketing and promotion of alcoholic beverages, and the social stigma attached to alcoholism. To drink means to have fun and be one of the guys. To cross the boundary of acceptable drinking to being an alcoholic degrades your social status.
Alcoholism is better understood today, and there is more information available. There is still debate about genetics versus environmental influences, but it is clear that alcoholism runs in families. And although the nation spends huge sums annually in consumer purchases of beverage alcohol, and generally accepts the idea that alcoholism is a disease, Americans still place a severe social stigma on alcoholism. (Lender 191) Alcoholism is viewed as something brought on by the alcoholic himself, like a bad habit, that reflects poorly on their social standing. Images of alcoholics conjures street bums, slurred speech, lack of self-control, etc. Yet there are many unsuspected, functioning alcoholics. It is true that society stigmatizes other illnesses such as AIDS, mental illness, or Alzheimers disease. However, drinking seems different. It is a promoted social activity that is completely acceptable until one transgresses social boundaries and is deemed an alcoholic.
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