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Alcohol drinkers as a sub-culture Although alcohol is a powerful and addictive psychoactive drug which can produce profound physiological and psychological damage the vast majority of Americans who drink alcohol manage to control it There are an estimated 105 million drinkers in the United States compared to some 8 million alcoholics Widespread controlled alcohol use can be understood in terms of culturally based rituals and social sanctions which pattern the way the drug is used Alcohol-using rituals define appropriate use by limiting consumption to specific occasions or circumstances Having a highball before dinner wine with a meal a few drinks at a cocktail party a beer with the boys after work or a drink at a business luncheon are examples Positive social sanctions permit and even encourage moderate use of the drug one need only consider the occasions when a drink is offered to appreciate how well alcohol is integrated into the culture as an approved social intoxicant This social acceptance of alcohol is paralleled by the minimal legal restrictions on its consumption and by the negative sanctions which condemn promiscuous use and drunkenness Know your limit dont drink and drive dont mix drinks and never drink before noon are familiar proscriptions The internalization of these social sanctions and rituals begins in early childhood The child sees his parents and other adults drinking He learns the possibilities of excess and the varieties of acceptable drinking patterns from newspapers movies magazines and television As he matures he develops a more unconscious than conscious sense that alcohol use can be pleasant controlled and socially approved In some cases this socialization process is more direct children sip wine at religious rituals and celebrations or taste their parents drinks Many authorities believe that a gradual and careful early introduction to alcohol by parents contributes to restrained adult use As a college student and an alcohol drinker I fit perfectly into this medley of rituals
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