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3 Ways Craft Beer Culture Encourages Alcohol Abuse

Craft beer from small, independent breweries has been steadily growing in popularity in recent years, creating an elite culture of beer drinking that is a pastime unto itself. In 2016, these kinds of breweries made up 99% of the operating breweries in the United States, and more small breweries are being established all the time. While there’s nothing wrong with having the occasional craft beer, the pervasiveness of these beers and craft beer culture encourage a level of drinking that can easily lead to alcohol abuse and alcohol use disorder. It’s important to understand the risks of regular craft beer consumption, and to pay attention to signs that your drinking has reached a point where professional treatment is needed.

The Growing Popularity of Craft Beer in the U.S.

Craft breweries are defined as small, independent, and traditional breweries, which usually produce less than six million barrels a year, don’t tend to have financial connections to non-craft brewers, and use traditional ingredients such as malt barley to brew their beer.

In 2016, the volume of craft breweries in the United States rose by six percent, and made up over 12% of the market share in the beer industry.

The recent growth of craft breweries is particularly significant in the South—Florida, North Carolina, Texas, and Virginia all saw an increase of over 35 breweries each in 2016.

Craft beer has caught on in part due to the public’s craving for distinctive products that stand out from the usual, mass produced fare. Furthermore, the cachet of being “in the know” about such a product, and perhaps being the first person to introduce your social circle to a new craft beer, adds a feeling of exclusivity and pride to the typical experience of drinking with friends. For some, the appeal of a craft-brewed beer simply lies in the strong, bitter taste of high hops beer. After all, strong tastes have become increasingly popular in the United States lately (Sriracha anyone?). But no matter what the reasons, the rising popularity of craft beer should bring with it a rising concern about the risks of drinking alcohol, especially for those who have a hard time stopping at “just one.”

3 Ways Craft Beer Culture Encourages Alcohol Abuse

1. Craft beer goes hand in hand with socializing.

alcohol abuse

Drinking alcohol during networking events has become the norm in many communities.

Craft beer can be found at most parties these days, it’s sold at social-type events like baseball games, and it often appears at networking events. Craft beer has a way of seeming more sophisticated than regular beer or soda, and is often chosen for an event as a way of silently trying to demonstrate an organization’s high quality and distinctive values. This has a way of normalizing drinking, as well as elevating it to something hip and current. It can become difficult to tell whether you have a problem with alcohol when those around you make drinking a part of almost every activity—even in the workplace.

2. Breweries make drinking craft beer into a happening.

The activity of drinking craft beer becomes its own celebration when breweries go out of their way to create fun events or organize festivals dedicated to promoting their products. People who are just looking for something different to do over the weekend can be easily encouraged to plan their days around drinking alcohol because of a craft beer and music festival, or a craft beer sponsored fun run, or a craft beer themed art walk. Drinking alcohol becomes central to the activities in a way that few would even try to resist. Rare is the person who would go to a craft brewery sponsored Octoberfest and drink only water.

3. Craft beer is really high in alcohol.

One of the most problematic facts about craft beer is that it tends to be more potent than your average grocery store beer. A standard Budweiser is 5% ABV, while the average craft beer is 5.9%. The higher alcohol content naturally goes hand in hand with the strong, higher hop taste, due to the way beer is produced. Craft beer over 8% ABV is becoming increasingly available as well, with some brews clocking in at as high as 17% ABV or more. High alcohol beer is very profitable for breweries. Serious drinkers are likely to seek out higher ABV beers, breweries can charge more money for high-alcohol beers, and the high alcohol volume also results in a longer shelf life for the product. Some beer connoisseurs would argue that the higher alcohol content shouldn’t make a difference to the consumer’s level of intoxication, as these kinds of beers are meant to be slowly savored, like a glass of fine wine, not chugged like cheap beer from a keg. Instead of splitting a six pack with a friend, they would advise you to split a single bottle. The problem is, very few Americans are accustomed to drinking beer in this restrained way, and because most of their beer drinking experience is with a 5% ABV brew, they are likely to be unprepared for the effects of an 11% ABV craft beer on a hot summer’s day.

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Risks Involved with Regular Craft Beer Consumption

An increase in workplace issues

Although you might assume that alcohol-related workplace problems are usually the result of a serious alcohol use disorder, research has shown that the majority of such problems are the result of nondependent drinkers who only occasionally drink too much. The way that craft beer culture intentionally or unintentionally promotes excessive alcohol consumption can lead many people to drink more and more often than they intend to. Loss of productivity, poor job performance, lateness, absenteeism, and increased accidents and injuries are just a few of the problems alcohol can cause on the job. Problems can arise due to after-effects of drinking, like hangovers or sleep deprivation that can seriously impact job performance, or due to a worker actually being drunk on the job, which can easily happen when alcohol is consumed over lunch or at a company function (the kind where craft beer is likely to be served). And alcohol-related workplace problems are more common than you might think—a large federal survey found that 24% of Americans reported drinking on a work day at least once in the previous year.

Weight gain

As craft beers steadily increase in alcohol content, they also increase in calories. The alcohol in beer is created by feeding sugar to yeast; you have to add more sugar in order to get the yeast to produce more alcohol. Some people believe that they can easily spot a high calorie beer, but a high sugar content is not always obvious. Most people assume that a light-colored beer is also lighter in calories, but light-colored beers are just as likely to be high alcohol and high sugar as a darker beer. The darker color of certain craft beers comes from dark malts that were roasted for a long time, and longer roasting does not impact sugar or alcohol content. You also can’t always tell that a beer is high sugar from the taste. While some high sugar craft beers do taste sweet, some intensely bitter IPAs are also high in sugar. Brewers may choose to add in extra sugar to balance out the intense hoppiness, which often results in an ABV of 12%, not to mention a lot of extra calories.

Risk of DUI or other dangerous behavior

Drinking craft beer has been associated with a greater risk of DUIs. The high alcohol content of these beers results in many people getting drunker than they expected to in a short period of time; many drinkers are not prepared for the potency of a high ABV beer and are caught off guard. This is made even more likely by the fact that many people think of craft beer as “healthier” because it is brewed using more natural and traditional methods, and mistakenly assume this goes hand in hand with a lower alcohol content. Another contributor to craft beer DUIs is the fact that many craft breweries host tastings, events, and festivals to promote their products. A person who didn’t expect to get drunk at an event may stick to their plan of driving themselves home afterwards. They may not even recognize how intoxicated they are, as the lack of preservatives in craft beers means that you may not feel the effects of drinking in the same way that you do with mass produced beer. Other kinds of risky behavior, such as unprotected sex or walking alone through a dangerous area, also become more likely with high alcohol content drinking—and if you are underestimating how intoxicated you are, you are also likely to overestimate the soundness of your judgement.

If you drive while under the influence, you likely have an alcohol use disorder. Get the help you need today!

Dependence and addiction

Drinking more often and drinking more alcohol per occasion of drinking both increase your chances of alcohol abuse, alcohol dependency, and alcohol use disorder. When you drink heavily and/or frequently, your brain and body start to adapt to the presence of alcohol, increasing your tolerance for alcohol’s effects, and altering basic functions to work in combination with regular alcohol consumption. Once this happens, you will experience withdrawal symptoms if you try to quit drinking or cut down, because your brain and body will start malfunctioning in response to the absence of a chemical it had come to accept as normal.

Craft beer culture contributes to the widespread acceptance of social drinking, as well as an increased visibility for beer drinking. These things can make it difficult for people with addictive tendencies to resist excessive alcohol consumption, especially considering the potency of these beers. In addition, because there is a level of sophistication associated with drinking craft beer, you and the people you know may be less likely to identify your excessive drinking as a problem until after a full-blown alcohol use disorder has developed.

If you find yourself suffering negative consequences as a result of drinking alcohol, and yet you continue to drink anyway, you are addicted to alcohol and in need of professional help.

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Getting Help for Alcohol Use Disorder

Treatment for alcohol use disorder will always begin with an alcohol detox. Detoxification happens naturally when you quit drinking, and your body begins to rid itself of the alcohol in your system, and to readjust to functioning without it. This experience is always uncomfortable, but can even be dangerous for some individuals, particularly if you were a heavy drinker, if you have been dependent on alcohol for a long time, or if you frequently combined alcohol with other addictive substances. In many cases, medical treatment is necessary to address health complications related to alcohol withdrawal. Medical professionals can also treat many of your withdrawal symptoms. A medical detox at a treatment facility will keep you safe, as comfortable as possible, and will give you your best chance of getting and staying sober. Detoxing at a treatment facility with medical staff is advisable even if you are choosing to detox naturally, as you cannot predict how your body will react to withdrawal; medical help may be necessary.

Detox is not a treatment for alcohol use disorder, but merely the first step in an ongoing recovery process. After detox, you should engage in an inpatient and/or outpatient addiction treatment program that offers group, individual, and family counseling. Alcohol use disorder is about more than drinking; you also need to address the underlying issues of your addiction. Then, after you are discharged from treatment, you need to continue to take good care of yourself, remain self-aware, and check in with your mental health through occasional counseling or peer support group meetings like AA. Neglecting your recovery can encourage relapse.

If you feel overwhelmed by the thought of getting treatment, and uncertain where to begin, let help. Consult our Detox Directory, send us an email, or call our 24-hour hotline 800-996-6135(Who Answers?) . Our treatment advisors are always here, ready to talk.

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