Mature Enjoyment of Alcohol in Society

'Cultural and Social Aspects of Alcohol' Conference (2006)

18 October 2006

Held at the Royal Irish Academy, Dawson Street, Dublin 2, this Seminar is the fourth in a series of annual seminars/conferences hosted by MEAS concerning the major issue of alcohol and society. 

Anne Fox, social scientist and internationally respected expert on alcohol and drug abuse, will lead this year’s seminar on the cultural and social aspects of alcohol.

The cultural aspects of alcohol have received relatively little attention in the discussion and debate around alcohol in Ireland. Yet alcohol has been a central part of almost all human cultures since c.4000BC, and Ireland is no exception.

“Among all the drugs used in the world, alcohol is probably the oldest and most deeply entrenched in human society. In many places it is a cornerstone of social and spiritual life, and can have iconic status as a powerful symbol of trust, status, bonding, peace, celebration, strength, etc. Although relatively safe if used carefully, the power of both its social significance and, for some drinkers, its addictive potential can often override ‘common-sense’ drinking practice. Although the majority of drinkers worldwide enjoy alcohol with no lasting ill-effects, many people, young and old, suffer greatly from alcohol misuse.”

Galahad SMS Ltd / AERC 2005.

Some of the questions to be addressed at this Seminar are:

  • What are drinking cultures?
  • Is it inherently unnatural to want to alter one’s physical or mental state?
  • Why is alcohol used in recreation, celebration and rite of passage (“becoming a grown-up”)?
  • Is alcohol a social disinhibitor?
  • Can placebos make people drunk?
  • How does alcohol affect the brain?
  • Should alcohol education seek to steer a course between danger and delight?
  • Do shock-horror campaigns work?
  • Do abstinence campaigns work?
  • Can people’s behaviour towards alcohol be changed?
  • What are the myths and reality of ‘binge’ drinking?

The Seminar aims to;

  • Promote an awareness of the cultural and social context of alcohol
  • Promote awareness of the physiological and psychological aspects of alcohol
  • Bring an international perspective to bear on the issue of alcohol in Ireland – and on our understanding of the importance of the cultural and social context when selecting measures to address alcohol related harm
  • Encourage informed debate on measures and initiatives to reduce alcohol related harm
  • Identify key areas for further debate, analysis and policy development