How many times have you listened to your friends and colleagues share their ‘drunk stories’? Stories told with bravado and humour of being in vulnerable situations, taking enormous risks and experiencing serious injuries. I know that I’ve heard a lot of them from my peers.
What I find really concerning is that this is all too often being laughed off as a ‘good story’.
In one case, a 20-something-year-old made several attempts at a backflip on a snowboard while intoxicated, only realising the next day that he had a cracked vertebrae as a result. The first response from a peer? “Nice one!”
Disturbingly, a quick internet search found countless sites dedicated to sharing similar drunk stories for a laugh.
The problem with laughing at these kinds of drunken accounts, instead of responding with caution or concern, is that we are sending the message that we endorse the behaviour.
These reactions reinforce that the kinds of risky or inappropriate behaviours which would otherwise be frowned upon, are made socially acceptable when under the influence of alcohol. In many instances they are even seen as a rite of passage for young people.
While it’s convenient to believe that the horror stories are far and few between, the reality is that in Australia one in 12 hospital emergency department presentations are alcohol-related and this figure jumps to as many as one in eight during peak alcohol consumption times (from 6pm Friday night to 6am Sunday morning). Up to 65 per cent of family violence involves alcohol; and 17 per cent of young Australians aged 15 to 18 report that they regretted sex when drunk.
Do we really think these are good stories?
Drunk stories seem to be accepted as an unavoidable part of Australian society, but they don’t have to continue to be that way.
Leading into the festive season and the summer months, let’s be mindful of the language that we use when listening to and sharing stories that involve alcohol. Are we laughing off the tales we hear of wild drunken nights at Schoolies, or are we helpfully pointing out that the consequences could have been much, much worse by using alternate language?
If we want to see a positive change in the Australian drinking culture, we need to celebrate positive moves forward, such as the trend among adolescents and underage drinkers who are increasingly choosing to abstain from alcohol or delaying when they commence drinking. But we also need to challenge flippant attitudes to excessive and risky alcohol consumption and getting drunk.
Let’s send the right messages to the future generations of Australians: that drunk stories are not all good stories. And similarly, that not all good stories which are worth retelling need to involve alcohol.