Alcohol and not just substance abuse is a public health problem, responsible for more than 200 diseases. Any consumption, even a small one, has a detrimental effect on the organism, emphasize the French experts. In France alone, 41,000 deaths are attributed to alcoholic beverages every year, according to the National Institute of Health and Medical Research (Inserm).
Doctor and General Secretary of the French Federation for Studies on Addiction, Bernard Basset, explains that while there is no limit below which alcohol consumption is safe, scientific evidence makes it possible to define reference parameters.
“We are an association based on scientific data and our first principle is to educate you about the dangers of alcohol and that danger starts with the first drink. We cannot be content with combating abuse; we need to give this prevention advice to everyone who drinks alcohol. We follow the prevention recommendations of the French health authority, which says: drink no more than ten glasses a week, no more than two glasses a day and stay without alcohol for at least two days a week,” he says.
Some diseases are exclusively related to alcohol, notably alcoholic cirrhosis or certain neurological diseases such as GayetWernicke encephalopathy and Korsakoff syndrome.
For other pathologies, alcohol is a risk factor. This is the case for mouth, throat, larynx, esophagus, liver, chest, colon and cardiovascular diseases such as hypertension and ischemic heart disease. Cognitive disorders are also observed in more than 50% of alcohol dependents: impaired memory, misalignment of certain movements, etc. Basset also says that in France, 16,000 deaths from cancer are linked to alcohol abuse every year.
Lack of dependency on control signals
“We know that when people lose control of consumption, when they can’t take breaks and become dependent, it becomes a source of suffering. It’s the lack of selfcontrol that signals addiction,” explains Basset.
In addition to promoting prevention and aftercare campaigns, the French Association for Research on Addiction helps people who have problems with alcohol in their daily lives.
“We publish very practical advice on consumption control. For example, if you don’t want to drink, giving advance notice is most effective. Then you informed your friends, who in principle respect your choice. And because you’ve made a commitment not to drink, you have a moral obligation to honor your commitments. We have other advice, such as he emphasizes.
Tasting clubs for teetotalers
Similarly, project manager Corinne BordinLherpinière is working on alcoholism prevention at the town hall of Châtearoux in the Loire Valley, a town of just over 40,000 people in central France.
“I have been involved with food for over ten years. Little by little we have included the subject of drinking and alcoholic beverages in a more targeted manner. We have created seminars to address the suffering caused by alcohol. Alcohol at work, in difficult times in life, in places where people in precarious situations are welcomed… And then, based on this work, we created a prevention action that is the Tasting Clubs. We promote nonalcoholic beverages in public spaces,” says Corinne.
Corinne is fond of pointing out that soft drink tasting clubs are held several times a year in places people normally go, not in healthcare facilities.
“The clubs always take place in cultural places in the city, on dates close to events where alcohol is present from a social point of view. So we do that in November when there’s the Beaujolais party and before Christmas; in March, around St. Patrick’s Day and in spring, and then in June before Festa da Música. In addition, we can be present at other events in the city,” he says.
The clubs offer delicious and wellmixed cocktails, always without alcohol. “The idea of the club is also to support celibate men and women. In French society, it is not easy when we are celibate. Alcohol is very present in our lives. The club combines the issue of health with citizenship. Our clubs gather 40 people. to 60 people and entered the public life of Châtearoux,” he adds.
Basset explains that changing the way people think is not easy, but it is necessary. “It’s a whole challenge of prevention that requires a continuous effort, an effort in pedagogy and communication … In France, in fact, it’s difficult because we’re a country that produces and exports alcohol, it’s a sector that Jobs creates a lot of resistance.”
But the doctor sees a development: “I would say that the mindset has changed in the last 15 years and people have understood that alcohol is not just a pleasure product, everyone has understood that it is a product that has health risks brings with it . The mentality changes are slow because they are very ingrained cultural habits, but what we see is that alcohol consumption has come down sharply since the end of World War II.”
The AntiAlcoholism Crusade in France
Basset recalls that up until the 1950s alcohol consumption in France was practically unlimited, particularly as far as wine was concerned.
“Here in France, wine was served in school canteens for children. Wines with a lower alcohol content, but still with alcohol, were served during lunchtimes in schools. Wine was also drunk in hospitals; the sick could drink it during meals. was 1954 denounced and banned by Prime Minister Pierre MendèsFrance It took a while for the ban to reach the whole country, but he was the one who spearheaded this campaign in the 1950s.
Indeed, Pierre MendèsFrance (19071982) was a pioneer in the fight against alcoholism and for cultural change in France. “He created this campaign and did the communication about it himself. There are famous photos of him drinking a glass of milk in the Chamber of Deputies, while traveling… This has provoked strong reactions from wine producers who have criticized this option of fighting alcohol consumption. He was very offended,” says Basset.
“In France they say: ‘Without alcohol there is no party’. And we at the French Addiction Research Association say the opposite: ‘It’s perfectly possible to have fun with friends and not drink alcohol every time,'” asserts Basset. The specialist advises that if the person realizes that you are losing control of alcohol consumption, they should see a doctor or health center.