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Risky business: A new study hacks into alcohol industry’s golden goose

Posted on 03-15-16 in Substance Abuse

Risky business: A new study hacks into alcohol industry's golden goose

“The alcohol industry is totally dependent on risky drinking. This is its dirty little secret. It’ s an industry built on identifying, targeting and exploiting its best customers, and ensuring that [consumers] continue to misuse and abuse alcohol.”

This, according to Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE) chief executive Michael Thorn. An investigation by FARE together with a separate report from England’s Alcohol Health Alliance released in January 2016 both revealed that the minority of alcohol drinkers drown out other demographics in sales.

Studies on the alcohol industry

The FARE survey out of Australia revealed 74.2 percent of alcohol sales in the country are by the nearly four million “risky drinkers;” who consume more than four drinks a day.

In the U.K., “hazardous” and “harmful” drinkers comprise 69 percent of alcohol sales.

After analysis of data, FARE concluded that if risky drinkers reduced consumption to within the guidelines in Australia – from four down to two drinks daily – total alcohol consumed in Australia would drop by almost 40 percent.

Targeted advertising is no respecter of recovery

Jeff Deeney wrote a very in-depth blog detailing his personal experience as a recovered individual, with targeted advertising. As he tells it, his social media pages are riddled with alcohol advertising. In a moment of revelation while watching a CNN documentary on privacy, Deeney says it dawned on him that personal posts about alcohol sobriety likely unleashed advertising hounds hoping to glean repeat business from the formerly alcohol dependent.

“The implications of such shadowy and unregulated commerce, [the host] claims, are potentially ugly as he notes that data brokerages have gone so far as to compile and broker sensitive lists of rape survivors, people with HIV, and alcoholics.”

CNN Money did an investigative report on data brokers, who track consumers’ shopping, web search, social media posting and purchasing trends and sell to businesses for tailored advertising. The article uncovered data brokers lump rehab attendees in with alcoholics for industry marketers.

Is it possible to avoid the full-court press?

Pam Dixon, the executive director of the World Privacy Forum gave a scathing report to lawmakers about the conundrum of consumer rights and the irresponsibility of data brokers’ preying on those living with addiction disease.
“Alcohol and drug treatment information about patients is the subject of extra protections under existing law, but no law stops data brokers from profiting by selling the information. … Individuals should have the right to stop harmful collection and categorization activity.”

Dixon pulls back the curtain on the maze and backlash waiting for consumers who try to opt out. She says many of these opt-out options are:

  • Intricate
  • Incomplete
  • Expensive
  • Temporary
  • Punitive
  • Defamatory, as in this broker’s opt-out notice: “By sending a request for removal of names from the site, you give us permission to publish the request, including your email address and all headers.”

The best solution, it seems, is to have a solid support system and engaging lifestyle orbiting the recovered individual, as Deeney affirms.

“A constant barrage of alcohol advertising is not going to make me drink. Recovery has given me too amazing a life for that; I own a house, I’m happily married, I have a daughter. … These things did not come easily; I’ve only reached this point after 11 years of hard work at repairing the damage drugs and alcohol did to my life.”

If you or a loved one has developed a problem with alcohol, Sovereign Health can help. We offer support beyond detox and rehabilitation and cutting-edge treatment that is scientifically customized to completely rehabilitate. Call our 24/7 helpline for details.

About the author

Sovereign Health Group staff writer Kristin Currin is a mindful spirit swimming in metaphysical pools with faith as her compass. Her cover: a 30s-something Cinderella breadwinner of an all-sport blended family. Her repertoire includes writing poetry, lifestyle articles and TV news; editing, radio production and on-camera reporting. For more information and other inquiries about this media, contact the author at