Binge Drinking in Australia: Symbolic Interactionism Perspective

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Unit Name: Understanding Social Problems


This essay will discuss some of the phenomena of binge drinking in Australia context through symbolic interactionism perspective. For this essay to discuss binge drinking in the Australian context, it will look at statistics on binge drinking; it will also look at how binge drinking affects society, the age gap that is affected, the social groups it effects, the impact it has on society as a whole. It will give an overview of the three elements in symbolic interactionism theory and apply these theories to binge drinking; it will also define symbolic interactionism and apply it to explain the origins of binge drinking.

Social problem

Alcohol is the most consumed recreational drug in Australia because Alcohol is consumed across Australia it is not considered a drug and is considered socially acceptable in Australian society. However, most drinking that occurs in society is binge drinking (Australian Drug Foundation, 2014). Alcohol is  mishandle drug in Australia 86.2% of teenagers aged fourteen years and above have consumed alcohol once in their lives, 37.3% of this individuals go on to consume alcohol on a weekly or daily basis (Australian Drug Foundation, 2014). The age bracket for binge drinking is 70 plus years, binge drinking common platform is alcohol abuse (Australian Drug Foundation, 2014). Alcohol is prevalent in Australia because alcohol is prevalent it is not considered a drug or harmful, this leads to individuals drinking too heavy which leads to binge drinking (Hoops & Sean B, 2012). (Matthews S, Dietze P, Room R, Chikritzhs T, & D, 2013) (Roche ANN et al., 2009).

Long-term and short-term binge drinking can be unsafe and damaging. Some of the short-term effects that come from binge drinking are hangovers, headache, loss of memory, nausea or vomiting, shaking. Some long-term effects that come from binge drinking are people needings alcohol feeling as If they are dependant on it, the risk of getting brain damage or liver diseases (Taylor et al., 2010 ). Binge Drinking can have these effects also, overdosing from alcohol poisoning, car accidents, injuries such as falls these effects can lead to severe injuries or death. Lengthy consumption of alcohol has been linked to sexual dysfunction issues and increased cancer risks such as throat cancer and stomach cancer (Taylor et al., 2010 ).

Binge drinking is consuming extensive amounts of alcohol over a short period with the intention of becoming intoxicated, with immediate results. Single occasion drinking and binge drinking are very different; binge drinking is continuous consumption of alcohol over days and weeks, this may lead to long-effects of alcoholism, Single occasion drinking is consuming alcohol on special occasions (Taylor et al., 2010 ). Binge drinking affects the community directly because some individuals may take to drinking during official work hours, and these individuals can not work productively because of the short-term effects discussed above (Taylor et al., 2010 ). Binge drinking can affect society in through infertility as the family’s that binge drinks are suffering from sexual dysfunction (Taylor et al., 2010 ).

Research states consuming the same amount of alcohol over the days you would consume while binge drinking is less harmful than binge drinking (Matthews S et al., 2013). Reports have stated that the majority of problems related to alcohol consumption are familiar among individuals who binge drink than they are in alcoholics, these reports indicate that binge drinking is related to injury cases, social problems and diseases that relate to the liver, high blood pressure, thrombosis and individuals that get sudden cardiac deaths. Along with the above problems, the bulk of resources at an individual level could have been used for productive investment, but will instead be used up in binge drinking (Australian Drug Foundation, 2014).  This problem can be further extended by when an individual is binge drinking they are highly likely to participate in reckless actions (Adams, 2013) (Australian Drug Foundation, 2014). The problems and effects listed above concluded that binge drinking is a social problem in Australia.

Theory description

Symbolic interactionism focuses on relationships through individuals at a micro level. One of the founders of symbolic interactionism is considered to be George Herbert Mead in (1863-1931). Symbolic interactionism is believed to look at the signs and meanings that are attached to peoples behaviours (Lumen Sociology, n.d.). For binge drinking, theorists would use symbolic interactionism theory to look at the meaning behind binge drinking in Australia to explain the social phenomenon attached to binge drinking and the information that is developed when an individual participates in binge drinking, and how the information developed creates the individual’s phenomenon.

The perspective that human beings can be social in nature is founded on symbolic interactionism. People are attached to the society they live in; the behaviour people have a result of forces within human beings, e.g. instincts, external environment, drives and reflects that society is driven by interpretations of peoples external world and internal stimuli (Rose, 1962). There are three elements to symbolic interactionism theory. These elements explain the basis of symbolic interactionism these elements are: (1)Human beings actions towards others or objects is based on the meaning of what happens them. (2) The meaning attached to others or objects arises or decreases from the social interactions that a person may have with others (3) These meanings are handled and change through an interactive process that is used by an individual with dealing with other or objects that the individual comes across (Burke, 1980).

The above three elements identify the central idea of symbolic interactionism is humans do not just respond to foundation, situations, and circumstances directly because humans have thinking capability, but instead give these events situations and circumstances meaning, This means characterise peoples actions, behaviour and they are created through interactions with them self or with other people (Burke, 1980).

Theory application

Symbolic interactionism involves using a micro-level approach to communicate between people and organisations in society. Binge drinking, therefore, might be looked at with the paradigm by assessing the social settings through which people experience binge drinking and the people around them that influenced them, or they influenced (Scarpitti, 2009 ).  For instances, if an Individual is a binge drinker and their family consume massive amounts of alcohol and is very proud of heavy and intoxicating drinking, under these circumstances, it is essential that the individuals binge drinking problem under symbolic interactionism, their therapist should consider the distinctive individual value and the culture of the family. In these cases, the individuals family and other groups support binge drinking to a greater extent. For these cases, Symbolic interactionism would put binge drinking as a problem for the individual and the individual’s immediate network; this means it would be addressed at a micro-level (Scarpitti, 2009 ).

Symbolic interactionism focuses its attention on binge drinking and the social meaning attached to it. If an individual finds binge drinking as pleasurable the first time, then they are highly likely that it will recure and the individual will start to frequently binge drink. Individuals that participate in binge drinking with groups will learn techniques and get motivated to continue to interact and binge drink within these groups. An Indvidual who is having a drink for the first time will learn what to expect and how to define this experience (Scarpitti, 2009 ). Symbols Can be vulnerable to manipulation and used for economic and political gain (Scarpitti, 2009 ).

Symbolic interactionism used Sutherland’s differential association to explain the social problem of binge drinking; It uses deviant behaviour and symbols to explain binge drinking (Lermert, 1972 ). Australian Society promotes events and situations that Symbolic Interactionism sees this result to binge drinking. Australian context has praised and accepted binge drinking as being cool to participate in (Matthews S et al., 2013). Due to binge drinking being labelled normal and praised, the bulk of teenagers especially in their high school and uni years tend to believe the binge drinking is the maturity mark and is a fun activity. Also, an excellent way to socialise because the Australian society has awarded binge drinking(Matthews S et al., 2013).

Binge drinking continued existence as a social problem in Australia is because binge drinking has remained prominent among society and it is the standard way of enjoying a discussion with friends and  its role massive role in entertainment, as well as the role it plays in occasions related to having fun. Alcohol consumption is considered the way to pass the time; this leads to people drinking on weekdays and weekends which leads to binge drinking, also find that alcohol is a measure for having fun and celebrating, The general culture of society says it is familiar to binge drink at events or celebrations (Matthews S et al., 2013).


Alcohol in Australia is one of the most abused drugs, 86.2% of teenagers aged fourteen years and above have drunk or will drink alcohol once in their lives with 37% of these teenager consuming alcohol on a weekly or daily basis. Binge drinking has become a podium for alcohol abuse in Australia. The short term and long-term effects of binge drinking are harmful some ways. Binge drinking has become a social problem in the Australian context; Symbolic interactionism perspective focusses on the social meaning that is attached to binge drinking. If an individual finds binge drinking as pleasurable the first time, then they are highly likely that it will recure and the individual will start to frequently binge drink, Individuals that participate in binge drinking with groups will learn techniques and get motivated to continue to interact and binge drink within these groups. The first-time drinker learns what to expect and how to define this experience, Symbols Can be vulnerable to manipulation and used for economic and political gain. Symbolic interactionism explains the social problems that are linked to binge drinking throughout Sutherland’s differential association.

Adams, P. J. (2013). Addiction Industry Studies Addiction Industry Studies: Understanding how pro consumption influences block effective interventions(103(4)), 35-38.

Australian Drug Foundation. (2014, November 25). Australian Drug Foundation. Australian Drug Foundation. Retrieved from

Burke, P. J. (1980). Social Psychology Quarterly The Self Measurement Requirements From An integrationist perspective, 43(1), 19-29. doi:10.2307/3033745

Hoops, & Sean B. (2012). Socialization with Alcohol or Alcohol as Socialization: An Actor-Network Theory Approach to Understanding College Student Alcohol Use”. Social Psychology Quarterly, 35.

Lermert, E. M. (1972 ). Human deviance, social problems, and social control (2 ed.): Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, N J, .

Lumen Sociology. (n.d.). Sociological paradigm #: Symbolic Interactionist Theory Lume Sociology Retrieved from

Matthews S, Dietze P, Room R, Chikritzhs T, & D, J. (2013). The social location of heavy episodic alcohol consumption in the Victorian population. Drug and Alcohol Review (32), 61-157. doi:10.1111/j.1465-3362.2012.00511.x

Roche ANN, Bywood Petra, Freeman Toby, Pidd Ken, Joseph Borlagdan, & Trifonoff Allan. (2009). The Social Context of Alcohol Use in Australia. Adelaide: National Centre for Education and Training on Addiction. The social context of alcohol use in Australia

Rose, A. (1962). Human Behavior and social processes: an internationalist Approach In Human Behavior and social processes: an integrationist approach Boston: Houghton Mifflin

Scarpitti, F., R, . (2009 ). Crime and criminals: contemporary and classic readings in criminology (Vol. 2): New York: Oxford University Press.

Taylor, B., Irving, H., Kanter’s, F., Room, R., Borges, G., Cherpitel, C., . . . Rehmj. (2010 ). Drug Alcohol Depend. The more you drink, the harder you fall: a systematic review and meta-analysis of how acute alcohol consumption and injury or collision risk increase together., 108-116. doi:10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2010.02.011

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