GENERATIONS UNDER THE INFLUENCE: We are introduced to alcohol at an early age. Three-year-old James Ramirez shies away from his father's intentions to have him drink beer. "It doesn't smell good," says James.
ALCOHOL BRINGS US TOGETHER: Alcoholic beverage makers spend billions annually promoting their products to appeal to a large consumer base.
ALCOHOL BRINGS US TOGETHER: Students at NIU party after a long week of classes.
ALCOHOL BRINGS US TOGETHER: Businessmen sample a variety of whiskeys during a Scotch Malt Whiskey Society tasting. For $100, an assortment of the industry's finest whiskeys can be indulged in. With 26,000 members, the Society is the world's largest drinking club.
ALCOHOL BRINGS US TOGETHER: Northwestern students socialize with alcohol in hand.
ALCOHOL PULLS US APART: After losing his job a man threatens suicide after drinking a bottle of liquor and smashing it on his door.
ALCOHOL PULLS US APART: A dispute over a a bottle of booze results in violence.
ALCOHOL PULLS US APART: Many take unnecessary risks while under the influence. A man is en-route to failing a roadside sobriety test for the fourth time in three years.
THOSE LEFT BEHIND: Mourners say goodbye to the Sawkzuk family. The family of four was killed by an 18 year-old drunk driver.
THOSE LEFT BEHIND: Brian Wrona loved to party. But all that came to an end when he plowed into another drunk driver. He's been in a coma ever since.
ALCOHOL'S INFLUENCE ON THE YOUNG: A boy who lives above a tavern sees alcohol's impact from the patrons who frequent it.
ALCOHOL'S INFLUENCE ON THE YOUNG: Peer pressure overwhelms alcohol's bitter taste. A young drinker is experiencing what happens when alcohol enters the bloodstream.
ALCOHOL'S INFLUENCE ON THE YOUNG: The combination of a rock concert, booze and teenagers equal one big party.
ALCOHOL'S INFLUENCE ON THE YOUNG: A teen driver is attended to after a vehicle crash. The alcohol related crash resulted in his license being suspended.
ALCOHOL AND THE ADULT: During a 21st birthday celebration a young drinker lets alcohol take its course during the night. As alcohol levels increase, so does the zest for fun.
ALCOHOL AND THE ADULT: During old age, some will be lonely, and alcohol is there for them, making the day a little more tolerable.
ALCOHOL AND THE ADULT: For the majority of society, alcohol has the uncanny ability to smooth out the long day.
BREAKING THE CYCLE: Jeff Johnson finds comfort with a cigarette during the first days of his 6 month alcohol treatment program.
BREAKING THE CYCLE: 18 days of sobriety weigh heavy on Jeff's mind.
BREAKING THE CYCLE: Prayer with his counselor helps Jeff control his desire to drink.
BREAKING THE CYCLE: While trying to purge the desire to drink alcohol he still has to keep court appointments to deal with his DUI charges.
LETHAL LEGACY: Walter Reierson drinks brandy during his daily outing to a bar near his apartment in suburban Chicago. Heavy drinking helps with his pain caused by an inoperable tumor, exasperated by years of alcoholism.
LETHAL LEGACY: Walter's daughter helps him from the bar for the ride home. His adult children drink with him daily.
LETHAL LEGACY: Walter chokes his eldest son during an argument induced by a long day of drinking.
LETHAL LEGACY: Walter's health deteriorated rapidly during his heavy drinking episodes.
LETHAL LEGACY: Walter hated medical attention from Hospice because he did not want to prolong his life.
LETHAL LEGACY: With his death rapidly approaching his children took vigil drinking at his bedside.
LETHAL LEGACY: Emaciated and unable to control normal functions, Walter succumbed to the inevitability of death.
LETHAL LEGACY: Walter's daughter tosses his ashes near his favorite hunting grounds from days gone by.
LETHAL LEGACY: Walter's children drink and toast their father after scattering his ashes.
Generations Under the Influence
Photography by Brian Plonka
Alcohol can be a legitimate and joyous influence in our everyday lives.
According to the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 86.4 percent of people ages 18 or older reported that they drank alcohol at some point in their lifetime; 70.1 percent reported that they drank in the past year; 56.0 percent reported that they drank in the past month.
In 2015, 26.9 percent of people ages 18 or older reported that they engaged in binge drinking in the past month; 7.0 percent reported that they engaged in heavy alcohol use in the past month.2 (See sidebar on page 2 for definitions of binge drinking and heavy alcohol use.)
An estimated 88,0009 people (approximately 62,000 men and 26,000 women9) die from alcohol-related causes annually, making alcohol the fourth leading preventable cause of death in the United States.
In 2014, alcohol-impaired driving fatalities accounted for 9,967 deaths (31 percent of overall driving fatalities) according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
This content is not to pass judgement, fuel debate or point fingers at those who drink , whether in moderation or excess.
Rather, it is an attempt to put faces on an issue that is so tightly woven into societyʼs tapestry that we often donʼt realize when it is causing our own lives to unravel.
Alcoholʼs influence can be found be found in every ethnic and social economic corner of our world. That impact is not limited by age, and it persists from generation to generation.
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