Expats overseas more likely to have serious alcohol problems

Published:  28 May at 6 PM
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Tagged: USA
Research has shown that a far higher proportion of expats are likely to have serious alcohol problems than the general population.

According to researchers, expats working or retiring overseas have a dramatically high rate of alcoholism and are far less likely to admit their addiction and seek help. Drug and alcohol counsellor Kathleen Simmons believes the issue has been ongoing for many years due to the expat habit of socialising with others from the home country. Drinking, she says, always plays a huge part in such gatherings, and peer pressure along with denial makes it almost impossible for those affected to recognise they have a serious problem.

American expat Gerard lives in Cuenca and coordinates the city’s English speaking Alcoholics Anonymous group. He agrees that expats are more at risk of becoming chronic alcoholics than those back in the home country, saying very few can walk away without help whether it’s via AA or other assistance. Jerry Schaller, another Cuenca expat, says the drinking culture is entrenched within the city’s expat community and is seen at special events, private parties and local bars.

Before his retirement, Schaller was a rehabilitation counsellor with the US Veterans’ Administration and is fully aware of the tormented, private side of alcoholism involving drinking alone and trying to control the runaway train of addiction. One of Gerard’s major concerns is expat women living alone and falling into the trap of alcoholism. He believes there may well be more women than men in need of urgent help, as it’s somehow easier for men to come forward and admit their addiction.

Cuenca is just one tiny speck on the world map of expat havens, and AA meetings are few and far between or even unheard of in many expatriate hubs. There’s also a lack of treatment and rehab centres, and those which do exist are mostly aimed at wealthy alcoholics who arrive in an exotic location for a month or so’s combination of therapy and upscale tourism. Very few are able to kick the habit under those circumstances and the majority still have the beast on their backs when they return home.
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