It is held up as a great social lubricant and a wonderful way to have a good time, but the reality of alcohol is much darker than many of us assume. We have for years understood certain things about it such as that it is a terrible idea (and illegal!) to drink and drive. We know that someone who is intoxicated loses some of the control of their basic motor skills and also some of their capacity for reasoning and logic. However, about one in three of us have decided that these trade-offs are worth it if we can enjoy the pleasant side-effects of alcohol. New research may be starting to change our perspectives.
A Leading Cause Of Death
Men and women between the ages of 15 and 49 should not be facing death under normal circumstances. These are individuals who still have a lot of life left in them according to typical life expectancy charts in the United States and most developed countries in the world. However, many in this age group are dying as a result of alcohol-related illnesses. In fact, alcohol is the leading cause of premature death in this age group as it stands right now.
It is fascinating that a health crisis such as tobacco captured the public's imagination in ways that allowed the public to reconsider just how unhealthy smoking was to begin with. By and large the public decided to give up this habit. Government joined in this effort by raising taxes significantly on tobacco products and by funding causes that help to combat tobacco use. Private industry got involved as well by creating products to help those with a nicotine addiction to ease themselves off of it. All of this effort and yet we are currently ignoring the fact that alcohol is doing the very same things to us.
Moderate Drinking Will Not Save You
It is a common refrain to hear people talk about moderate drinking or how having just a drink or two. However, it turns out that even drinking in moderation does have negative health impacts. It doesn't matter that a person may be able to call it quits after just a couple of drinks, he or she could still be on a long path towards bad outcomes.
The other dangerous thing about saying that moderate drinking isn't all that bad is that a lot of people don't know how to measure moderate drinking. Much of the public would classify themselves as "social drinkers". However, that is a general and vague term that can be applied to one's own understanding of what that really means. There are some who drink quite heavily who have trouble admitting to themselves that they are more than a "social drinker".
Increased levels of alcohol consumption obviously correlate with increased risks as well. This is particularly noteworthy as it is so easy for any individual to cross over from being a moderate drinker into a heavy drinking without giving it much thought. It is just so difficult to tap the brakes on such a pleasurable activity.
Industry Is Fighting Back
This is perhaps the least surprising part of this entire story, but the Alcohol Information Partnership is fighting back against claims that moderate drinking is harmful. This may sound like some do good organization that is merely trying to provide people with all of the answers that they can find about how alcohol impacts the body, but it is not. It is a collection of some of the largest beer and liquor producers in the world.
It is pretty clear that this organization has an agenda of self-interest when they put out statements claiming that scientific studies are not actually showing results that prove that alcohol consumption has negative health impacts. The Alcohol Information Partnership probably doesn't have much to worry about when it comes to if people will choose to drink alcohol or not, but they always want to clamp down on any possible government regulation or intervention whenever possible.
European Countries Show High Alcohol Use
Industry groups can largely relax when it comes to if people are still going to consume alcohol or not. Surveys show that the vast majority of adults do. Laws vary from country to country, but they are generally more permissive in European democracies. As such, it turns out that over 90% of adults reported having consumed alcohol in the past year in Denmark, Norway, Germany, Poland, France, Switzerland, Greece, and Iceland. Each of these countries has their own unique culture and customs, but in each of them most adults choose to consume alcohol. The United States has somewhat more restrictive laws on alcohol and thus has a culture that is a little more resistant to the idea of drinking. Still, even in the United States the rates of alcohol consumption are quite high.
What This Could Mean For The Future
No one is seriously anticipating that people all around the world are just going to put down the bottle because they read about a study that says that alcohol is dangerous.
Almost everyone knows that alcohol is bad for their health in some form or fashion, but many choose to do next to nothing about it.
That being said, there is some hope for those who want to see a change in how things have been going on this front. Perhaps reports like this will help to spur governments and nonprofits into action to try to combat the issues that alcohol and alcoholism raises. This may mean opening more treatment facilities as well as teaching children at a younger age about the true dangers of alcohol consumption.
It is always better to have more knowledge available to the public no matter what the public ends up doing with it. As such, the future could be a much better place for those who choose to consume alcohol and for those who take this information and decide to make some changes in their own lives.