Consumption of alcoholic beverages impairs judgment and contributes to a huge number of automobile accidents, other types of accidents, diseases, and violence. Furthermore: “Impairment due to alcohol use begins to occur at levels well below the legal limit” for blood alcohol content (BAC) according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention1.
Just having one drink of an alcoholic beverage has some harmful effects. Even a blood alcohol content of 0.01 percent seems to significantly impact at least a few skills. Drinking less than one beer would lead to a larger BAC than 0.01 for most people! A report on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration2’s website states: “This review of the literature provides strong evidence that impairment of some driving-related skills begins with any departure from zero BAC.”
And often drinkers consume two or more alcoholic beverages in one day — or one hour. Though I personally choose not to drink beer, wine, or other alcoholic beverages, several of my friends do. Often they profess only “social drinking,” only drinking “moderately.” But virtually all of them when questioned admit they have been intoxicated at least once. Since many of us (blush!) have trouble consuming just one potato chip or one cookie, why take a chance with liquor?
Furthermore, virtually everyone I know who consumes alcoholic beverages began doing so before reaching the legal drinking age in the United States of 21. Therefore most broke the law in two ways: by drinking underage and by getting drunk.
Does Drinking in Moderation Offer Any Health Benefits?
Many claim that drinking alcohol in moderation reduces the risk of heart disease and/or provides some other health benefit. And some studies support this. But numerous others feel that the risks almost always outweigh the possible benefits. Also, some research indicates that grape juice provides some of the same benefits that moderate alcohol consumption is claimed to provide without the harmful effects and risks of alcohol, as reported on MayoClinic.com3, among other sources.
Furthermore, many, including some scientists, question whether alcohol really is beneficial in moderation. A June 16, 2009 New York Times piece titled “Alcohol’s Good for You? Some Scientists Doubt It”4 is one of the sources that discusses this in more detail.
The American Heart Association on its website5 advises all persons who do not currently drink alcoholic beverages to not start. It also urges that “Pregnant women shouldn’t drink alcohol in any form.”
Please do not succumb to the false and misleading advertising for alcoholic beverages. In fact it would be great if people would unite to stop such advertising. The American Medical Association6 opposes advertising for “alcoholic beverages except for inside retail or wholesale outlets.” I agree with the American Medical Association. Let’s stop allowing advertising for beer and other alcoholic beverages on television, radio, magazines, newspapers, online, and in similar mass media sources.
Some persons claim they drink to relax, to enjoy themselves, or to forget about their problems. Surely they can find an alternative way to relax and enjoy themselves! If people have problems, seek solutions. Drinking alcoholic beverages likely will not solve their problems, and in many cases will make them worse. They may wake up with a hangover — if they wake up at all. Since I am not a doctor I can’t give medical advice, but I think the dangers of consuming alcoholic beverages even socially outweigh any benefits.
The best way to avoid becoming drunk is to never drink alcoholic beverages.
Health Problems Associated With Alcohol Abuse
The health problems associated with alcohol abuse are numerous and well documented. The quote below from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website7 summarizes several of them:
“Excessive drinking both in the form of heavy drinking or binge drinking, is associated with numerous health problems, including-
“• Chronic diseases such as liver cirrhosis (damage to liver cells); pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas); various cancers, including liver, mouth, throat, larynx (the voice box), and esophagus; high blood pressure; and psychological disorders.
- “Unintentional injuries, such as motor-vehicle traffic crashes, falls, drowning, burns and firearm injuries.
- “Violence, such as child maltreatment, homicide, and suicide.
- “Harm to a developing fetus if a woman drinks while pregnant, such as fetal alcohol spectrum disorders.
- “Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).”
Alcohol contributes to a huge number of deaths, injuries, and illnesses. A study published in 2009 in the British medical journal The Lancet indicated that approximately “one in 25 deaths worldwide are attributable to alcohol,” as stated on the Lancet’s website8 and reported in numerous news articles including a Time9 article, a BBC10 article, and a ScienceDaily11 article. If you doubt the results of this study, you may research online for the results of numerous other studies documenting or indicating numerous deaths and serious injuries caused directly or indirectly by alcohol.
Due to alcohol’s harmful effects many countries, private companies, and other entities have laws and policies prohibiting or limiting the intake of alcoholic beverages. Often other countries have stricter limits than those of the United States. For example, the United States maximum legal blood alcohol limit for driving automobiles of 0.08% is not as strict as that of many other nations, as noted by the information on various websites, including Drive and Stay Alive, Inc.,12 and rupissed.com13 .
My Personal Experience
I lived most of my childhood in Kentucky counties where the sale of alcoholic beverages was illegal. Neither my parents nor my friends consumed alcoholic beverages to my knowledge, and I did not know who the bootleggers were or where the stills were. Therefore I did not have easy access to alcohol until I started college. This blessed me! Limited access is perhaps the major reason I did not indulge my curiosity and try out alcoholic beverages in response to the widespread advertising I saw for beer and other alcoholic beverages on television, radio, and in the print media, as well as its promotion in various television shows and in movies as I was growing up in the 1960s and 1970s. But reading about alcohol’s harmful effects and hearing about them were other contributing factors.
By the time I started college in 1976, I had decided to abstain from alcoholic beverages unless needed for medicinal reasons. College classmates who overindulged and vomited, lacked memory of what they did the day before, etc., reinforced this decision. I could cheer and have fun at college sporting events and enjoy other activities without consuming an intoxicating drink. I had several friends who could, too.
A Few Recommendations
Avoiding alcohol abuse could potentially prevent millions of deaths as well as millions more injuries and illnesses. You have probably read about the traffic fatalities and injuries, physical attacks by intoxicated people, vomiting, persons not remembering what they did the day they were drunk, deaths from binge drinking, and deaths from alcohol-related illnesses. Why not relax and have safe fun without the alcohol?
Over the long term, prohibition of alcohol sales for public consumption may be the answer. But due to the millions of people in the United States who already consume alcohol (many supposedly in moderation), prohibition is not practical at this time. It was tried decades ago and failed due to widespread addiction and ineffective enforcement.
But one short term step toward reducing widespread alcohol abuse would be greatly restricting advertising for this harmful product in my opinion. And, if we help current alcohol abusers deal with their addiction and prevent young people from taking their first drink of beer, wine, whiskey, or other alcoholic beverages, maybe in a generation or two we can virtually eliminate alcohol abuse. Enforcing the minimum legal age limit of 21 for starting to drink and the maximum legal blood alcohol limit of .08 percent are keys.
Alcohol is still used in certain medications. But alternative medications without alcohol exist for most medicinal needs now. Therefore, alcohol is less useful for medicinal purposes than centuries ago. Like penicillin or any other medicine, alcohol ought not be consumed unless needed for medicinal reasons — and only consumed in the proper dosage. Alcohol-free medications often are more effective than those containing alcohol and frequently have the additional benefit of having fewer harmful side effects. In fact the instructions for numerous medications specifically state to avoid consuming alcohol while taking the medication.
Eliminating or greatly reducing alcohol abuse won’t be easy. But the combined loving efforts of parents, educators, community leaders, and law enforcement officials, along with restrictions on advertising, can go a long way toward achieving it. It is a worthwhile goal. Please, let’s work together to achieve it.
Note: This article is similar to and adapted from other articles the author has written on the subject. This particular article was last revised on April 10, 2011.
1Alcohol and Public Health. Frequently Asked Questions. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Last updated July 20, 2010. (Website accessed August 21, 2010)
2Moskowitz, Herbert and Fiorentino, Dary; “A Review of the Literature on the Effects of Low Doses of Alcohol on Driving-Related Skills” Final Report. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. April 2000. (Website accessed January 23, 2011)
3Grogan, Martha; Answer to question, “Does grape juice provide the same heart benefits as red wine?” MayoClinic.com. July 24, 2009. (Website accessed August 21, 2010)
4Rabin, Roni Caryn; “Alcohol’s Good for You? Some Scientists Doubt It”NewYorkTimes website, June 16, 2009. (Website accessed August 21, 2010)
5″Alcohol, Wine and Cardiovascular Disease” American Heart Association website. (Website accessed August 21, 2010)
6″Alcohol Advertising” American Medical Association website (Website accessed August 21, 2010)
7″Alcohol and Public Health. Frequently Asked Questions.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Last updated July 20, 2010. (Website accessed August 21, 2010)
8″Alcohol and Global Health; Executive Summary”. TheLancet.com. Published June 26, 2009. (Website accessed August 21, 2010)
9Harrell, Eben; “Stemming the Rise in Global Alcohol-Related Deaths”. Time.com June 29, 2009. (Website accessed August 21, 2010)
10″Alcohol link to one in 25 deaths” BBC News website. Last updated 2:01 GMT, Friday, June 26, 2009. (Website accessed August 21, 2010)
11″One in 25 Deaths Worldwide Attributable to Alcohol” ScienceDaily.com. June 27, 2009. (Website accessed August 21, 2010)
12Wren, Eddie “Drunk Driving Blood Alcohol Limits Worldwide” Drive and Stay Alive, Inc. (Website accessed September 26, 2010.)
13″Blood Alcohol Content Drink Driving Limits By Country” rupissed.com (Website accessed September 26, 2010.)