Studies increasingly show that the dangers of alcohol are downplayed and its benefits exaggerated. Nes/E+ via Getty Images
This month, millions of Americans said,dry january“I abstained from alcohol for a month to cleanse myself of the excesses of the holiday season.
alcohol is most widely used drugs around the world, including the United States
In 2020, nearly 70% of people 18 and older in the United States said they had consumed an alcoholic beverage. in the previous year, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. In addition, 24% reported binge drinking (defined as her 4 or more drinks for women and 5 or more drinks for men) in the previous month.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought important changes to alcohol consumption. In his one of the nationally representative samples, the number of people who reported drinking in the past year was consistent from 2019 to 2021, although he Daily alcohol consumption increased from 6.3% to 9.6%.
Americans’ comfort and acceptance of the use of alcohol in their daily lives is very high, in part because alcohol is such a commonly used substance, so heavily promoted and appealing in pop culture. Expensive. But should it?
researching alcohol use Links between drinking and various problems. on the other hand, prevalence of opioids It has received increasing attention in recent years that the number of annual deaths attributed to alcohol is as high as the overall annual death toll in the United States. drug overdoseboth of which have increased rapidly over the past few years.
What about moderate drinking?
Over the past 20 years, the idea that moderate drinking can actually have health benefits has been settled,backup some preliminary and limited evidenceThis led to the broad notion in popular media A glass of red wine a day reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
However, many of the studies used to support the claim that a glass of red wine is good for your health have one major flaw. A comparison was made between moderate drinkers and non-drinkers.
There are many reasons why people who drink in moderation are fundamentally different and healthier than those who don’t drink at all. For example, many people who develop new illnesses unrelated to drinking stop drinking and form abstinence groups. look unhealthy than those who consume low or moderate levels of alcohol.
In 2018, the National Institutes of Health initiated a large randomized controlled trial (the gold standard for understanding causality), Benefits of moderate drinking.
The study was designed to determine the heart benefits of one drink a day, but failed to detect any negative effects of moderate alcohol consumption. increase in breast cancer. Address Known Alcohol-Related Harms Due to concerns that the research was co-funded by the alcohol industry, the trial stopped after a few months
Links Between Alcohol and Cancer and Other Harms
Thanks to lobbying by powerful alcohol industrythe dangers of alcohol may be underestimated and its benefits exaggerated. Established problems with drinking even at moderate levels It may outweigh the potential benefits.
alcohol is Third leading cause of premature death one of the major in the US Modifiable causes of death worldwide, has received little media or policy attention. Worryingly, the number of deaths caused by alcohol increased by 25% between 2019 and 2020. The first year of the COVID-19 pandemicThese percentages increased most rapidly among people aged 25 to 44.
Lifetime prevalence of alcohol use disorders – defined as the impairment of the ability to stop or control alcohol use despite. Adverse social, occupational or health effects – Almost 30%. In other words, nearly one-third of the population is severely affected by alcohol consumption at some point in their lives.
Alcohol use, even at low levels, is associated with many cancers, including: chest, colorectal, liver, esophagusAlcohol is approximately 75,000 cancer cases and 19,000 cancer deaths annuallyAdditionally, a recent survey found that more than 50% of adults in the United States Cancer-Related Risks of Alcohol Consumption.
Alcohol also causes many serious harms to others, many of which are related to violence. These include child abuse riskphysical abuse, intimate partner violence, sexual assault When gun violenceAlcohol-Related Road Traffic Fatalities in the United States – Declining for Decades – 14% increase to 11,654 in 2020.
Disparities in alcohol-related outcomes
Not everyone feels the effects of alcohol in the same way. In the United States, black and Latinx people who drink experience more of the social effects of drinking than white people who drink. especially among groups that consume alcohol at low levelsThese consequences include arguments and fights, accidents and workplace, legal and health problems.
Additionally, studies show that adolescents who report a minority sexual orientation are: start drinking at a young age and continue Binge drinking increases with ageThese differences in alcohol-related problems at the same level of alcohol consumption contribute to the disparities in many other health outcomes in these populations.
Higher taxes and higher drinking age could offset harm
There is much the United States can do to reduce the burden of alcohol consumption through public policy. One policy that has proven effective is alcohol tax, is a selective sales tax on the purchase of alcohol. Other policies that have been shown to be effective include limiting the number of outlets selling alcohol, sales time When Raising the legal drinking age 18 to 21 years old.The current minimum drinking age in the United States is 21, but before 1984 the minimum drinking age was varies by stateSome states allow drinking from the age of 18.
The alcohol industry often opposes many of these policies and regulations, but they are relatively easy to implement.Nevertheless, alcohol control policies have declined in the United States over the past few decades, with many states privatize alcohol sales – Contrary to what experts know can reduce alcohol-related harm.Privatization abolish the state monopoly on alcohol salesper capita alcohol sales and consumption will increase significantly.
Alcohol plays a pivotal role in American culture, but the obvious consequences of drinking in my view make it unwise to recommend it as a pathway to better health and well-being. As noted, the modest reductions in cardiovascular disease that are questionably associated with low levels of consumption are unlikely to be offset by the considerable harm of alcohol to individual and population health.
This is an updated version of the article First published on July 9, 2018.
This article is reprinted from conversationis an independent, non-profit news site dedicated to sharing ideas from academic experts. It was written by: Christina Mare, University of PittsburghNews from experts from independent nonprofits. Try our free newsletter.
Christina Mair is funded by the National Institutes of Health, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.