Alcohol and Health
Most people agree that alcoholism is tragic and destructive. They see the alcoholic’s decline, their loss of self-esteem and self-control. They see the suffering of those around the alcoholic. Very often the alcoholic is visibly depressed about an inability to stop drinking or about the problems—financial, familial and otherwise—that may be created by the alcoholism.
What many people do not see, however, is the direct negative effect that alcohol has on one’s health. But the World Health Organization knows about it and reported on it recently in their annual Global Alcohol Report.
According to this report, 2.5 million deaths a year are caused by alcohol. This calculates out to 4 percent of the world’s deaths. And in the case of alcohol-related deaths, the simple truth is that they are preventable simply by not drinking.
Health Conditions, Fatal and Otherwise, Linked to Alcohol Consumption
- Epilepsy, cirrhosis of the liver, both acute and chronic pancreatitis
- Cancers: Colorectal, breast, larynx, liver, esophagus, mouth and pharynx
- Suicide and self-inflicted injuries
- Injuries or death due to traffic accidents, falls, drownings, burns or assaults
- Hypertension, cardiac arrhythmia or cardiac arrest, stroke
Other conditions include fetal alcohol syndrome disorders which can include death of the fetus as well as facial abnormalities, social or learning disorders, or when severe, a particular pattern of mental disability.
In addition, excessive alcohol consumption weakens the immune system, meaning the body has a harder time recovering from or maintaining itself against tuberculosis, HIV or pneumonia.
For some health conditions, such as cirrhosis of the liver, alcohol is estimated to be responsible for half of the worldwide deaths from this condition. And in the case of drowning, approximately 15 percent are attributable to alcohol.
Rate of Alcohol-Caused Death Varies Widely by Location, Income and Age
With the religious ban on alcohol consumption, Muslim countries have low rates of death from alcohol consumption. But in Russia, one of every five men dies from an alcohol-related condition. For women in Russia, it is 6 percent, far above the international average for females of 1.4 percent.
Another factor in the causation of illness is whether alcohol consumption is heavy and periodic. In the United States, this is often called “binge drinking” and is defined as five or more drinks in one sitting (or about two hours). For a female, binge drinking is four or more drinks. In Western Europe, alcohol consumption is less often heavy and periodic. In Russia, Brazil, Mexico and Southern Africa, heavy, periodic drinking is more often the trend. Deaths due to accidental and intentional injuries are higher when alcohol consumption follows this pattern.
Further research by the World Health Organization showed that those in the upper middle income class were more likely to die from alcohol-related causes—900 deaths per million for this group. In contrast, the upper income class rate fell to a little over 100 per million and the world rate was about 300 deaths per million.
Age is a huge factor for alcohol-related deaths, in some regions. In America and Europe, 30 percent or more of deaths of males 15–29 years of age were due to alcohol. This statistic drops off steadily as males age.
Treatment Success Varies Depending on How it is Approached
There are several schools of treatment for alcoholism and the success rates vary.
One medical model is to have the alcoholic take a drug that is trade-named Antabuse. It is supposed to make an alcoholic sick if he or she drinks. But many people say it doesn’t work for them. Other drugs are supposed to block the intoxicating effects of alcohol.
Twelve-step programs have a strict outline of actions that may guide the addicted person back to sobriety. Frequent meetings are a mainstay of the program. Some people do not succeed in twelve-step programs simply because they lack the social skills to do so. When alcoholism started very young, before a person developed enough maturity to accept responsibility, or when alcoholism goes on for a long time so that social skills are obliterated, a person may not be able to win in this context.
A true holistic approach to alcoholism means that no drugs are used and the entire person’s life and health are considered when treating the condition. At Narconon drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs around the world, alcoholism is addressed with a combination of nutrition, counseling and life-skills training. Each recovering alcoholic is assisted and guided through the process of rebuilding his or her life, repairing damaged relationships, and preparing to take a place among those living sober, productive lives.
At Narconon alcohol recovery programs, each person repairs the damage at their own rate, while following a precise and closely monitored program of withdrawal, detoxification and life skills.