Alcohol Abuse Ranked as Leading Risk Factor for Diseases

by - Sunday, February 24, 2013

The San Diego Union-Tribune recently sat down with Dr. Marc Schuckit, a professor of psychiatry at U.C. San Diego School of Medicine in La Jolla. Dr. Schuckit has spent his academic career researching the effects of alcohol and alcohol abuse, and he is also the editor of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs. He stated at the outset of the piece that he ranks alcohol consumption as being “close to number one” among public health problems throughout the world. This is not only due to the fact that drinking is linked with social problems and public health threats such as driving under the influence of alcohol, drinking-fueled violence and behavioral disorders involving alcohol, but also because alcohol is a “leading risk factor” in disease.

Dr. Schuckit cites the fact that Americans consume on average between 8 and 10 liters — the equivalent of about 2.5 gallons — of alcohol every year. This is an astonishing figure, given that beer is only about five percent alcohol by volume, wine is generally 12 percent and even liquor is normally around 40 percent.

● Alcohol-Related Diseases

The U.C. professor’s expert opinions are backed up by the statistics concerning alcohol abuse and alcoholism and the role that they play in causing or contributing to disease. According to the World Health Organization, overconsumption of alcohol kills 2.5 million people globally every year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports this figure includes 80,000 deaths in the U.S. alone, which makes it the third leading cause of death related to lifestyle choices. On average, each American who dies from drinking too much is estimated to have lost 30 years of potential longevity. It is also a major factor in many neuropsychiatric disorders such as dementia and stroke, as well as being a predictor and risk factor in causing cardiovascular disease and heart attacks, pancreatitis, gastritis, and contributing to liver cirrhosis and hepatitis, and cancers of the mouth, esophagus, throat, breast, liver and colon.

Is Drinking Worth the Risks?

When the subject of the health risks associated with drinking alcohol comes up, the focus of the discussion is normally on either the possibility of a drunk driving car accident or on the risk of alcohol poisoning due to excessive drinking. People talk less often about the long-term damage that regular and even moderate alcohol consumption can cause to the drinker’s health. What is typically overlooked is that alcohol is fundamentally a poison — which is, of course, the source of its intoxicating effects — and that this poison will inevitably take a toll on the body. Anyone who routinely consumes alcohol is effectively poisoning himself or herself, and even if this does not result in serious short-term problems, it is likely to cause major consequences in the long-term. Unfortunately, many of the people who are most at risk of alcohol-related health complications, due to their heavy drinking, are also dependent on alcohol and find it nearly impossible to stop. Alcoholics know, at least on some level, what serious damage they are doing to their bodies, yet they feel incapable of getting the problem under control. For these people, the only answer is often to seek help through a non-drug based rehabilitation and treatment program like Florida Narconon centers [http://www.narcononflorida.org/] or other similar centers.

About the Author: Mitch Gardner is a contributing writer who covers topics related to health and wellness for several blogs.

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