The link between the consumption of moderate levels of alcohol and physiological health has been hotly contended. There are many who consider alcohol good for cardiovascular health; however, others pinpoint, it increases the risk of stroke. Likewise, there are innumerable contradictory arguments pertaining to the impact of alcohol on mental and physical health.
Recently, the 90+ Study – started in 2003 by the University of California, Irvine – examined around 14,000 senior citizens living in retirement homes. It found that the elderly who consumed around two glasses of beer or wine every day reduced the chances of premature death by about 18 percent compared to those who did not drink at all. However, researchers are wary of the findings and believe that the results are subject to other factors, such as lifestyle, diet, exercise, etc. Therefore, one should not consider the impact of alcohol consumption in isolation.
They also warned against raising a celebratory toast in advance as alcohol could do more harm than good. Addressing an American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) conference last month, Dr. Claudia Kawas, one of the co-principal investigators for the 90+ Study, said, “Keep in mind that I start studying people when they’re 90. I think it’s very likely that individuals who have very excessive alcohol intake at younger ages don’t even make it to their 90s.”
Adverse effects of alcohol
Alcohol is one of the most prevalent and easily accessible substances of abuse worldwide. Being highly acceptable in social events, it is increasingly being consumed by the young. The lower prices of alcoholic drinks compared to drugs make them more popular, irrespective of age, gender, etc. Unfortunately, alcohol is more than a drink needed for breaking the ice with others. It is an intoxicant, with adverse effects – social, physiological, psychological and economic.
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), an estimated 88,000 mortalities could be attributed to alcohol and alcohol-related reasons. Alcohol-related deaths are estimated to be the third most preventable cause of death in the United States after smoking and poor lifestyle. As per 2010 estimates, alcohol abuse costs the U.S. economy a whopping $249 billion annually.
The social implications of alcohol abuse are massive. It not only impacts the well-being of the user but also ruins the family. The families of alcoholism patients often witness conflicts, domestic violence and other outrageous behaviors. The frequent arguments and fights during drinking affects the children badly, impairing their cognitive skills and developing depressive symptoms.
In the workplace, people who drink frequently are likely to be poor performers. Additionally, they are also likely to be a negative influence on their colleagues and cause frequent disruption in work. The negativity could further spill over and result in absenteeism, accidents, injuries, etc. In certain instances, it could also result in legal hassles, which are disliked by employers.
A recent study indicated that alcohol causes changes in the stem cells of the blood, which increases the risk to seven types of cancerous tumors, such as those of the mouth, liver, colon, throat, breast and bowels. The finding was deduced on the basis of research carried out at the Medical Research Council (MRC) Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge. By combining the method of chromosome analysis with DNA sequencing, they examined the way acetaldehyde, a toxic chemical produced in the liver when alcohol breaks down, damages the DNA in the stem cells to cause cancer. In addition, alcohol is also known to increase the risk of certain critical liver and heart diseases.
Get help to lead healthy life
Once addicted to alcohol, people find it difficult to get out of this life-threatening habit. The risk of exacerbation of alcoholism increases due to the severity of withdrawal pangs. However, alcoholism is not a lifelong condition. It can be overcome with medication-assisted treatment (MAT), rehabilitation and counseling. With sustained efforts, one can get rid of alcohol cravings.