Alcohol undeniably is one the most consumed intoxicant the world over, but despite being widely in use it remains a physiologically and psychologically dangerous consumable product. Alcohol today accounts for more personal destruction and deaths than any other substance that is abused, however it remains legal in most parts of the world and is easily accessible and remains supported by a worldwide industry that is more than a billion dollars worth. Alcoholism affects vital organs of the body including the stomach, the liver, kidneys and pancreas. Moreover, it has links to cancer as well as leads to neurological and psychological complications by affecting specific regions of the brain. It is well known to lead towards aggressive behavior and violence and the large number of consumers who are taking it above recommended limits highlights to a grim reality and makes alcoholism a major health concern. A number of primary and secondary studies in this regard will be used to demonstrate how alcoholism can lead to a multitude of serious health problems.
Some of the primary health disorders caused by alcohol abuse is chronic and acute liver disease. A close relationship between a cumulative intake of alcohol and liver damage risks have been established (S Bellentani). A study to investigate the relationship between the type of alcoholic beverage, daily alcohol intake and drinking patterns compared to the likelihood of developing liver damage was studied in which the findings demonstrated that alcohol consumption of multiple types either with or without meals lead towards a higher risk of acquiring alcohol related liver diseases. If alcohol intake increased 30grams per day for both sexes, there was a significant increase observed in liver disease prevalence. Multiple alcoholic beverages were more harmful than consuming a single form, and drinking without food leads, independent of the drunk amount, is associated with an increased prevalence of liver disease (S Bellentani). The personal observations I had during my experience in dealing with alcoholics also corroborate with the findings of the research. I have seen a lot of acquaintances and colleagues having regular appointments with the physician for one problem or the other that related to their alcohol consumption.
Many studies have established organ damage asides from the liver that results as a consequence of chronic alcohol abuse. Liver cirrhosis and chronic pancreatitis are two major diseases. Postmortem autopsy data was collected for a study with a recorded history of being alcoholics and compared to a control group of that were non alcoholics (Andrea Pace). Macroscopic observations of liver and pancreases belonging to the two groups were conducted in the study. The findings showed a close relationship between hepatic and pancreatic injury in those patients with a history of alcoholism, with a high degree of damage to both organs observed which established that pancreatic and liver injury were simultaneously prevalent in individuals that had a history of excess intake. I see the findings of the studies as an important reminder of the fact that even moderate yet regular consumption of alcohol leads to a decrease in longevity and see the view that alcohol helps battle life’s stresses to be highly mistaken in light of these findings.
Besides direct damage to major organs, alcoholism also affects sexual function and testicular pathology that leads to a reduction of overall sperm production in males and reduction of the testosterone hormone that regulates these functions. It was established that testicular sperm production mechanism were not just indirectly affected by alcohol related liver damage but it contributed directly to the complication regardless of liver diseases. 17000 patients data in this regard was collected who were treated since the last 37 years in a major Seattle hospital (Lewis H. Kuller). The findings demonstrated that it was alcohol consumption that was directly affecting spermatogenesis. Overt liver disease and testicular pathology were not directly interlinked but both linked independently to alcohol abuse. Hormonal changes resulting from high intake could also lead to other diseases. The findings of the study are somewhat shocking to the average consumer but in my view the declining fertility rates in many parts of the developed world could be linked with the rising alcohol abuse, and any men affected as a result will only find alcoholism as detrimental to their self-esteem instead of helping them battle stress.
It is not just physical organs but mental health as well that gets affected by alcohol intake. Violence, hospital admissions, domestic abuse, crime and the general safety of the public are affected as a result of the adverse psychological and emotional affects alcoholism leads towards (STIR). It also lowers economic productivity and leads towards job loss, lower employability prospects, absenteeism and increasing work related injuries. There have been studies that demonstrate that those people who are alcohol dependent are more likely to develop mental disorders than those who are less. Alcoholism, contrary to public perception elevate the risk of anxiety or affective disorders. Furthermore, those people that rely on alcohol to alleviate psychological distress are more likely to become addicted and dependent therefore entering into a vicious cycle that they find difficult to get out of (NIAAA). In my view, this is one of the most important findings that I use to argue against even moderate consumption of alcohol. Since the prime reason I find most people using to justify their increased alcohol intake is to help them battle anxiety and stress from their daily routines. It has the reverse affect as studies have shown.
The more serious consequences of alcoholism include developing a higher risk for stroke as well as cancer, as one study investigated in men and women between the age of 16 and 40 years (NIAAA). A causal association has been established between cancers of the pharynx, oral cavity, larynx, liver, esophagus, rectum, colon and the breast to alcohol consumption. Cancers of the lung and pancreas are associated with it in some studies. After tobacco smoking, obesity and chronic infections, it is alcohol consumption. An increased risk of neck and head cancer has been recorded in various countries in particular eastern and central Europe as a prime factor. There is also genetic susceptibility that plays in increasing cancer risks in which certain genes interact with the carcinogenic action of alcohol to lead to cancer (Paolo Boffetta). I find these studies to be highly alarming since genetic susceptibility to alcohol cannot be known and I find it to be a compelling argument that prohibits or restricts alcohol intake and access. In many countries where education or income is low, there is rampant alcohol consumption that also contributes towards social inequalities as people are not able to afford healthcare costs associated with cancers and other adverse health effects.
It is not just for adults but children and fetuses that suffer greatly as a result of alcohol consumption especially during pregnancy. It is known to lead to adverse effects such as spontaneous abortion, fetal alcohol syndrome, premature births, low birth weights and intrauterine growth retardation. People with fetal alcohol syndrome have manifested severe mental illness in their later lives that often require psychiatric treatment and counselling (Chris Famy). I have also witnessed that controlling alcohol leads towards a vast reduction in related crimes and favor legislation in this regard by the governments, but unfortunately not many seem interested. Alcohol continues to be widely available and is seen as a source of economic revenue generation and a tourist attraction. If we truly wish to reduce these adverse health affects and other consequences of alcoholism then I believe that it is important to control those businesses that are responsible for supplying vast amounts of unrestricted alcohol to the public. The findings from numerous studies in medicine, physiology, psychology as well as criminology offer us compelling reasons to act before alcohol consumes us as a society.
Andrea Pace, Andreas de Weerth, Marc Berna, Katharina Hillbricht, Michael Tsokos, Michael Bläker, Klaus Pueschel, Ansgar W. Lohse. “Pancreas and Liver Injury Are Associated in Individuals With Increased Alcohol Consumption.” Clinical Gastro 7.11 (2009): 1241-1246.
Chris Famy, Ann P. Streissguth, Alan S. Unis. “Mental Illness in Adults With Fetal Alcohol Syndrome or Fetal Alcohol Effects.” The American Journal of Psychiatry 155.4 (1998): 552-554.
Lewis H. Kuller, Susan J. May’, Joshua A. Perper. “The Relationship Between Alcohol, Liver Disease, And Testicular Pathology.” Journal of Epidemiology 106.3 (1978): 192-1999. <http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.1009.8937&rep=rep1&type=pdf>.
NIAAA. “Health risks and benefits of alcohol consumption.” Alcohol Research and Health 24.1 (2000): 5-11. <https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arh24-1/05-11.pdf>.
Paolo Boffetta, Mia Hashibe. “Alcohol and cancer.” Lancet Onco February 2006: 149-156. <http://drugfree.org.au/images/pdf-files/library/alcohol/CancerAlcohol-LancetOncology.pdf>.
S Bellentani, G Saccoccio, G Costa, C Tiribelli, F Manenti, M Sodde, L Saveria Croc, F Sasso, G Pozzato, G Cristianini, G Brandi. “Drinking habits as cofactors of risk for alcohol induced liver damage.” Gut 41 (1997): 845-850. <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1891602/pdf/v041p00845.pdf>.
STIR. Healtn First: An evidence basd alcohol strategy for the UK. British Liver Trust. London, UK: University of Sterling, 2013. <https://www.stir.ac.uk/media/schools/management/documents/Alcoholstrategy-updated.pdf>.