Let’s face it – we are addicted to alcohol and we would never want it any other way.
Almost every major social function in the United States serves alcohol in some form or form. Whether it’s a happy hour, anniversary party or gala; there’s likely to be alcohol available for consumption. Commercials that advertise alcohol often have very attractive models drinking and glorifying alcohol; subconsciously associating success, happiness, and pleasure with the substance. Alcohol has likewise been promoted in popular culture through its use in the film industry, music videos and television.
In short, alcohol has become the norm in American culture and life. Alcohol, however, is the most widely used drug in the United States and the world. Yes, you read that right – alcohol is a drug and always will be a drug! Most people would never lump alcohol in the same category as tobacco, opioids or cocaine – but it is a substance that can have detrimental effects on your health and can certainly lead to addiction and dependence.
From 2015 to 2019, excessive alcohol consumption has resulted in more than 140,000 deaths and 3.6 million years of potential life lost each year, according to the CDC. To put the prevalence of alcohol in American life in perspective, nearly 86 percent of Americans age 18 and older report drinking alcohol at some point in their lives. In 2019, nearly 26 percent of Americans age 18 and older reported binge drinking in the month preceding the survey, with men having at least 5 drinks and women having at least 4 drinks.
Despite these staggering numbers, Americans continue to drink, and the harmful effects of alcohol receive little media or educational attention. Seriously, how often do we hear about the opioid epidemic? How often do we hear that alcohol is the third leading preventable cause of death in the United States?
Additionally, many Americans mistakenly believe that moderate alcohol consumption, especially red wine, has cardiovascular benefits. Research now shows that moderate alcohol consumption does not improve cardiovascular disease outcomes or any health benefits associated with it. Alcohol consumption, even in moderation, has been linked to a number of medical and health-related problems; including, but not limited to, an increased risk of cancers such as liver, esophagus, and breast cancer; an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure; and an association with domestic violence , falls, sexual assault and gun violence-related injuries.
Even more shocking is the message of alcohol being communicated to the public. CDC recommends Dietary Guidelines for Americans, advises adults of legal drinking age not to drink, or to drink in moderation. Moderate alcohol consumption was defined as 2 or fewer drinks per day for men and 1 or fewer drinks per day for women. Why even recommend moderate alcohol consumption to the public when the harms almost certainly outweigh any supposed benefits that might arise? The advice to the public should be to quit smoking, just like quitting smoking.
This month, many Americans take part in a “Dry January” campaign to shake off the harmful effects of previous drinking. The campaign should be renamed “Never Drink” in an effort to quit alcohol altogether. Alcohol is a drug and should be treated as such!