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Mainstream, VOL LV No 49 New Delhi November 25, 2017

New Research Reveals Much Higher Alcohol-related Damage to Health

Sunday 26 November 2017


According to the WHO status report on health and alcohol (2014), in 2012 about 3.3 million net deaths or 5.9 per cent of all global deaths were attributable to alcohol consumption — 7.6 per cent for males and four per cent for females. In 2012, 139 million net DALYs (disability adjusted life years) or 5.1 per cent of the global burden of disease and injury was attributable to alcohol consumption.

The same report has pointed out that the harmful use of alcohol is a component cause of more than 200 diseases and injury conditions, the most notable being alcohol dependence, liver cirrhosis, cancers and injuries, the latest causal relationships established are those between alcohol consumption and incidence of infectious diseases such as tuberculosis and HIV/AIDs.

However, the alcohol industry and its lobbyists worked overtime to ensure that the massive adverse impacts of alcohol consumption are not reported adequately and properly in the media so that people do not become aware about the full dimensions of these tragic impacts. A recent study led by scientists at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and Sweden’s Karolinska Institute has concluded that the alcohol industry “uses denial, distortion and distraction to mislead people about the risks of developing cancer from drinking, often employing similar tactics to those of the tobacco industry”. However, the WHO says that drinking alcohol is a well-established risk factor for a range of cancers including tumours of the mouth, liver, breast, colon and bowel, and the risk of cancer rises with the level of alcohol consumed.

Earlier also heavy drinking was linked to damage to brain, adverse impact of memory and dementia, but recent findings by researchers of Oxford University and University College London (published in the British Medical Journal) has found that this damage is possible also at much lower alcohol consumption . This is also confirmed by another study involving 1300 women in the USA. Brain damage is likely to be higher in the case of binge drinking, particularly binge drinking involving adolescents.

According to the Encyclopedia of Drugs, Alcohol and Addictive Behaviour, alcohol has been found to have a role in 44 per cent of fatal road accidents. The possibility of a road accident increases by three to 15 per cent if the driver is drunk. Up to 50 per cent of motorcyclists who crash to death are likely to have been under the influence of alcohol.

Regarding non-fatal accidents, this Encyclo-pedia tells us that alcohol is involved in 23 to 30 per cent of these accidents. In the case of fatal fire and burn accidents, alcohol was found to have a role in 46 per cent of such accidents.

Bharat Dogra, Reena Mehta
New Delhi

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