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Why Do We Think Drinking Is Healthy?

By: Cohen, Placitella & Roth @ Sep 17, 2018

Did you know that drinking alcohol actually kills more Americans each year than opioids do? While there has been a significant public outcry about opioid addiction and the serious harms of opioid use, we rarely devote the same attention to public policy changes when it comes to alcohol consumption and injury prevention. According to a recent article in The Inquirer, alcohol is currently the most widely used substance across the globe, including in the U.S., and approximately 70 percent of adults report that they consumed alcohol in the past year. Of that 70 percent of Americans adult drinkers, more than 37 million adults admitted to binge drinking at least one time per week.

Why do we think drinking is healthy, then? And what public policy changes may be able to shift the way we think about alcohol consumption and the alcohol-related injuries?

What is Binge Drinking, and How Does It Affect Our Health?

According to the article, binge drinking is not a fixed term. Based on self-reported information from Americans who were surveyed, women tended to define binge drinking as four or more drinks per time, while men defined binge drinking as five or more drinks. Regardless of how one defines binge drinking, the prevalence of alcohol consumption has risen significantly over the last 20 years. Between 2001 and 2002, just over 65 percent of Americans reported drinking alcohol in the last year, while that number rose to nearly 73 percent between 2012 and 2013.

How does even moderate drinking affect a person’s health? In addressing this question, it is important to point out research that suggests the consumption of wine can be good for our health. As the article points out, there are numerous studies that claim a glass of red wine is beneficial for health. But is that really true? While studies might be able to show certain benefits of moderate drinking when it comes to red wine, on the whole, the “well-established problems with drinking even at moderate levels . . . likely outweigh any potential benefits.” For example, drinking alcohol in moderation increases a person’s risk of breast cancer, and 88,000 deaths are attributed to alcohol consumption each year in the U.S.

To be clear, even when alcohol is consumed in moderation, it increases a person’s risk for several different types of cancer, such as breast cancer, colorectal cancer, liver cancer, and esophageal cancer. Alcohol consumption can also cause heart problems, stroke, and high blood pressure. Such data is backed up the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

Offsetting the Harms of Drinking Through Public Policy Changes

Alcohol is also a factor in many different acts of violence in the U.S., as well as in a large number of accidents and unintentional injuries. Fatal alcohol-related motor vehicle crashes totaled nearly 179,000 between 2000 and 2015. Can the harms of drinking be offset through public policy changes?

Some commentators suggest that alcohol excise taxes are the most effective for reducing alcohol consumptions. Others suggest that limiting the number of stores permitted to sell alcohol, as well as restricting the hours of sale for alcohol, could help to reduce the rate of drinking. In some cases, commentators have argued that increasing the minimum drinking age could be an effective way to curb alcohol-related mortality.

The bottom line is this: we should stop recommending that alcohol is a path to better health and well-being, and we should consider ways in which policy changes could reduce the rate of alcohol-related harms.

Seek Advice from a Personal Injury Lawyer

If you or someone you love suffered injuries and you wish to discuss it with a lawyer, you should learn more about your options from a Philadelphia attorney. Contact Cohen, Placitella & Roth for more information.

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