Humans like to become intoxicated. Fermented, liquid foods that contain
alcohol are used worldwide in parties, celebrations and rituals. It is common
for fermented foods to be included in the daily diet. Small doses of fermented
foods relax inhibitions and can feel pleasant in social situations. Larger doses
are toxic to the brain and disable the drinker.
The fermentation of foods is by now an important industry worldwide, and
many alcoholic beverages are considered to be of high quality and worthy of
their high cost. If you travel through different countries, the availability of
alcoholic beverages varies and is often regulated. Alcoholic beverages are
always taxed, often heavily, since drinking is still considered a vice and
governments know that vices are reliable sources of revenue. Increasingly,
governments view the tax they collect as part payment for the medical and social
costs of heavy drinking.
Some people drink more alcoholic beverages than they should. The
negative effects vary from the occasional hangover to complete disability. Some
heavy drinkers are unwilling or unable to stop drinking and continue to harm
themselves, their families, and their community.
Regular ingestion of alcoholic beverage in excess produces many disease
patterns involving every part of the body. Even “moderate” alcohol abuse
distorts the personality, emotions and intellect of the "social drinker." The
cognitive impairments and personality distortion are a direct consequence of
brain dysfunction cause by ethanol and other chemical pathogens in alcoholic
Alcohol abuse is considered to be an addiction and some argue about
calling alcoholism a “disease.” The term “addiction” refers both the compulsive
aspect of drinking and also to the harm drinking causes. The drinker harms
himself, his family and the community at large. A reasonable person will notice
the harm he or she is causing and will seek to remedy the problem. An addict
ignores the harm and remains devoted to ingesting alcoholic beverages no matter
how much harm is caused.
The regular abuse of alcoholic beverages (ABs) is called
"alcoholism". A practical definition of alcoholism is the regular ingestion of
ABs sufficient to produce dysfunction or damage at a physical and/or a
social-economic level. The label "alcoholic" is resisted by most AB abusers. The
stigma attached to the term "alcoholism" remains an obstacle to understanding
this common problem. There is a tendency to deny or to "normalize" excessive
drinking. The use of alcoholic beverages is woven into the fabric of society and
excessive use of alcohol is considered "normal" in many social circles. You only
have to go to medical conventions to be reminded that drinking is not only
acceptable but, often, a necessary social attribute for social and career
Alcohol abuse is considered to be an addiction and some argue about calling
alcoholism a “disease.” The term “addiction” refers both the compulsive aspect
of drinking and also to the harm drinking causes. The drinker harms himself, his
family and the community at large. A reasonable person will notice the harm he
or she is causing and will seek to remedy the problem. An addict ignores the
harm and remains devoted to ingesting alcoholic beverages no matter how much
harm is caused.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, published by the US government,
recommends no more than one drink a day for women and two for men. One drink is
defined as 12 ounces (355 ml) of beer, 5 ounces (148 ml) of wine or 1.5 ounces
(44 ml) of spirits.
In the USA a national survey on drug use and health 2002,
estimated that among the general population age 12 and older: 120 million
Americans were current alcohol users, 75.1 million Americans were current
tobacco users, and 19.5 million Americans were current illicit drug users. An
estimated 22 million Americans were classified with abuse or dependence on
alcohol, illicit drugs or both. The incidence of alcohol use increased steadily
during the 1990s, from 3.3 million new users in 1990 to 5.6 million in 2000.
Youths under 18 accounted for much of the increase, the number of adolescent
initiates nearly doubling from 2.2 million in 1990 to 4.1 million in 2000.
During this period, the increase was equally distributed among boys (1.1 million
to 2.1 million) and girls (1.1 million to 2.0 million).
A "drink" was defined as a can or bottle of beer, a glass of wine or a wine
cooler, a shot of liquor, or a mixed drink with liquor in it. Estimates for the
prevalence of alcohol use were reported at three levels defined for both males
and females and for all ages as follows:
- Current use - At least one drink in the past 30 days (includes binge and
- Binge use - Five or more drinks on the same occasion at least once in the
past 30 days (includes heavy use).
- Heavy use - Five or more drinks on the same occasion on at least 5 different
days in the past 30 days.
“The highest prevalence of both binge and heavy drinking in 2002 was for
young adults aged 18 to 25, with the peak rate of both measures occurring at age
21 The rate of binge drinking was 40.9 percent for young adults and 50.2 percent
at age 21. Heavy alcohol use was reported by 14.9 percent of persons aged 18 to
25 and by 20.1 percent of persons aged 21. Binge and heavy alcohol use rates
decreased faster with increasing age than did rates of past month alcohol use.
While 58.8 percent of the population aged 45 to 49 in 2002 were current
drinkers, 22.5 percent of persons within this age range were binge drinkers and
7.7 percent drank heavily. Binge and heavy drinking were relatively rare among
people aged 65 or older, with reported rates of 7.5 and 1.4 percent,
The level of alcohol use was strongly associated with illicit drug use in
2002. Among the 15.9 million heavy drinkers aged 12 or older, 32.6 percent were
current illicit drug users. For binge drinkers who were not heavy drinkers, 16.6
percent reported past month illicit drug use. Other drinkers (i.e., past month
alcohol use but not binge drinking) had a rate of 5.8 percent for current
illicit drug use, and persons who did not use alcohol in the past month were
least likely to use illicit drugs (3.6 percent). Among heavy alcohol users, 61.3
percent smoked cigarettes; 21.8 percent of non-binge current drinkers and 17.7
percent of nondrinkers were current smokers.
At the annual meeting of the American Public Health Association 2003, Jürgen
Rehm, professor and chairman of addiction policy in at the University of Toronto
stated: "Alcohol is the fifth largest cause of death and morbidity in terms of
global burden of disease. That means overall for disease and disease-related
deaths, alcohol is about as big a contributor to death as tobacco. The problem
is getting worse because the most populous countries such as Russia, China and
India, have increased their alcohol intake by an enormous amount.”
In North America 12% of men and 2.2% of women suffer from a disease that is
alcohol-related or die prematurely due to alcohol intake. In Canada, alcohol is
responsible for about 10% of the overall disease burden even though total
alcohol consumption has decreasing for the past 20 years: 50% of all
alcohol-related deaths involve accidents or trauma and 20% of alcohol-related
deaths are due to cancers in the mouth, esophagus, liver and the rest of the
(See the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) 2002. Conducted in the
USA by SAMHSA, an agency in the Department of Health and Human Services, the
“lead agency for improving the quality and availability of substance abuse
prevention, addiction treatment, and mental health services in the United
Schieszer, J. Alcohol-related diseases and injuries increasing globally.
Medical Post. December 09, 2003 Volume 39 Issue 45 )