HARMFUL EFFECTS OF ALCOHOL
1. Increased risk of road traffic accidents: Road traffic injuries account for 1.25 million deaths per year. They are the leading causes of death in young age group (15-29 years). Drink driving is a major risk factor for road traffic accidents. Driving under the influence of alcohol accounts for about one-third of all deaths in road accidents. It should be noted that the victims are most often the passengers, pedestrians or children, who have not consumed alcohol.
2. Increased risk of cancer: Alcohol drinking is significantly associated with cancer of seven sites in body. These are throat, larynx (voice box), esophagus (food pipe), liver, colon, bowel and breast. Drinking just 50 grams of alcohol per day can increase the risk of mouth cancer by seven times (as compared to non-drinkers). About 6% of all deaths due to cancer can be attributed to alcohol intake. This study was recently published in the Journal Addiction. The full test of the article can be accessed at the following link: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/add.13477/epdf
3. Increased risk of stroke: Alcohol consumption increases the risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, atrial fibrillation and liver disease; all of these increase the risk of stroke. Alcohol consumption also leads to higher death rates in patients with stroke. People drinking alcohol more than twice a week (irrespective of the amount) have a 3-fold higher risk of death due to stroke as compared to non-drinkers.
4. Memory impairment: Consuming too much alcohol leads to severe memory impairment and dementia in later life. Alcohol causes brain shrinkage (atrophy), malnutrition, deficiency of thiamine and vitamin B12; all of which contribute to memory loss.
5. Damage to peripheral nerves: Alcohol use, if regular and heavy, can lead to damage of nerves in arms and legs, leading to numbness, weakness, burning, pain, etc.
6. Seizures (fits or convulsions): Heavy alcohol drinking can lead to seizures. Sudden withdrawal in a person dependent on alcohol can also lead to seizures.
7. Headache: Alcohol consumption can lead to hangover (with a prominent symptom of headache); worsening of migraine; or headache as a direct effect of alcohol (due to vasodilation and dehydration).
8. Liver disease: Alcohol is a leading cause of liver disease. This includes fatty liver, alcoholic hepatitis and cirrhosis.
9. Pancreatitis: Inflammation and damage of pancreas occurs in about 5% of alcoholics after 5-10 years of alcohol drinking.
10. Sexual dysfunction: Heavy alcohol drinking can lead to sexual dysfunction in about 75% of people. The most common symptoms are premature ejaculation, low sexual desire and erectile dysfunction.
11. Marital discord and divorce: Alcoholism adversely affects relationships and marriage. Alcoholics are two times more likely to have a divorce as compared to non-alcoholics. In addition, suspicion, infidelity and arguments are more common with if one or both spouses consume alcohol. People consuming alcohol also have delayed marriage.
12. Increased crime rate: Alcohol consumption leads to increase in crime rate. Most states report that alcoholism is involved in 70-85% of crimes, especially against women. These include violence, sexual exploitation, rape, kidnapping, murder, robbery, etc.
13. Increased death rate: 15 people in India die everyday due to alcohol related effects, which means every 96 minutes, one person dies due to alcohol use.
BENEFICIAL EFFECTS OF ALCOHOL
I have enumerated the harmful effects above. I am sure there are many people (especially the ones who drink), who are eager to know the beneficial effects. There are some benefits of alcohol too.
1. Feeling of euphoria and elation: Alcohol has a depressant effect on brain. So, drinking makes one carefree, elated and free from all worries. However, these effects are for short term and are seen with small amounts of alcohol. Heavy alcohol intake leads to sleepiness and confusion.
2. Reduced rate of heart attack: Moderate alcohol consumption may reduce the risk of heart attack by increasing the amount of good cholesterol (HDL). However, exercise can also have the same effect. At present, American Heart Association does NOT advise people to start drinking, if they do not already drink alcohol.
3. Increased sexual desire: Alcohol intake may reduce the inhibition and increase the sexual desire; however, it reduces the testosterone level and hence, the performance. So, the overall effect of alcohol on sex is negative. In addition, alcohol may promote the risk-taking behavior such as not using condoms.
1. Alcohol has several harmful effects on health.
2. Alcohol leads to increased risk of heart disease, brain stroke, dementia, peripheral neuropathy, liver disease and cancers.
3. Alcohol is directly responsible for increased road traffic accidents and deaths.
4. Alcohol is involved in most of the crimes, especially against women.
5. Alcohol use in moderation may have protective effect on heart attacks.
6. Those who do not drink should NOT start drinking alcohol.
7. Those who drink should drink in moderation.
(Disclaimer: I do not drink alcohol)
Dr SUDHIR KUMAR MD (Medicine) DM (Neurology)
Senior Consultant Neurologist
Apollo Hospitals, Hyderabad