Ads and movies promote it as the essential key to a fun social life, but for some reason leave out its darker aspects. Here are a few facts about alcohol they might not want you to know about. 

Alcohol abuse affects more than 20 million Americans; about 90,000 people die of alcohol related causes each year in the US. 

Alcohol-related Deaths Doubled in a Decade

Researchers from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism analyzed the death certificates of Americans ages 16 and up between 1999 and 2017. And while 35,914 deaths were alcohol-related in 1999, that number doubled to reach 72,558 in 2017.  Alcohol was a factor in nearly 1 million deaths during that time period, with about half of these deaths resulting from liver disease, or a fatal overdose from alcohol or alcohol mixed with other drugs. In 2017 alone, 2.6% of roughly 2.8 million deaths in the United States involved alcohol.

Some groups appear to be more vulnerable than others, according to the study published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research. While rates of alcohol-related deaths were highest among men in general, the largest annual increase in deaths was seen among non-Hispanic white women. Indeed, a recent Columbia University study found that the greatest increases in binge drinking were reported among women ages 30 to 44 without children, although binge drinking increased among men and women overall, as well.

Alcohol Increases Risk of Heart Attacks and Strokes

A 2018 study that included 600,000 from 19 countries, published in the Lancet looked at alcohol consumption and the risk of cardiovascular disease, including heart attacks, stroke and heart failure.  Alcohol was associated with higher risk of stroke, heart failure, aortic aneurism and hypertensive disease, the greater the drinking the higher the risk, and there was no threshold at which drinking was safe, or seemed beneficial. 

Alcohol consumption was positively associated with all causes of death, with the lowest odds of dying among people who drank about 5 drinks a week or less. 

Alcohol is a Known Carcinogen

A statement of the American Society of Clinical Oncology declares that alcohol drinking is an established cancer risk factor: “In the United States, it has been estimated that 3.5% of all cancer deaths are attributable to drinking alcohol. Alcohol is causally associated with oropharyngeal and larynx cancer, esophageal cancer, hepatocellular carcinoma, breast cancer, and colon cancer. Even modest use of alcohol may increase cancer risk, but the greatest risks are observed with heavy, long-term use.”

Given these realities one would appreciate a more balanced view in the media. Instead, alcohol and heavy drinking are pushed so very hard in popular culture that it becomes really hard for many to ignore or say no to it. Alcohol is almost the co-star in so many movies and TV shows, and is depicted as the ultimate way to relax or have fun — Grace in Grace & Frankie and Alicia in The Good Wife seem to sustain on a liquid diet. 

And why are there pink ribbons and tie-ins with breast cancer charities on alcoholic drinks? — reminder: alcohol is a risk factor for breast cancer, it’s particularly cynical to promote drinking to fight breast cancer.

We can no longer pretend that alcohol — even in “moderation” — is something we should be doing for our health. 

Article summarizes key points in Ayala Laufer-Cahana M.D.,”Why You Should Rethink Alcohol in Moderation,” Apr 25, 2018, and other articles.