Don’t kid yourself. Alcohol, booze, the devil’s juice – whatever you call it, alcohol is a deadly drug and is the leading protagonist when it comes to death. If you want (or need) proof as to why alcohol is the most deadly drug around, read on.
Booze in its many forms has been around for thousands of years. Almost 10 000 years to be exact. Although we are not saying it should be wiped out and banned from being drunk (it’s not a prohibition speech, promise) we are here to let you know that there are a few truths that need to be told to you about alcohol. In the end you need to be fully aware of everything before you make a choice. Knowledge is power after all.
1. It’s the most deadly of all drugs.
In fact, it kills more people than any other drug combined. Did you know that in the US alone more than 88 000 people die each year because of alcohol and that more than 30 % of all driving fatalities are from booze?1In South Africa the stats aren’t any better. In 2015 about 170 South Africans died a day from the effects of alcohol. This adds up to around 63 200 South Africans. 2
The worst part about this form of death? It is slow and painful. Most of these deaths (aside from the obvious sudden deaths from accident related fatalities) are due to liver problems. There are three major types:
- Alcohol Hepatitis. This makes the liver swell up like a balloon, causing severe damage to the vital organ. Over a third of heavy drinkers develop alcoholic hepatitis and if it is severe, it may occur suddenly and cause serious issues such as liver failure and death.
- Fatty Liver Disease. This is a massive build-up of fat in the liver cells. Most heavy drinkers will have some form of fatty liver disease. Should you give up drinking however, the liver has a good chance of healing itself and the disease disappearing.
- Alcohol cirrhosis is essentially the scarring of the liver. It leads on to poor liver function and is right at the end of chronic liver disease.
Yes it can be said that the short term dangers associated with crack cocaine and heroin are more dangerous than alcohol abuse, however when we throw into the mix the financial, long term and social effects alcohol heaps down on its victims, compared to those first two, alcohol comes out on top of the tragedy list.
The 2018 global drug study revealed some startling finding. The study which had 130 000 participants in 44 countries take part revealed that alcohol was found to be the most harmful drug when it comes to acute risk, both to the individual themselves and those around them. Alcohol is responsible for 4% of the world’s global burden of disease and is implicated in at least 60 health conditions including cancer and heart disease.
2. Drunk people make horrible choices
It’s not necessarily a fact based statement but it is something that you and your friends can attest to. Think about it; how many times have you seen someone do something ridiculous thanks to alcohol? Fights, unusual behaviour, dangerous relations with strangers, driving drunk and rape? The last one is not an excuse for rapists, however many attackers have committed a rape or sexual assault due to alcohol. It’s not a stats based claim but it is one to recognise. Alcohol does more damage than good.
We do of course rely on facts, therefore we should present some.
- According to the BMC medicine journal of 2018: Overall, approximately 62,300 adults died from alcohol-attributable causes of death in South Africa in 2015. With a total of approximately 529,400 deaths from all causes in 2015 roughly one in ten deaths was attributable to alcohol use.
- According to the World Health Report released in September 2018, one in 20 deaths worldwide in 2016 — three million people — is “the result of harmful use of alcohol”. Three-quarters of the dead were men.
- South Africa has the highest rate of alcohol-related road deaths, where as much as 58% of deaths can be attributed to alcohol consumption. ( WHO report)
- The South Africans against Drunk Driving organisation revealed in April 2018 that in April 2018 alone roughly 1 714 people died, which is the equivalent of 5 airplanes full of people. This on top of the 15% increase in 2017 which means a 20% increase in 2 years. Alcohol abuse is behind at least 65% of these incidents, with 5943 of 9175 drivers being charged with drunk driving.
Alcohol abuse and its link to sexual assault
Very conservative numbers around the estimation of sexual assault cases related to alcohol abuse are frightening. A study by the World Health Organisation in 2012 revealed that 65% of women in South Africa had experienced spousal abuse and that their partners always or sometimes used alcohol before the assault. An estimation on the figures of SA partner abuse revealed that one out of every six women in South Africa is regularly assaulted by her partner. Alcohol plays a role in almost 50 percent of these domestic violence cases, and in some of the cases, the men involved also abuse the children living with the woman.
Alcohol contributes to sexual assault in a number of ways. Sometimes it even exacerbates existing risk factors. Thoughts on the way alcohol affect sexual and aggressive behaviour, the many stereotypes about women who drink and the effect alcohol has on a person’s cognitive and motor skills contribute to alcohol-involved sexual assault.
Alcohol and violence. An interwoven issue
Have you noticed how easy it is for an addict to be labelled as one? Youngsters on the streets are called junkies and everyone is quick to give a person suffering with the disease a criminal like status. This is, in part because addiction and its criminalisation has given rise to a set of interesting issues. Many drug addicts are sent to prison for crimes which do not have a victim and are locked away for crimes which do not involve violence. And then you get alcohol and the fiery pit of violence it seems to cook up around every corner.
We know that the majority of partner (spousal) abuse is carried out under the influence of alcohol. And we also know that men are mostly the one’s responsible. (We know it is not always the case, but a majority of the time, it is). According to Childsafe South Africa, around 70% of people assaulting intimate partners or spouses were intoxicated. The link between alcohol and domestic abuse and violence is confirmed by multiple studies and by people’s lived experiences in our country and around the world. The fact that we can get hold of alcohol with little or no effort is also to blame. Shebeens, bars, pubs and restaurants offer a quick and easy way to get hold of a drink.
Alcohol – The celebrated drug
Okay we can see how you might feel that we are taking a stab at alcohol and think that the world should be rid of it completely. Well, we are not. Not everyone who drinks is a bad person, not every single person who has a drink is a criminal waiting to commit a crime. What is simply being stated in here is that there is often a thought process which says “heroin and cocaine users are terrible criminals, but yay for alcohol use (and abuse)” Not necessarily by you, but in a bigger sense, through advertising.
Did you know that alcohol advertising expenditure increased from around R550 million per year between 1997 and 2003, to more than R1.7 billion in 2011 and 2012 and that the government spends over R263-billion annually on alcohol-related harms, such as poor health, domestic or interpersonal violence, and road accidents.3
But alcohol means fun, right?
It’s the ice breaker at a staff party. The courage maker when you want to talk to that hottie across the dance floor right? Well, in part you believe that because certain alcohol companies spend a bucket load of time, effort and money painting a picture that says alcohol is needed to have a good time. It’s hard to actually get the physical stats and quantify it however it’s this mentality that keeps many thousands of South Africans from admitting to themselves that they have a problem. How do we know? Ask any alcohol rehabilitation employee and they will tell you a dozen stories which all draw from the same starting point. We also realise that all those companies aren’t also responsible for fixing the problems created by alcohol abuse and they have every right to make and market a product according to the laws of the land. We aren’t having a go at them or the drinkers of their products. The point we are making is that you should be aware. An advert is not real life. You don’t see the black outs, the vomiting, the hang over or the assault. You only see the good times. By understanding every single thing about alcohol, and learning the truth, maybe it will be given more respect and instead of chugging down 10 quarts of beer a person may stop at 1 or 2. In conclusion think of this: Life is best enjoyed by you and your natural filter, not through the filter of alcohol.
- “CDC – Fact Sheets-Alcohol Use And Health – Alcohol.” Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, 3 Jan. 2018.
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