“We are probably at the stage now with alcohol that we were at 30 years ago with tobacco”
Dr Jan Pearson, The Cancer Society, Wellington, New Zealand, July 2013.
Go to a pub and the bartender will say, ‘What’s your poison?’ He doesn’t say, ‘What’s your longevity-enhancing health-promoting beverage?’ does he? So then we choose a poison, drink the poison, then drink more poison, get sick from the poison, we weaken our liver and longevity from the poison, and then end up at the doctor’s taking drugs for the poison, which will not work anyway as they are not addressing the cause! Few people realise alcohol directly causes cancer and is one of the most potent cancer causers we have in modern society.
Alcohol causes cancer
Alcohol has been classified by WHO as a class 1 Carcinogen, meaning it is a cancer causer in the same company as asbestos, mustard gas, formaldehyde and plutonium-239. The truth is that alcohol and its consequences kill over five million people each year, ranking drinking as the third highest cause of death in the top ten preventable causes of death.
Yes, read that again.
More people die each year from alcohol abuse than from malnutrition.
How tragic is that?
Alcohol abuse is the third leading risk factor for premature death and disabilities worldwide.1 More people willingly poison themselves through alcohol consumption than the hundreds of thousands that are malnourished — many through no fault of their own. This is staggering — our blatant disregard and arrogance towards our own bodies, our health and the consequences of our habits is mind blowing. We wonder why liver disease rates in the Western world are skyrocketing, while complaining that the health systems are not good enough.
“The report highlights alcohol’s important toxic and carcinogenic properties and that for many chronic diseases there is no threshold for safe consumption. More than 30% of alcohol-attributable deaths were due to cancers, including breast and bowel cancer. This study demonstrates that alcohol consumption is one of the most important risk factors for avoidable mortality and disease in early and middle adulthood, and contributes substantially to loss of good health across the life course”
Professor Jennie Connor, Department of Preventive and Social Medicine, University of Otago, New Zealand.
Why do we drink?
People drink because it makes them feel better. It produces the same chemicals in the brain as exercising and laughing and it removes you from the reality of your life. Alcohol is addictive because it releases endorphins — the body’s way of making us feel pleasure and reward. It then changes our brain to be wired more for alcohol — hence the addiction.2
We drink to escape our current reality. We drink to let go of our concerns and break free of our constraints. We drink to feel sexier, more confident and more attractive. When you get right down into it, this is the sole purpose of drinking: to be in a different mental state by allowing the alcohol to cross over the blood brain barrier and to alter our place in the world. Being sober is being ‘here’, while being drunk, inebriated, buzzed, warmed up, calmed down, whatever you want to call it, is ‘not here’. This is the point. Alcohol changes your brain. Which begs the question, if alcohol is addictive, does not bring long-term happiness, causes disease and early death, and often violent behaviour or stupid and embarrassing behaviour … then surely there are other underlying things to look at in one’s life? Watch a 2019 video of me talking about alcohol here. Watch a 2016 video about why I quit the drink here.
Alcohol is a unique body-wrecking carcinogen
Alcohol causes high blood pressure (hypertension), breast and bowel cancers, chronic liver diseases, obesity, diabetes, arthritic problems, poor judgment, emotional outbursts, violence, dizziness, depression, cirrhosis, or scarring of the liver tissues, bad skin, weakened kidneys and adrenal glands, varicose veins, memory loss, headaches, dry mouth, nausea, vomiting, gastritis, ulcers, teenage pregnancy, suicide, weight gain, alcohol poisoning, abdominal pain, fetal alcohol syndrome, and heart disease — which itself is one of the top two preventable killers in the West.
“One of most common genetic defects in man is our inability to counteract the toxicity of alcohol”
Dr Nick Sheron, The Liver Unit, Southampton General Hospital, UK.
Alcohol abuse will kill you
Alcohol is a neurotoxin that can poison your brain and disrupt your hormonal balance. Heavy drinkers face much higher risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, cirrhosis of the liver and cancer of the mouth, colon, pancreas, lungs, larynx, oesophagus and liver. This is not even taking into account the fact that alcohol is extremely acidic and causes deficiencies of all the major vitamins, minerals, hydrochloric acid, digestive enzymes and essential fatty acids.
Alcohol creates acetaldehyde
The main problem with alcohol and human DNA is ethanol oxidation, giving us the toxic metabolite by-product, acetaldehyde. Alcohol delivers ethanol, acetaldehyde, free radicals and peroxides to the body via the bloodstream. British scientists have confirmed that alcohol does more damage to society than any other drug — legal or illegal. The scientists rated alcohol the most harmful overall and almost three times as harmful as cocaine.3 Researchers have now created new techniques and, combined with old ones, they have developed a clear and comprehensive picture of alcohol’s influence on health, social life, and economics.4
Alcohol harms almost everyone
It is not a pretty picture at all. The incredible increase in harm from alcohol across the world over the last 20 years is so significant that WHO has passed multiple resolutions to try to bring awareness to the genuine problem (for example, the 2010 World Health Assembly’s Global Strategy to Reduce the Harmful Use of Alcohol). Most governments shy away from the problem, as they once did with cigarette smoking.
“Alcohol’s potential for harm is beyond dispute. Each month, almost one of every three drinkers in the US drinks to excess, contributing to 79,000 deaths each year. The real bottom line is if you drink and you care about your health, it’s always better to drink less than to drink more”
Dr Robert Brewer, Chief of the Alcohol Program, US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.
Alcohol kills someone every ten seconds
By the time you have read this sentence, another two or three people have died. It is getting worse daily, all over the globe.
- Alcohol is the number one global cause of death for men aged 15–24.
- One person is dying from alcohol about every ten seconds.
- Alcohol causes at least one in 20 deaths globally every year.
- This is over 6% of all deaths (measured conservatively).
- Alcohol causes around 13% of all cancer deaths.
- Over 3.3 million people were killed by alcohol in 2013 (this number is already estimated to be over 5.5 million by many experts as alcohol is not listed on death certificates in many countries around the world).
- Alcohol is the number one cause of death in Eastern Europe, most of Latin America and southern sub-Saharan Africa.
- Alcohol is the prime driver in liver disease, liver cancer and cirrhosis deaths.
- Alcohol abuse also makes people more susceptible to many serious diseases, including HIV and tuberculosis.
- Binge drinking is especially damaging to health, with 16% of the world’s drinkers abusing alcohol to excess.
- On average, every person above the age of 15 worldwide drinks 6.2 litres of pure alcohol in a year.
- Counting only those who drink, that rises to 17 litres of pure alcohol each year.
- Nearly half of all adults worldwide have never touched alcohol.5
Moderate drinking throughout history is one drink per week with a meal. Not two drinks per night as a normal part of the day. Alcohol has always been seen as a special and rare substance for a special occasion only. If you want to live a long healthy life then either give up the drink or cut back significantly. I recommend you do not drink at all, or if you do, then show it the respect it deserves. If you drink, remember that your kids will be watching. Think of your influence on them, think of being around for their weddings and consider the health of your liver. Be smart. If you choose to drink, ask yourself these questions.
- Is this a special occasion?
- Is this the only day this week that I am choosing to drink?
- Is this the right thing to do?
- Am I drinking in good company?
- Do I have good food to eat with this alcohol?
- How do I make sure I have two glasses at most?
- Do I really want to drink or am I on automatic?
- What am I running from?
- The 2010 Global Burden of Disease Study, The Lancet, and the ‘2010 Heart and Stroke Statistics’ report published by the American Heart Association and the WHO. Also see, study meta-analysis by Melanie Nichols and colleagues, of the BHF Health Promotion Research Group, Department of Public Health, Oxford University. British Medical Journal, 2012. Also, study by Jeanine M. Genkinger. Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, 2009.
- Study by Dr Jennifer Mitchell, University of California, San Francisco, using positron emission tomography (PET). Science Translational Medicine, 2012.
- Professor David Nutt, Chairman of the Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs. The Lancet, 2010.
- Hingson, R., and Rehm, J., ‘Measuring the burden: Alcohol’s evolving impact.’ Alcohol Research: Current Reviews, 2013, 35(2):122–127.
- The 2010 Global Burden of Disease Study, British Medical Journal, The Lancet, and the 2010 Heart and Stroke Statistics report. Published by the American Heart Association and WHO.
Jason wishes to deeply thank, acknowledge and recognise the effort and contribution that the PIF Foundation has provided on a voluntary basis since 2014, as we educated, motivated and inspired change that helps transform the health, vitality and longevity of people all over the world.