It’s easy to overlook the effects that a drug like alcohol can have on its community. When you make a drug legal, to some degree you are telling society that it is safe. Oh yes, we’ve all see the public service announcements and been told not to drink and drive a million times, but are we honestly paying attention?
The fact that thousands of Americans still die every year in drunk driving accidents, and the fact that even more Americans die simply from the complications that come along with alcoholism, both go to show that we’re not taking alcohol seriously enough. A new report from the World Health Organization points this out in sobering detail.
According to the WHO, drinking alcohol led to 3.3 million deaths in 2012. You read that right. The word was “million.” Millions of people are dying just because they are drinking a completely legal drug that you can find virtually anywhere in our country. This works out to one person dying because of alcohol every ten seconds.
Now, the question is: what are we going to do about it?
Complacency and ignorance kill
The heart of the matter is that we are complacent about alcohol. We truly don’t think that it can harm us that badly. Alcoholism is something that happens to bad people in “bad families.” It’s a plot device for TV shows and movies when they want to get dramatic, right? In truth, there are far more alcoholics in the world than anyone has realized.
A conservative estimate from the World Health Organization is that the average person in the world over the age of 15 drinks the equivalent of 6.2 liters of alcohol every year. For us Americans, that converts to over one and a half gallons of pure 200 proof ethanol. If you’d like you can also imagine lining up three two liter soda bottles filled to the brim with pure, clear alcohol and working through them over the course of the year.
An even more surprising fact, however, is that 6.2 liters is the average quantity of alcohol after you take everyone in the world into account that doesn’t drink at all. If you’re only counting the people that actually drink, the average goes up to a staggering 17 liters of pure alcohol. Now imagine eight and a half two liter soda bottles filled with crystal-clear, stomach destroying ethanol.
The costs of alcoholism
It’s no wonder that alcohol is responsible for so many deaths. It’s a nervous system depressant that can literally shut your body down if you have too much. At its heart, alcohol is a poison, and it will poison your body if you consume too much before your liver can metabolize it (break it down.) With most drinkers consuming an average of 17 liters of it, that’s a lot of people that are putting a lot of poison into their bodies. If we want to do something about these figures, we have to start educating our families, friends and communities are the real costs of alcohol.
The United States is never going to ban alcohol again (because it was a disaster the first time.) Any efforts to lower the dangers of alcoholism and alcohol poisoning are going to come from the people. Talk to your kids about what alcohol actually is so that they can make their own informed decisions about it. Don’t let your friends drink to the point that they black out and hurt themselves.
Individual people can make a difference if they start taking control of alcohol, one person at a time.