Few people would argue that drugs are generally bad for an individual’s health. Alcohol, while not commonly thought of as a drug, can give some people pause as they consider the benefits that some alcoholic beverages seem to possess. It raises the question of whether alcohol, if used in moderation, can be of more benefit than harm. Recent studies by Harvard’s School of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offer facts to help one conclude whether alcohol is better labeled a tonic or a poison.
How Dose of Alcohol can Affect Outcome
Both studies have indicated that the effect alcohol has on the body is largely based on the dosage amount and frequency. This is not difficult to understand when one considers that alcohol’s main ingredient, ethanol, directly affects the stomach, brain, heart, gallbladder and liver. It can affect the individual’s ability to concentrate, react and experience normal mood changes.
Small to moderate doses of alcohol have sometimes proven to be good for the heart and circulatory systems. The French Paradox has led some to believe that the regular ingestion of red wine allows the French to enjoy a diet high in butter and cheese without suffering from major cardiovascular illnesses. Others believe there is another cause, and that regular alcohol consumption may not be entirely healthy or beneficial.
Heavy doses of alcohol is a leading cause of death in most countries. In fact, alcohol is present in roughly fifty percent of all fatal traffic accidents in the United States. Heavy doses of alcohol are known to damage the liver and heart, can increase the risk of some cancers, and can contribute to depression, violence and damaged relationships.
Unfortunately, the definition of small, moderate or heavy doses of alcohol can also vary widely from doctor to doctor, study to study and country to country. Some studies consider that while the exact type and amount of alcohol may vary, moderate alcohol consumption is that wherein the benefits outweigh the risks. Today, many studies agree that moderate alcohol consumption amounts to two or fewer drinks per day for a man, and no more than one drink per day for a woman. However, the true question is still: Can any sort of alcohol consumption, moderate or otherwise, truly carry more benefits than risks?
A Detailed Look at the Risks of Alcoholism
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, excessive alcohol use can have immediate adverse effects, and can also contribute to long-term health problems. Some of the immediate adverse effects of excessive alcohol consumption include injuries from falling, drowning or being burned; violence against others, including domestic violence; dangerous sexual behavior; miscarriage, stillbirth and birth defects; alcohol poisoning that can in turn cause low blood pressure, unconsciousness, coma, respiratory depression and death. Some of the long-term health problems related to excessive alcohol consumption include neurological problems; cardiovascular problems; mental problems like depression, anxiety and suicide; social problems like unemployment, inability to function on the job and difficulties with personal and family relationships; cancer in the mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, colon and breath; liver diseases and gastrointestinal problems.
It seems that while moderate drinking has had some limited health benefits in specific situations, alcohol consumption in general has far greater risks, especially over an extended period of time. Many of the benefits that can be achieved from alcohol consumption may also be achieved safely in other ways, without alcohol, like in the case of maintaining a healthy diet and participating in regular exercise. In the end, the choice must be the individual’s, but any choice should not disregard the fact that alcohol is a drug, and as such has the potential to cause great harm to the human body.