Public Enemy No.1
Most people are somewhat aware of the social problems caused by alcohol. It is involved in marital problems, divorce, problems in parenting, violence in the home, poor job performance, missed days of work, unsupervised children, illicit sex, and the list goes on and on. Even many homicides and suicides are often directly related to the use of alcoholic drinks. For these reasons, alcoholic drinks are regarded by many social analysts as America’s number one public enemy.
The Broad Nature of Alcohol's Destructiveness
Let us look now at the widespread damage that alcohol inflicts on a number of fronts. Before we do so, we must dispel several myths. First, there is a common belief that wine and beer are not nearly as damaging as “hard liquor” and mixed drinks. The truth is that most of the adverse consequences of alcohol consumption seem to be more related to the total amount consumed rather than where it came from. As surprising as it is to most people, a standard can of beer or glass of wine has just as much alcohol as a cocktail made with 1 1/2 ounces of 80 proof liquor. (For those not familiar with alcoholic beverages, most mixed drinks call for 1 1/2 to 2 oz. of liquor. The 1 1/2-ounce measure in bar terminology is called a “jigger.”). The essential equivalence of alcohol exposure from beer, wine, and mixed drinks is important for research purposes as well. When I refer to studies that measured how many drinks a person had, those drinks can be made up of any combination of standard glasses of wine, cans of beer, or mixed drinks. As far as the research is concerned, a person that averages two beers each evening is drinking “two drinks” per day just as much as the individual who averages a couple of mixed drinks—or a couple of glasses of wine—every day.
Immune System Damage From Alcohol
A large body of research studies proclaims that even moderate amounts of alcohol used by social drinkers should be regarded as damaging to the immune system. With growing concerns regarding both infectious diseases and cancer, the immune-weakening effects of alcohol are some of the most worrisome.
Some of the most sobering research comes from the AIDS literature. A number of research studies suggest that alcohol use increases the risk of AIDS. Certainly, alcohol weakens one’s judgment so that proper precautions to avoid virus exposure may not occur. More importantly, alcohol—even in “moderation”—is an immune system suppressant. Research suggests that a moderate drinker exposed to HIV has a greater likelihood of becoming HIV positive. Omar Bagasra, M.D., Ph.D. found that social drinkers developed increased susceptibility to AIDS virus infection following the consumption of four beers. Other signs of immune suppression persisted for three to seven hours after their bodies had metabolized all the alcohol.
Let us examine more closely some of the effects of alcohol on the immune system. The B-lymphocytes produce antibodies in the blood. Alcohol impairs their normal function. It takes only two drinks to reduce antibody production by two-thirds. This represents a significant immune system weakening with social alcohol use. The study’s author, Dr. Aldo-Benson concluded: “These and previous studies suggest that even small amounts of alcohol taken frequently are harmful; they can inhibit the normal immune function and could increase bacterial or viral infections.”
We see that among those in the general population in their 40s and younger, consumption of six or more alcoholic beverages per day nearly doubles their risk of death. We also see that the risk of early death is particularly worrisome in heavy drinking women of all ages.
After looking at a host of diseases and conditions linked to moderate alcohol consumption, it is no surprise that even “social” drinking can shorten one’s life. Drinking histories were obtained of men and women who died in 1986. They were categorized as abstainers (less than 12 drinks in their entire life); light drinkers (up to 3 drinks in a week); moderate drinkers (between 3 and 14 drinks a week) and heavy drinkers (greater than 14 drinks a week).
Both sexes of all age groups from childhood to age 74, as drinking increases, the risk of death increases.
*Above Reference in whole or in part is from the book "Proof Possitive" by Neil Nedley, M.D.
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