The beginning of the year holds many traditions: we watch a ball drop, we kiss someone at midnight, we make noise, and we make resolutions on how to better ourselves. Also, we drink. Here we are now, over a week into the new year. Have you made any resolutions? If so, how are you holding up? Maybe you quit smoking. Maybe you started exercising. Maybe you swore off chocolate for a month. Whatever it may be that you’ve resolved to do, we have something better.
Quit drinking alcohol.
This might seem contradictory – telling you to quit drinking after stating how alcohol is part of our New Year traditions. However, there is a major difference between one midnight glass of champagne and a night on the town. For America, statistics show that we rarely stop at one glass.
Well over half of American adults consider themselves drinkers, and nearly 90% of American adults have been drunk. Over 16 million people are addicted to alcohol in this country. Nearly 100,000 people die annually from alcohol-related causes. It’s safe to say we Americans like our booze.
Here are ten reasons why quitting alcohol should have been your New Year’s resolution. The first half consists of physical reasons, and the second half consists of more outlying reasons. If you are among those who enjoy drinking responsibly, do not read on. This is for those who either have a drinking problem or are close to having one. You know who you are.
1. Alcohol Will Kill You
Alcohol claims 88,000 lives every year in America alone. On a global scale, that number jumps to over 3 million. This means someone dies from alcohol abuse every ten seconds. Disturbingly, 6% of all deaths in the world are attributable to alcohol. If it isn’t alcohol itself that kills you, it’s being drunk that will.
Approximately 16,000 people die every year from alcohol-caused liver disease. Another 10,000 people die every year from alcohol-caused car accidents. Nearly 2,000 die every year from unintentional injuries sustained while drunk. The list goes on, and must accommodate the remaining 60,000 American deaths alcohol causes each year.
Death is obviously the worst outcome of drinking alcohol. Unfortunately, you don’t have to be an alcoholic to die from drinking. The dangers are all too real, especially on the road. Alcohol is the fourth leading cause of preventable death in the US. Remember, your being a responsible drinker may save innocent lives. No buzz is worth the life of another human being.
2. Alcohol Can Get You Sick
An interesting study was performed at the University of Maryland recently. They started with a group of healthy young people whose blood cell counts were normal. The researchers had them drink, in 20 minutes, the equivalent of five liquor shots. A few hours later, all of the drinkers “showed significant decreases in disease-fighting cells in their blood,” according to Men’s Health.
“These cells are major players in our innate immune system, which is kind of like the first-response system in our bloodstream when there is something that is not supposed to be there, like an infection, foreign body, or injury,” said Dr. Majid Afshar, one of the researchers.
Alcohol weakens the immune system temporarily, and the more you drink, the less immunity to sickness you will have. Therefore, drinking puts you at greater risk for becoming sick. It also can worsen any existing sickness you already have.
3. Alcohol Is Extremely Addictive
Alcohol is highly addictive because the brain ends up needing it to function properly. The neurotransmitters and endorphins released act as a reward system for the brain, and with prolonged use, actual changes in the brain occur. In extreme cases, alcoholics cannot even feel joy without alcohol in their system. Essentially, alcohol is addictive because it becomes needed in order to feel normal.
It turns out ethanol, the type of alcohol in adult beverages, is not an addictive substance. The chemical reactions ethanol causes in our brains are addictive. That’s sort of a scary notion. It’s not even alcohol that we’re addicted to – it’s a feeling we can only get from alcohol.
What’s worse than being addicted to alcohol is quitting it once you’re addicted. In fact, alcohol withdrawal can be fatal. Quitting at home and safely quitting with the right help are two completely different things. Going ‘cold turkey’ can cause very negative side effects, including dehydration, vomiting, arrhythmia, and even Delirium Tremens (commonly called DTs). Withdrawal seizures are common as well, experienced by 60% of those who quit alcohol. DTs, which are potentially fatal full-body seizures, happen to 30-40% of those who experience withdrawal seizures.
4. Alcohol Abuse Can Cause Amnesia
Chances are you’ve seen someone blacked out from alcohol. Maybe you yourself have. Contrary to popular belief, a blacked out person could actually seem coherent. According to Dr. Aaron White of the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), “It can be quite difficult for an outside observer to tell if someone is in a blackout. The person could seem aware and articulate, but without any memory being recorded.”
The key element to why you should quit alcohol is the last part of Dr. White’s quote. Since no memory is being recorded during a blackout, it is officially defined as a form of amnesia. Although blackouts are temporary, they are considered dangerous for two reasons: your brain is malfunctioning, and you’re at high-risk for unintentional injury.
With prolonged alcohol abuse, the amnesia can be permanent, and with much worse symptoms. WKS is a memory-impairing, vision-affecting, seizure-causing disorder, most commonly brought on by severe alcohol abuse. The two main required symptoms for diagnosis are both forms of amnesia: anterograde amnesia, which causes loss of the ability to create memories, and retrograde amnesia, which causes loss of previously-formed memories. In short, severe alcohol abuse can cause you to lose memories and to stop making them altogether.
5. Alcohol Causes Ten Types of Cancer
If that seems like a heavy statement, it is indeed. Last July, the Society for the Study of Addiction performed a study with alarming results. Up to 6% of all cancer in the world is attributable to alcohol. There are seven types of cancer the study proved can be caused by alcohol: liver, colon, rectal, breast, oropharyngeal, laryngeal, and esophageal. (The last three types affect areas of the mouth and throat.) In addition, there are three types of cancer shown to be possibly caused by alcohol: skin, prostate, and pancreatic.
The majority of alcohol broken down by the body is eventually turned into something called acetaldehyde. This substance is a group 1 carcinogen, known to cause cancer in human beings. This is truly terrifying. One might argue that moderation is the key to avoiding this risk, but the study proved otherwise. Any more than one beer a day puts you at risk for these ten types of cancer.
6. Your Kids Will Drink
Alcoholism is a disease, and diseases tend to ‘run in the family’. Evidence suggests that some people may be genetically predisposed to say yes to drinking, and also that genetics help determine what happens to you if and when you say yes to drinking. Basically, if alcoholism is prevalent in your family, you still have the choice to say yes or no, but evidence suggests that you’re probably going to take that drink. Alcoholism is approximately half hereditary.
Anyone can become an alcoholic, whether or not he or she is genetically predisposed to becoming one. However, a study conducted by both Indiana and Purdue Universities proved there to be over 900 genes associated with alcoholism. The vast majority of these genes are located in genetic regions of the brain.
So while it’s not a guarantee that your offspring will drink like you do, there’s a 50% greater risk increase for your kids to drink like you do. Why risk it? Please note this does not mean one can blame drinking on their parents.
7. Alcohol Increases Risk of Suicide
“Alcohol increases impulsivity and decreases inhibition. It increases negative self-image and decreases self-esteem; deepens depression and social isolation; and rises with the amount and length of time alcohol is consumed. Alcohol use fosters either/or and all or nothing thinking, and a lower concern for the future consequences of one’s actions. Many suicide attempts occur during binge drinking.”
This quote from a Pennsylvanian emergency service website is concerning. The facts are even more so. Thousands of suicides involve alcohol every year. Being an alcoholic makes you 120 times more vulnerable to a suicide attempt. Two more terrible facts: 33% of those who commit suicide do it drunk, and 18% of alcoholics commit suicide. The link is undeniable. Alcohol increases risk of suicide even in those who are not at all suicidal. Imagine what alcohol does to people who are contemplating ending their own lives.
8. Alcohol Causes Domestic Violence
The American Medical Association reported recently that 92% of domestic abusers are literally drinking at the time of the incident. Here is another undeniable link. Six out of ten domestic abusers have a proven substance abuse issue. There are two sides to the coin of alcohol and domestic violence being related. One involves those who are domestic abusers and drink after the fact, and one involves those who are not domestic abusers but do so under the influence of alcohol.
Regarding domestic abusers, alcohol severely increases the likelihood of abusing. In other words, a domestic abuser will abuse his or her spouse while sober, but is much more likely to do so while drunk. Regarding non-abusers, prolonged alcohol use can cause domestic violence. Alcohol abuse puts a financial strain on a family, as well as changes the behavior of the abuser. The stress that comes from all of this is not dealt with, and produces more of a need to drink/abuse. If a spouse attempts to stop the abusive other from consuming alcohol, this often triggers violence.
9. Alcohol Can Ruin Relationships
Drinking alcohol in excess causes one to be irritable, argumentative, and even abusive. Consider this quote from Control Tonight: “Drinking too much can cause a person to be moody or defensive, act abusive or aggressive and/or lie to the people they love.” We all know this is true. Even if it’s in a lighthearted way, we all know that someone (or maybe it’s you) who is a terrible drunk. Eventually that person, if they keep drinking, will ruin most or all of their relationships.
Yours truly knows someone whose friends and family abandoned due to his alcohol abuse. Over time, his lying, stealing, bad-mouthing and overall bad attitude simply drove away his loved ones. He currently lives alone and is addicted to other substances as well as alcohol.
10. Alcohol Costs Too Much
Yes, alcohol costs too much physically and emotionally. That has been proven time and time again. However, alcohol also costs a lot of money. If you want to know exactly how much you could save by quitting alcohol, use this calculator provided by the National Institutes of Health. In case you don’t have Internet access currently, here’s a screenshot of the calculator:
Let’s say you only drink on weekends, not including Friday. Let’s say on Saturdays you have a six-pack and Sundays you drink four beers. If a six-pack costs ten bucks, you could save $72 a month, or $863 a year. This is light to moderate drinking. Let’s say you know someone (or maybe it’s you) who drinks a twelve-pack every other day. That person could be saving over $2,000 per year. If not for your health, quit for your wallet.
The conclusion here is pretty simple. Quit drinking. If you resolved to lose some weight this year, quitting drinking will help. If you resolved to save more money, drinking will help. If you just want to be healthier overall, quitting drinking should be your main priority. If you don’t drink, congratulations, and thanks for reading!!
In all seriousness, if you or someone you know is battling an alcohol dependence, please seek help immediately. Alcohol addiction can be deadly.