Alcohol abuse is one of the most disturbing public health problems resulting in heavy burdens on the community at large; it is affecting individuals of all walks of life, ages, races, and social statuses.
Contrary to what people think, alcohol has severe negative effects. Alcoholic beverages are used to encourage and stimulate socialization process as they are believed to reduce stress and make one open to communication. It sends stimuli to the brain; however, when taken in excessive doses, it may cause a number of harmful effects, such as vomiting, experiencing black-outs, slurred speech, and engagement in dangerous activities. In the long run, it can also lead to economic strains in the family and the economy.
Taking alcohol in moderate amounts is considered beneficial since the relationship between drinking in moderation and reduced cases of heart diseases is proved by a number of evidences. Dr. Kenneth Mukamal of the Harvard School conducted a 12-year follow-up study of moderate and heavy alcohol drinkers. He found out that men who drink alcohol in moderation, that is, 3-7 days a week, have fewer heart attacks than those who drink once a week.
The other advantage associated with moderate drinking is that it reduces the risk of diabetes both in women and men. In confirmation to this, there was conducted a research that involved alcohol being administered to people who were not diabetic. After a couple of months of this experiment, the results showed that drinking in moderation enhances the whole body’s sensitivity to insulin and may eventually lower insulin levels in blood, which, in the long run, will prevent diabetes. Recent studies also came out with the fact that moderate drinking reduces the risk of dementia in older people (with an average age of the mid-70s).
On the contrary, there are a number of problems associated with heavy drinking, such as brain damage, problems with walking, hazy vision, and slurred speech. The use of alcohol also affects the brain; the impairments will be realized after the first and/or the continued consumption of it but the symptoms disappear once the drinking stops (Stand ridge, 2004). Some of the common disorders that have been associated with alcohol in relation to brain injury include the risk of being permanently impaired. When alcohol is taken in large quantities and/or fast, it also leads to a black-out, a condition in which a person can not recall any aspect of a certain event or total events that occurred while he/she was drunk. Excessive alcohol consumption can also lead to destruction of brain cells and thus, results in a complete degradation. It has also been established that high doses of alcohol can cause the loss of sensation and being unable to achieve orgasm, which ends up causing impotence. It also interferes with the functioning of the immune system, making the body unable to combat infectious diseases due to its long-term effect impeding the use of the immune cells. Alcohol also limits the absorption of nutrients and contributes to suffering from malnutrition in those who drink heavily. In the long run, it causes stomach ulcers and may greatly affect the liver, bringing on hepatitis, cirrhosis, or pancreatitis (NIAA, 2002).
One of the advantages of having a good alcohol industry in the country is the fact that the government gets considerable revenue in form of taxes from selling alcoholic beverages. This enhances the development of the economy. The census that was carried out in the state of Mississippi in the year 2007 shows that a total of $41,977,000 was collected as tax proceeds from the sale of alcoholic beverages. The per capita income was a total of $14.38 for Mississippi which is the position 26 in per capita alcohol tax in the U.S. When recession had hit in 2008, 12 states decided to raise taxes on alcohol, some altered the law on alcohol in order to raise revenue. One of them was the state of Maryland which pushed its tax rate from 6% to 9% which was expected to create revenue of about $85 million per annum. The government also increased revenue through changing the law in Atlanta; it repealed colonial era that had banned liquor on Sundays (Phillips, 2008). When people were visiting the Jack Daniel’s distillery they were not allowed to taste any liquor but this was later allowed as a part of packaging. Besides the industries, the universities were also involved in a bid of raising revenues. Therefore, they amended their laws concerning alcohol consumption and distribution; for instance, Louisiana State University took part in the release of Bandit Blonde ale (Severson, 2011). All these were done in an effort to raise income tax from alcohol.
Despite the high revenue collected, this should not ignore the type of expenses that the government, individuals, and security agencies incurred in treatment of alcohol-related diseases that emerge as a result of abuse. The most comprehensive evaluation done in 1998 revealed that the cost of alcohol abuse was $185 billion; this was the expectation from the cost estimated in 1992 as of $148 billion. As at now, the value should be nearly over $200 billion. The costs that come with alcohol abuse are enormous and can be looked at from different angles. For instance, alcohol abuse has led to medical consequences of about $15,963 million used for treatment. The estimates updated from 1998, even though the data mentioned above is for 1995. The U.S also spend a lot of money on the alcohol abuse prevention which constitutes a significant funding for substance abuse prevention; many drug prevention initiatives address alcohol more frequently than any other drug, using an amount of approximately $1,397 million. There is also a sizeable chunk which goes to ‘alcohol abuse research’ – a total of $226 million; it shows the allocation authorized for NIAA from the federal budget and it displays actual price changes (NIAA, 2002). Besides, we cannot ignore the funds allocated for the education on alcohol abuse with a total of $90 million used annually for it. So as to understand this, one has to take into consideration the growing population and the increase in consumer price index. There is also the case of medical effect on alcohol consumption, these accounts a total of $15196 million as at 1998. Another medical case is for the fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) which accounts for about $2,769 million; this money are used for treatment of children born with deformities, poor coordination, learning disabilities, poor memory, low birth weight, organ dysfunctions, or epilepsy (NIAAA 2000). When one dies prematurely, at his or her tender age due to alcohol-related diseases, we tend to lose future earnings estimated to be of about $36,499 million (NIAAA, 1998). Besides, there is also a loss of productivity due to multiple illnesses related to alcohol abuse, which accounts for $86,368 million. Moreover, alcoholics tend to engage in illegal activities due to their loss of morals; this turns out to be extremely costly (about $3,208 million) since the crime relates to criminal justice, property damage. We can’t ignore motor vehicle accidents/crashes that are often the results of the drivers being intoxicated or drunk while driving; this accounts for about $8,592 million. Thus, the raising of revenue cannot at all be equated to the value of human lives; so much is lost in the long run while the government is in pursuit of income, which is not acceptable at all (NIAA, 2002).
The other benefit associated with alcohol is the way it makes people think, makes one interact freely, outgoing, and hassle-free. If one takes alcohol in goodly measure, it sets a pleasant ambience for a gathering of friends or dating. The research carried out in 2004 revealed alcohol’s ability to sharpen the mind. Individuals who use one glass per week are considered to have faster and more productive intelligent thought process than those who do not (Marmot et al, 2004). In addition, alcohol is a potent sedative, and it is widely used as a way to treat one's depression or avoid having to face certain life problems. However, even though alcohol helps to cheer oneself up, its effect is rather temporal and may severely increase the symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression. Alcohol would mainly fake one’s perception, coordination, time of reaction, their ability to multitask, judgment, and make rational decisions; it is even worse if one loses his/her ability to distinguish dangerous situations. Intoxicated individuals have a poor estimation of speed, no accurate perception of reality, and are slow in decision-making, why it is very dangerous to drive in such a state of mind. Statistics shows that alcohol accounts for about 40% of fatal car crashes (Bryant, 2003. pg 479). The United States Department of Justice and statistics report on alcohol and crime indicated that nearly three million of violent crimes occur annually in which the victims apprehend the offender to have been drunk, 35% include victimization of an offender who had been drinking. In addition to this, individuals who drink are more likely to engage in risky sexual activities, for example: unprotected sex and multiple sexual partners. Leigh and Morrison (1991) reported that 50% of both ladies and men in their teen ages had been drunk at their first sexual encounter. The alcoholic intoxication and decrease in condom use are closely associated. Concerning the decrease in condom use, individuals may end up engaging in a sexual activity with a person they do not know, and due to the poor decision-making at that time, they might not use protection. David Jernigan, a director of the Centre on Alcohol Marketing and Youth, clearly criticizes the government act of raising revenue by stimulating the production and the use of alcohol since it is only a short-term effect, as he explains, while in the long run, they are losing much more, for example: police costs, charge of emergencies, and the labor costs in terms of Monday morning effects.
There is also a relationship between suicide and alcohol abuse; it naturally leads to suicidal thoughts through disinhibition, impulsiveness, and judgment impairment. The connection established between alcohol consumption and suicide has become more compelling since 1960’s and confirmed recently. The research on alcohol abuse and suicide has focused on suicidal ideation, or attempted suicide, rather than completed suicide. Suicide is a complication of either schizophrenic disorder, mood anxiety, or psychiatric disorder. In addition, co-morbid psychiatric disorders are commonly found in patients who drink alcohol. Wojnar, who investigated the relationship between alcohol abuse and impulsive suicide attempts, found out that out of 154 individuals hospitalized with alcohol dependence 43% attempted to commit suicide and 62% showed high rates of impulsiveness (Pompili et al, 2010). Generally, suicide is particularly prevalent in patients with alcohol use disorder.
It can clearly be concluded that alcohol consumption has both its praiseworthy and the profane sides. The government develops alcohol industry in order to get revenue while individuals use it as a means of treating their depression or setting the right mood of the party. Among positive effects of alcohol is that it reduces incidences of some diseases, for example: high blood pressure, dementia, and heart diseases when taken in moderation.
Among the adverse effects that it brings on are the multiple deaths caused by road accidents, diseases, suicidal tendencies, engagement in dangerous activities, and violent crimes. Once inebriated, a person puts himself/herself at risk of losing their judgment, experiencing black-outs, and impotence in men. Besides, excessive alcohol consumption considerably affects pregnant women causing fetal alcohol syndrome in their children. The list goes on and on, providing a great number of reasons why alcohol consumption should be banned.