Stunning new research has confirmed that cannabis has liver-protective benefits, and can even help prevent alcohol-induced liver damage. However, researchers caution that while cannabis may help keep your liver healthy, alcohol should still be consumed in moderation. While the benefits of cannabis for liver health are incredible, alcohol is still a dangerous drug. While it may be legal to drink once you’re of-age, that doesn’t mean that alcohol can’t be harmful to your health. It is easy to over-consume alcohol, even without binge drinking.
The daily recommendations for alcohol are far lower than one might expect: One a day for women, two a day for men. If you’re drinking more than that on a regular basis, evidence shows you’re at an increased risk of high blood pressure, stroke and several types of cancer. Science shows cannabis might help reverse that risk — but that isn’t a free pass for binge drinking.
Cannabis for liver health?
Many people use cannabis to treat current health conditions, including everything from seizure disorders to cancer. But new research shows that the compounds in cannabis may help prevent some health conditions, too. Specifically, research shows that regular use of cannabis may help prevent alcohol-induced liver damage. As Vice reports, researchers from the National Institute of Scientific Research at the University of Quebec recently conduced one of the largest surveys on the subject. After examining patient records from 320,000 people with a history of alcohol abuse, the team discovered that patients who smoked cannabis were less likely to have alcoholic liver disease.
Dr. Terence Bukong, hepatologist and lead study author, commented on the findings and stated, “We found that if people are using cannabis in the dependent manner, they actually are much more protected from alcoholic liver disease.”
The difference was astounding: Bukong and his team found that patients who drank heavily and did not use cannabis had a 90 percent chance of developing alcoholic liver disease. Conversely, patients who were heavy drinkers and “light users” of cannabis had just an 8 percent chance.
The risk of alcoholic liver disease in heavy drinkers was lowest in “dependent” cannabis users, who boasted a 1.36 percent risk. To put it simply, the reduction in risk of liver disease among heavy drinkers who smoke weed is remarkable. However, that is no excuse to binge drink. While it appears cannabis can help protect your liver, there are still other concerns to be had.
What kind of damage does alcohol do?
Alcohol is easily the most socially accepted “drug” on the market. Most people don’t even consider it a drug at all. But it also has the potential to be extremely damaging. While the average drinker may think they imbibe with moderation, statistics show that nearly half of American adults who drink are drinking too much.
“These findings suggest that not only do many people who drink, drink amounts associated with health consequences, but that without intervention they are likely to continue to do so,” study leader Richard Saitz, professor at Boston University of Public Health, said.
Drinking too much on a regular basis is bad for your health. While research shows that cannabis can help prevent some of the damage booze does to your liver, it is not a cure-all and damage to the liver can still occur. Additionally, there are other health consequences of high alcohol consumption to be concerned about. For example, over-consumption can cause damage to your heart and inflame your pancreas. It can also increase your risk of multiple cancers, including liver, throat and stomach cancer. Drinking too much can also inhibit your immune system, leaving you vulnerable to infection. In other words, don’t start drinking more with the hopes cannabis will keep you healthy.
Heavy drinking landed Dawn Nickel in the emergency department four times — twice for alcohol poisoning and two more times when she took pills with alcohol to try and kill herself.
“I had no recollection of either wanting to end my life or taking the pills to end my life,” the Victoria resident said nearly 32 years after she downed her last drink.
Binge drinking finally gave way to treatment as Nickel realized the impact of her addiction on her daughters, who were two and six at the time.
She later founded the support group She Recovers to help other women struggling with substance use, though one thing remains the same years later — there is a lack of treatment, even as alcohol-related hospitalizations are increasing.
Data from the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) show 10 Canadians die in hospital every day from harm caused by substance use, and 75 per cent of those deaths are related to alcohol. The agency did not have information on the number of deaths that occur outside of hospital, which is mostly the case for a greater number of opioid deaths among people who die alone.
Released earlier this month, the CIHI data also show alcohol contributes to more than half of all substance-use hospitalizations, which are 13 times more common than for opioid poisonings.
Nickel said the plight of a 65-year-old retired public servant who recently hired a sobriety coach through She Recovers to support her into recovery illustrates the struggles of people trying to stop their problematic drinking.
She said the woman, who did not want her name published, stopped drinking for three months after hiring the coach but then started downing a 26-ounce bottle of vodka and a case of beer every day while the coach was away for a week, during which time she had a serious fall, followed by a racing heartbeat that prompted her to go to a hospital in Victoria.
“Everybody in the emergency room was so compassionate and loving and kind,” said Nickel, who has a PhD in health policy.
“She wants to stop drinking more than anything because she believes with every fibre of her being that her body will not survive it,” Nickel said, adding the woman was advised by an emergency-room doctor to head to a liquor store after her release from the ER so she could drink moderately to avoid harrowing withdrawal symptoms while awaiting treatment, which wouldn’t be available for six to eight weeks.
The CIHI data say that between 2017 and 2018, British Columbia had 361 alcohol-related hospitalizations every day per 100,000 people, the highest of all the provinces, while the Northwest Territories saw the highest overall alcohol-related hospitalizations in the country, at 1,751 per 100,000 residents.
Nickel said some private British Columbia facilities charge up to $30,000 a month for treatment because a publicly funded system has failed to address the “silent epidemic” of alcohol dependence across Canada.
Adam Sherk, a researcher at the Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research, said a study by the centre last year showed that compared with opioids, the economic costs of alcohol use are up to 10 times higher and related to criminal justice issues, lost productivity and health care.
“Ethanol, which is pure alcohol, is classified by the World Health Organization as a group one carcinogen,” he said of the cancer-causing risks associated with alcohol.
Ontario’s ‘recipe for disaster’
“We would recommend policies that tend to drive down the amount of alcohol used by the population, basically the opposite of what Ontario is doing,” Sherk said. “No one’s arguing for prohibition. We just want to make it so that it’s less culturally available and to drive down the consumption.”
Ontario Premier Doug Ford has recently taken steps to try and loosen the province’s strict control on alcohol sales and make it more readily available in places such as corner stores and tailgate parties, and allowed for producers to make ale as cheap as a dollar.
Robert Gibson, a spokesman for Ontario Finance Minister Victor Fedeli, said the government will continue working with public health and safety groups to carefully consider the safe and responsible sale and consumption of alcohol.
“We want to ensure any proposed improvements would uphold the health and safety of our communities and our roads,” he said in a statement.
Imagine presenting with a heart attack or chest pain and you’re given a piece of paper and told to navigate the health-care system by yourself.– Dr. Keith Ahamad
A special adviser to the province will work with retailers, beverage alcohol manufacturers and public health experts “to ensure increasing convenience does not lead to increased social costs related to alcohol,” Gibson said.
Dr. Keith Ahamad, an addictions specialist at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver, said international scientific research has shown a clear relationship between alcohol pricing and accessibility and the harms associated with increased consumption as well as the effects on others connected to the drinker.
Ahamad called Ontario’s policies increasing accessibility to alcohol a “perfect storm” when combined with cuts to health-care and social programs.
“It’s a recipe for disaster,” he said, adding B.C. has seen the harms related to privatization of alcohol sales starting in the early 2000s, eventually leading to higher alcohol-related hospitalization rates.
CIHI data show that in 2017-2018, there were 249 alcohol-related hospitalizations in Canada every day per 100,000 people, up from 241 hospitalizations in 2015-2016.
Most people seeking treatment often have nowhere to go but to an emergency room, where they’re sometimes prescribed medications such as Valium to prevent seizures and delirium tremens, a severe form of alcohol withdrawal that causes confusion and can be associated with death for a small number of patients, but the underlying addiction is often not addressed, Ahamad said.
Instead, patients are usually told to make a call so they can refer themselves to a treatment program but many don’t follow through and aren’t prepared to wait days or weeks to get into a facility, he said.
“The responsibility has not been on the health-care system. Imagine presenting with a heart attack or chest pain and you’re given a piece of paper and told to navigate the health-care system by yourself.”
The BC Centre on Substance Use, where Ahamad is a researcher, has submitted treatment guidelines to the provincial Mental Health and Addictions Ministry aimed at restructuring the health-care system. They recommend family doctors screen patients who are dependent on alcohol and refer those who are at low risk to be stabilized in an outpatient setting instead of a treatment facility before their condition worsens.
“It’s been historically difficult to know who is going to be at high risk and who is not so we’ve kind of lumped everyone together and asked them to go to detox facilities and use medications like benzodiazepines, which are not only addictive but also risky when consumed with alcohol,” he said of the drugs prescribed to reduce withdrawal symptoms including seizures and anxiety.
About 30 to 40 per cent of people who are fatally overdosing in B.C. are testing positive for alcohol use, which has increased since the province declared a public health emergency in 2016 prompted by overdose deaths, Ahamad said, adding a review of charts by Vancouver Coastal Health has shown a significant proportion of people using opioids are not addicted to them.
“It’s alcohol that is their drug of choice and they’re drinking alcohol daily and using opioids intermittently and we’re doing nothing for their alcohol-use disorder.”
Alcohol is such an ingrained part of our culture that we rarely consider the negative effects it may be having on our health and wellness. In fact, the most dangerous drugs in the world are alcohol and tobacco, yet both of these can be freely purchased in almost any corner store or grocery market in the nation. Alcohol companies spend nearly $2 billion a year in the U.S. trying to convince you that alcohol is sexy and will make you a more fun person. All the while, the latest research reveals how destructive alcohol consumption is, even linking it to cancer.
The decision to quit drinking alcohol is a lot easier than actually quitting, because not only is alcohol addictive like other dangerous drugs, (quitting cold turkey can actually kill heavy drinkers), there is a tremendous amount of social and peer pressure involved.
Here are 7 things that will most likely happen to your body if you quit drinking alcohol.
1.) The Health of Your Liver Will Dramatically Improve
Alcohol is consumption is notoriously bad for the health of your liver, the organ which acts as the filter for the body, detoxifying the blood stream. Alcohol is high in glucose and the liver converts glucose into fat, which is why heavy drinkers often suffer from fatty liver disease which can cause scarring and liver failure.
“Anything that is eaten or consumed, whether it’s food, alcohol, medicine or toxins, gets filtered by the liver. Once we ingest food, it is digested by the stomach and intestine, gets absorbed into the blood and goes to the liver.” [Source]
The liver is also the organ known to manage the emotion of anger, and a dysfunctional or poisoned liver can result in emotional imbalances, which is why so many drunks are angry drunks. Once the body recognizes there is no more alcohol in the system, the liver can flush out remaining toxins, helping to improve liver performance which will have a positive impact on mood and emotional stability.
2.) It Improves the Balance of Good/Bad Bacteria in Your Gut
In recent years, scientists have come to the conclusion that the body’s microbiome is of critical importance to overall health, disease prevention, and even in managing mental health.
Hosting very complex and varied colonies of bacteria in the stomach and digestive track, the gut microbiome can be severely hampered by the consumption of foods which feed disagreeable bacteria. At the top of this list is sugar, which is a major component of alcoholic beverages. People don’t typically think about how much sugar they are consuming when they go out drinking, but quitting alcohol can offer a significant opportunity to bring these colonies back into balance.
3.) Overall Digestive Health will Improve
Digestive health is another area of health that is really being understood as an indicator of potential future disease. Furthermore, we are seeing an epidemic of gastrointestinal issues such as acid reflux, gastritis or inflammation of the stomach. Caring for the GI tract is more important than ever, but regular alcohol consumption may be one of the greatest stressors to your digestive system.
“The digestive system works hard to eliminate alcohol (a toxin) from our system. So when we cut out alcohol we are allowing the digestive system to better convert the food and beverages we consume into fuel, energy for us to function optimally.” ~Niket Sonpal, an adjunct assistant professor of clinical medicine at Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine
4.) You May Sleep Better
Many people have the misconception that a drink, or ‘night cap,’ will help them to sleep better, when actually the opposite is true. Alcohol can have an almost immediate relaxing effect on the body and mind, but once it begins to be broken down in the digestive system and sent to the liver, it creates a
The body does not sleep well after consuming even a small amount of alcohol. In fact, as noted by the National Sleep Foundation, alcohol disrupts sleep by blocking REM deep sleep patterns, it can aggravate breathing problems, lead to more bathroom trips, and severely disrupt circadian rhythms.
Even small or moderate amounts of alcohol can have a sever impact on sleep, but quitting alcohol can quickly help to restore healthy sleep patterns.
5.) Your Skin Will Clear Up
Alcohol is known toxin that kills living cells, which is why it is used as a disinfectant and preservative. And acting as a diuretic, once inside the body, it can cause moderate, even severe dehydration, which has a litany of negative effects on the body, not the least of which is the clarity and quality of your skin.
Being dehydrated can cause blotchy skin, and alcoholics commonly have blotchy, red-ish skin. For many drinkers, heavy consumption can aggravate rosacea and what has been known as ‘drinker’s nose,’ as it affects how the body circulates blood.
“Alcohol aggravates symptoms of rosacea because drinking enlarges the body’s blood vessels. When the blood vessels are more open, they allow more blood to flow to the surface of the skin, creating a flushed look that is typically referred to as the ‘alcohol flush.’ The redness can spread anywhere on the body but is most noticeable on the face, shoulders, and chest. For those already suffering from redness due to rosacea, alcohol can make this symptom increasingly worse.” [Source]
It’s no secret that being drunk can be like a mental disability as people lose motor control and their ability to walk and talk deteriorates, vision is blurred and memory fails. But while this effect dissipates as one sober’s up or sleeps it off the effect alcohol has on your brain is significant. A recent study tried to determine what the long-term physical effects of regular alcohol consumption have on the brain, finding that the hippocampus was seriously hampered.
“The study followed 550 men and women for 30 years, measuring their brain structure and function to determine how alcohol use affects the mind over time. What they found is that the more people drank, the more atrophy occurred in the brain’s hippocampus, a seahorse-shaped structure in your brain that plays a role in storing memories. The highest risk was for people who drank 17 standard drinks or more of alcohol per week. But even people who drank moderately saw an elevated risk for cognitive changes.” [Source]
7.) It Can Help You Lose Weight
In the midst of a national epidemic of diabetes and obesity, it’s important to maintain healthy body weight. alcohol is one of the biggest sources of calories and sugar there is, but most people don’t realize how fast calories from beer, wine, and mixed drinks can add up. Since alcohol metabolizes as a fat, it’s almost like double whammy where without even thinking about it you are increasing your sugar/calorie intake, and producing more fat.
“Alcohol does act like a fat once it’s been metabolized,” , a registered dietitian and the author of “Read It Before You Eat It,” told INSIDER. “Part of losing weight is also looking at a healthier lifestyle. A lot of people don’t consider the calories in alcohol again because they’re not chewing, because it doesn’t seem like it’s rich and fatty and buttery.” ~Bonnie Taub-Dix, Author of Read It Before You Eat It
Furthermore, making the decision to quit drinking is a signal to the body and spirit that you are determined to make better health choices overall, which can have a serious multiplier effect on your body’s health.
The following infographic sheds more light on what actually happens to your body as you consume alcohol.
You have to wonder how we ended up in a society that promotes heavy consumption of alcohol as a social norm and veritable right of passage, and at the same time the possession or consumption of the plant cannabis which is known to have many positive health benefits. Quitting alcohol is a great way to take control over your health.
Desperate times call for desperate measures, such was the bizarre case in which a man at risk of dying from alcohol poisoning was pumped full of 15 cans of beer to save his life.
Nguyen Van Nhat, 48, was taken to the General Hospital in Vietnam’s Quang Tri province with a blood-alcohol level a staggering 1,119 times higher than the limit. Medics immediately transfused Nhat with three cans of beer to dilute the amount of methanol in his system and give his liver a chance to process the toxic form of alcohol.
Methanol oxidizes to formaldehyde which, in turn, becomes formic acid which can cause damage to the optic nerve, inducing blindness in extreme cases of exposure, as well as kidney failure.
The human liver prioritizes breaking down ethanol first before methanol. So the introduction of beer kept his liver occupied, in a manner of speaking, while medics performed dialysis to remove the methanol, according to Dr. Le Van Lam head of the hospital’s ICU.
Nhat was then dosed with a can of beer per hour for a total transfusion of an incredible five liters (169oz) of booze.
“The therapy with 15 cans of beer is rather unusual, but well understood,” emergency physician Hans-Jörg Busch from the University hospital of Freiburg, told German press agency dpa.
“Much more important [than the kind of alcohol used] is that the therapy is immediately initiated.”
Nhat regained consciousness after the 15th can of beer was administered, and was discharged from the hospital three weeks later.
“A 2015 study, published in the journal, ‘Scientific Reports,’ suggests that smoking cannabis is roughly 114 times safer than drinking alcohol. Ironically, out of all the drugs that were researched in the study, alcohol was actually the most dangerous, and it was the only legal drug on the list.”
In a study published earlier this year by researchers at the National Institute of Scientific Research at the University of Quebec, cannabis can actually help counteract the harmful effects of alcohol to some degree.
The study found that cannabis use significantly lowered the odds of liver diseases like hepatitis, cirrhosis, steatosis, and even hepatocellular carcinoma, a type of liver cancer. Researchers formed these conclusions based on the medical records of roughly 320,000 patients who had a history of alcoholism.
According to the study:
“Abusive alcohol use has well‐established health risks including causing liver disease (ALD) characterized by alcoholic steatosis (AS), steatohepatitis (AH), fibrosis, cirrhosis (AC) and hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Strikingly, a significant number of individuals who abuse alcohol also use Cannabis, which has seen increased legalization globally. While cannabis has demonstrated anti‐inflammatory properties, its combined use with alcohol and the development of liver disease remain unclear.”
Researchers have not determined why alcoholics who used cannabis had less of a chance of developing liver disease, but many suspect that it has something to do with the proven anti-inflammatory properties of cannabis.
These findings support the results of another study last year which concluded that cannabis helps with non-alcoholic liver disease as well.
According to last year’s study:
“It can be hypothesized that marijuana use may have potential beneficial effects on metabolic abnormalities such as nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Whether marijuana use plays a role in NAFLD pathogenesis via modification of shared risk factors, or by an independent pathway remains uncertain. In this population-based study, we assessed the association between marijuana use and NAFLD in the US.”
Despite the proven health benefits of cannabis and the fact that it becoming legal in new states every year, lawmakers and mainstream media pundits refuse to give up on the reefer madness hysteria that they built their careers on.
Just after these studies were published, the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control banned the sale of cannabis-infused alcoholic beverages, totally ignoring the science that this actually makes the alcohol less harmful.
This attitude can be seen in the hysteria that was created when Elon Musk took a hit of cannabis on the Joe Rogan Podcast, after spending two hours drinking liquor. Of course, even though the herb is legal in the state where they recorded, and it is far less harmful than alcohol, people decided to focus on the cannabis use because of the stigma against it.
A 2015 study, published in the journal, ‘Scientific Reports,’ suggests that smoking cannabis is roughly 114 times safer than drinking alcohol. Ironically, out of all the drugs that were researched in the study, alcohol was actually the most dangerous, and it was the only legal drug on the list.
Just behind alcohol, heroin and cocaine were listed as the next most dangerous, followed by tobacco, ecstasy, and meth. The criteria that these drugs were arranged by, was according to the likelihood of a person dying from consuming a lethal dose.
“The results confirm that the risk of cannabis may have been overestimated in the past. At least for the endpoint of mortality, the [margin of exposure] for THC/cannabis in both individual and population-based assessments would be above safety thresholds (e.g. 100 for data based on animal experiments). In contrast, the risk of alcohol may have been commonly underestimated,” the report states. “Currently, the MOE results point to risk management prioritization towards alcohol and tobacco rather than illicit drugs. The high MOE values of cannabis, which are in a low-risk range, suggest a strict legal regulatory approach rather than the current prohibition approach,” the report continues.
While this is not the first study to rank marijuana very low in terms of danger, it comes at a time when the debate surrounding marijuana legalization is more heated than ever before, with more and more people agreeing that it is time to end prohibition.
Ron Byrd remembers losing his daughter Erika to complications of alcohol abuse, despite he and his wife June’s best efforts. USA TODAY
OAKTON, Va. – The last time lawyer Erika Byrd talked her way out of an alcohol rehab center, her father took her to lunch.
“Dad, I know what alcohol has done to me,” she told him that day in January 2011. “I know what it has made me do to you and mom. But that wasn’t me.”
By the time she died three months later, Byrd had blocked her parents’ calls because they kept having her involuntarily committed. They once had a magistrate judge hold a hearing at her hospital bed. He ordered herto undergo a month of in-patient treatment.
Byrd, who died in April 2011 at the age of 42, is among the rising number of people in the United States who have been killed by alcohol in the last decade.
From 2007 to 2017, the number of deaths attributable to alcohol increased 35 percent, according to a new analysis by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington. The death rate rose 24 percent.
One alarming statistic: Deaths among women rose 67 percent. Women once drank far less than men, and their more moderate drinking helped prevent heart disease, offsetting some of the harm.
Deaths among men rose 29 percent.
While teen deaths from drinking were down about 16 percent during the same period, deaths among people aged 45 to 64 rose by about a quarter.
People’s risk of dying, of course, increases as they age. What’s new is that alcohol is increasingly the cause.
“The story is that no one has noticed this,” says Max Griswold, who helped develop the alcohol estimates for the institute.“It hasn’t really been researched before.”
The District of Columbia, less than 10 miles away from the Venable law office where Byrd was a partner, hadthe highest rate of death from alcohol in the country, according to the institute’s analysis. Georgia and Alabama came in second and third.
Alabama, in fact, ranked third amongstates with the strongest alcohol control policies, as rated by medical researchers in a 2014 report published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
States can influence drinking – especially dangerous binge drinking – with policies such as taxes on alcohol and restrictions on where and whenit can be sold.
Psychologist Benjamin Miller, chief strategy officer at the nonprofit Well Being Trust, says the larger health challenges in the South are to blame for high alcohol death rates. Southern states typically rank near the bottom in national rankings in cancer, cardiovascular disease and overall health.
Oklahoma, Utah, Kansas and Tennessee rounded out the five states with the strongest alcohol control policies, the researchers reported. States with more stringent alcohol control policies had lower rates of binge drinking, they found.
Nevada, South Dakota, Iowa, Wyoming and Wisconsin had the weakest alcohol control policies.
David Jernigan, a professor at Boston University’s school of public health who has specialized in alcohol research for 30 years, notes that the beer industry holds considerable sway in Wisconsin.
Binge drinking is sending far more people to the emergency room, a separate team of researchers reported in the February 2018 issue of the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.
The researchers, who looked at ER visits from 2006 to 2014,found the largest increases were among the middle aged – especially women.The number of teenage binge drinkers landing in the ER during that time actually declined.
Older, often lifelong drinkers don’t need only to have their stomachs pumped. They frequently have multiple complications from their drinking.
Their often bulbous bellies need to be drained of fluid, which builds up from liver cirrhosis, and their lungs cleared of aspirated vomit, says Dr. Anthony Marchetti, an emergency room doctor at Upson Regional Medical Center in Thomaston, Georgia.
They might also have brain hemorrhages or internal bleeding, because booze prevents their blood from clotting properly.
By middle age, Marchetti says, long-term drinking can also lead to heart failure, infections due to immune suppression, a type of dementia from alcohol-induced brain damage, stomach ulcers and a much higher risk of cancer.
As opioid overdoses, which kill about 72,000 people a year, grabbed America’s attention, the slower moving epidemic of alcohol accelerated, especially in Southern states and the nation’s capital. About 88,000 people die each year from alcohol.
Making matters worse, alcoholism is trickier to treat – and criticize – than opioid addiction.
“Culturally, we’ve made it acceptable to drink but not to go out and shoot up heroin,” Millersays. “A lot of people will read this and say ‘What’s the problem?’ “
It might be a more socially acceptable addiction, but alcoholism is at least three times costlier to treat than opioid addiction, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And it’s a far more complicated midlife crisis to address.
The proven approaches – taxes on alcohol and limits on where and when alcohol is sold – are often rejected because the liquor industry has considerable clout with policymakers.
Ron Byrd says his daughter Erika was“beautiful inside and out.”
To him, there’s no question about what caused her death.
That’s despite the fact there was no alcohol in her system when she was found dead at home. She was so sick, Byrd says, she hadn’t been able to eat or drink for days.
“The death certificate never says alcoholism,” hesays. “It said heart arrhythmia and heart valve disease. But nobody in our family had heart problems.”
Attorney Lisa Smith has been in recovery from alcohol and cocaine addiction for a decade. The New York City woman wrote the memoir “Girl Walks Out of a Bar” and co-hosts the podcast Recovery Rocks.
Smithspeaks at legal conferences and law firms such as Byrd’s about the hazards of lawyers’ high-stress days and booze-fueled dinners with clients. But she’s fighting forces far larger than her profession.
“It is poison, and we’re treating it like it’s something other than that because there‘s big corporate money behind it,” she says. “A lot of people are getting really rich on something that is toxic to us.”
Deaths of despair
In its Pain in the Nation report this year, the Well Being Trust called losses from drugs, alcohol and suicide “despair deaths.”
The three are closely related. Suicide is the third leading cause of death from alcohol, after cancers anddigestive diseases. One in five individuals who die from opioid overdoses have alcohol in their system at the time of their death.
Drinking can lead to cancers all along the digestive tract, from the mouth to the colon. About 15 percent of U.S. breast cancer cases are considered to be caused by alcohol. A third of those cases affected women who drank 1.5 drinks or less a week, according to a 2013 report in the American Journal of Public Health.
The “direct toxicity” of alcohol damages the nervous system from the brain down to the spinal cord and to peripheral nerves, says Marchetti, the Georgia emergency physician. It’s common for people in the late stages of alcoholism to have numbness in their feet and legs, which makes walking difficult even when they aren’t impaired.
Emergency rooms are the most expensive place to treat problems. Between 2008 and 2014, the rate of ER visits involving acute alcohol consumption rose nearly 40 percent, according to the study in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research. For chronic alcohol use, the rate rose nearly 60 percent.
The increases for acute and chronic alcohol use were larger for women.
People who drink throughout their lifetime develop a tolerance for alcohol. But as they age, they lose muscle and gain fat and become less tolerant.
That leads to increased injuries and illnesses, says Rick Grucza, an associate professor of psychiatry at Washington University in St. Louis and lead author of the Alcoholism study.
But why are so many people drowning so many sorrows?
Brenda Padgett believes it was postpartum depression that led her daughter to take up the heavy drinking that ultimately killed her last year.
Ashley Hartshorn, who lived in Hendersonville, North Carolina, had already suffered the trauma of hearingher stepfather kill his girlfriend while she was on the phone.
Then Hartshorn testified against him in court, which helped send him to prison for life.
The depression came after the birth of her third child in February 2012.
“She wanted so badly to quit drinking, but the shame and the fear kept her from being able to allow herself to reach out for help,” Padgett says. “Like many, we were ignorant to the effects that alcohol has on the body. I thought she had time, time to hit rock bottom and time to seek help.
“I never knew that only five years of alcohol abuse could take the life of someone so young.”
Neither did Nancy Juracka. Her son Lance died in 2006 after just three years of heavy drinking. He was 36.
A new WHO report found that alcohol-related deaths continue to be a major issue, particularly among men.
More than 5% of worldwide deaths can be attributed to alcohol, according to a new report.
The data was part of a report from the World Health Organization (WHO) that is released every four years, according to the Guardian.
The report found that of the approximately 3 million alcohol-related deaths per year, about 2.3 million in 2016 were men. It also noted that nearly 29% of deaths caused by alcohol were the result of injuries, including driving incidents and suicides.
A standout finding of the report was the toll that alcohol takes on younger generations. For example, the report found that 13.5% of deaths in those in their 20s were linked to alcohol somehow, while alcohol was held responsible for 7.2% of premature deaths in all.
Despite the fact that worldwide alcohol-related deaths have decreased from 5.9% to 5.3% since 2012, Dr. Vladimir Poznyak, a WHO alcohol-control expert who was involved in the report, tells the Guardian that the results are not something to take lightly.
“Our citizens should know the urgent facts…but they don’t because our media serves imperial, not popular interests. They lie, deceive, connive and suppress what everyone needs to know, substituting managed news misinformation and rubbish for hard truths…”—Oliver Stone