Why alcohol is still the most dangerous drug

"It's cheaper, legal and kills more people than opioids. But public officials are much more united in the fight against drugs than alcohol." - GOVERNING

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Bert Perry's picture

Alcohol: 88,000 deaths per year.  Cigarettes/nicotine: 480,000 deaths per year.  Standard American Diet and lack of exercise: 678,000 deaths per year.  I know which one shows up most in my church's Wednesday evening "organ recitals" of ailments.  

Or, put in terms of lethality per user, we get about a million new tobacco users each year, so tobacco probably kills about 65% of those who use it.  For alcohol, about three million new users each year, for an overall lethality rate of about 3%.  For SAD, about 3-4 million new users each year, for an overall lethality of about 22%.  

Most dangerous drug?  Not by a long shot.   

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

TylerR's picture

Editor

It's the start of another discussion about ... alcohol.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Ron Bean's picture

I see more Christians killing themselves with food than anything else. (See Bert's stats above.) 

Check your BMI

Waist to Height Ratio

Judgment must begin in the house of God---and behind the pulpit.

Now get off my lawn!

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

TylerR's picture

Editor

On that note, I went for a 10-mile bike ride yesterday, and will jog three miles tomorrow morning.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Bert Perry's picture

One side note here is that we might want to be careful about talking of judgment.  I've seen from a number of sources--Ted Roberts's work on sexual addiction, Diane Langberg's work on sexual abuse, etc..--that one of the biggest things impeding people getting help in any area is how dangerous it is to "come out" as someone needing help.  

And, speaking dead seriously but with a grain of humor, many pastors whose belts are, or were, the proverbial "fence on a graveyard for fried chicken" have a huge advantage in this because it is socially acceptable to admit vulnerability in this area.  Want to deal with the (very real) scourge of alcohol abuse as well?  Simply point out that drunkenness is simply gluttony for liquor; "hey, I don't understand whiskey very well, but I do understand putting more food in my mouth than I need to, and that there are reasons for doing that...."

(my experience is not pastoral, but I remember being shocked at what factory line workers would tell me about their personal lives when I approached them for help solving quality problems....as soon as they figured out I was working to help them and wasn't carrying a pink slip, I'd not only get the information needed to fix the quality problem, but would also learn about their family, hobbies, their dog.....it was amazing....and I'd guess pastors can do it, too)

(I'm reading through Roberts's Pure Desireand while part of me is wondering "how effective can he really be--when does the other shoe drop?", another side of me is thinking "within my theological differences with him, what can we do to adopt what he's doing to help men?".  I'm not quite sure I understand completely what he's getting at despite having read through the book three times...)

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Ron Bean's picture

I think this topic may be DOA.

I'll always remember the 400 pound pastor I knew personally who preached sermons denouncing cigarettes and beer drinking. He dropped dead at 41!

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

The defensiveness that results from any information critical of alcohol is quite revealing.

Note that this article didn't come from fundamentalist teetotalers. It's Governing magazine. Interesting that secular writers are more willing to face facts about alcohol than some Christians are. Very interesting.

Anyone with a sliver of objectivity can see that responding to evidence of harm with "Yeah, but there are even deadlier things!!!" is silly. The existence of even more harmful/risky things than A does not make A safer or healthier.

From the article...

But the fact is that alcohol kills roughly 88,000 Americans each year, more than double the number of opioid deaths. Almost half of alcohol fatalities come from chronic health problems attributed to excessive alcohol consumption, such as liver cirrhosis, breast cancer and heart disease. Those alcohol-induced deaths are on the rise. Excluding certain acute causes, such as homicides and traffic fatalities, the rate of alcohol-induced deaths increased by about 47 percent between 1999 and 2015.

Public health specialists say it’s time for a broader national dialogue about substance misuse, one that includes alcohol. “There continues to be a [reluctance to accept that] alcohol is an addictive substance because it’s legal, because it’s widely used, because people believe that unless it’s a drunk driving accident you don’t really die from it,” says Phyllis Randall, chair of the Loudoun County, Va., Board of Supervisors and a former mental health therapist who worked for 15 years treating offenders with substance abuse problems in an adult detention center.

The recent increase in alcohol-related deaths from chronic health problems is part of a new picture emerging about alcohol’s negative impacts on American life.

...

As more women drink, and the frequency and volume of the drinking increases, so does the risk of expectant mothers unintentionally exposing their fetus to alcohol and harming the child’s brain development. About 1 in 10 pregnant women in the U.S. report having had at least one alcoholic beverage in the past 30 days, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

On and on it goes. The truth is not going to go away however much people say "Yeah, but this other thing is worse."

Of course the author isn't arguing for total abstinence. Nor am I, at this moment. The facts in the piece are powerful all by themselves. Wise people will draw wise conclusions.

That's all I'll say about it.

ejohansen's picture

Being fat doesn't cause others to die.  Being drunk or high and behind the wheel causes others to die.  Self-inflected causes of death are one thing, innocents dying are another.

 

Bert Perry's picture

Aaron, it's not the facts of the article to which I object. It's the abject false claim that alcohol is the most dangerous drug out there.  The reality is that the most dangerous drug out there is nicotine (as administered in tobacco) by a wide, wide margin.  Moreover, if you scale things by the relative risk--deaths per user--opioids are also far more dangerous.  

I have no problems with honest arguments which factually address real problems, but I do have problems with false arguments that conflate lawful, Biblical pleasures with deadly hazards, especially when fundamentalists are by and large refusing to deal with hazards that are far more deadly to them.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

mmartin's picture

I agree that to say that because other lifestyle choices also cause health problems we can disregard or down-play the negative impact of alcohol.  As Aaron said, "The truth is not going away however much people say 'Yeah, but . . . .'"

Earlier this year there was a study published by the National Health Service in Scotland saying alcohol causes cancer, causes thousands of injuries, and many other negative health issues.  The World Health Organization lists alcohol as a Group 1 carcinogen, similar to asbestos and arsenic.  According to the WHO, "There is sufficient evidence for the carcinogenicity of alcoholic beverages in humans. …Alcoholic beverages at any quantity are carcinogenic to humans (Group 1)."  

Mr. Obese Hard-Core Fundy Pastor these groups are not.

Yeah, but . . . .  Right???  :-)!

Recently my two young sons asked me about alcohol.  I told them that while the Bible does not say "Thou shalt not drink alcohol," I do believe it comes very, very - very close to it.  I told them I felt it was not wise, that I have absolutely no desire to drink, and I can't think of a good reason why I would want to drink anyway.  I will continue to teach them about the negative effects of alcohol and what I believe to be Biblical wisdom of avoiding it.

If someone else feels differently, that is between them and the Lord.

That said, I do find it interesting that many Christians do not seem to discuss or argue for drinking in an honest manner.

Yeah, but . . . 

TylerR's picture

Editor

My best DUI arrest was for a group of sailors who were zipping around on a zodiac boat, drunk. One guy fell overboard and, when his friends circled around to pick him up, they accidentally run over him in their drunken state and chopped his arm into roast beef with the propeller.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Bert Perry's picture

If we want to talk about dishonest arguments, let's start with the article, whose title is an outright falsehood, and which conflates all drinking with drunkenness.  For that matter, let's continue and call out the WHO and NHS, which make the second mistake as well.  If you want to talk about something causing cancer, drunkenness scores pretty high; moderate drinking not very high at all.  Moreover, if you want to get rid of something in your diet that causes about 3-5 times more cancer than does alcohol, you can eliminate red meat, especially cured meats.

I will not be holding my breath for a sermon on the evils of "demon bacon", to put it mildly, but precisely that ought to be the result of a consistent concern for my health if it's important enough to demonize moderate consumption of wine.  

And really, that's the point of bringing up food in these discussions.  If the health effects of wine, and not the actual Biblical proscriptions of drunkenness, merit bringing the subject up in forii like this, then we can say the exact same thing about the health effects of our food.  Or whether or not we use sunscreen, or whether or not we use seatbelts, or whether or not we are using 15 passenger vans.  

It is not a dodge at all, but a direct response to the actual line of reasoning.  If you're going to argue against alcohol primarily because of health effects, then it is entirely appropriate to ask why we're not addressing far bigger health effects due to things like diet and tobacco.  The answer, really, is that in large portions of fundamentalism and evangelicalism, wine is a "whipping boy" that is appropriate to attack, and bacon and hamburgers are not.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Ron Bean's picture

I grew up in a home with a father who was an alcoholic and relatives who were as well. While my Dad did provide for us, he had brothers and cousins whose families lived in abject poverty while the men drank anything that had alcohol in it, including sterno. I've seen it first hand and articles like this don't come close to describing the damage alcoholism causes. 

Perhaps what sets some of us off is the implication that drinking alcohol equates to alcoholism. That implication makes no more sense than saying that eating fried chicken is gluttony. The other thing is that our churches don't have many members who are practicing the sin of drunkenness but have too many who are sinfully abusing the temple of God with dietary gluttony while preachers denounce alcoholism and are silent on gluttony.

 

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

TylerR's picture

Editor

Bert,

No doubt some folks use alcohol as a whipping boy. But, I don't believe Aaron is doing that, here. If you abuse alcohol, you will die younger and harm others, too. It's not partisan to say that, is it?

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Jim's picture

My best shot at absolutism about not drinking:

I personally would never recommend another person drink! (And I think that it is entirely unwise for preachers to do so).

That being said:

  • ... I don't believe the Scriptures prohibit drinking in moderation.
  • I know many people who drink in moderation, never get drunk, never drive impaired

I am not a not a prohibitionist. 

 

Bert Perry's picture

TylerR wrote:

Bert,

No doubt some folks use alcohol as a whipping boy. But, I don't believe Aaron is doing that, here. If you abuse alcohol, you will die younger and harm others, too. It's not partisan to say that, is it?

Well, what would we infer from the relative incidence of articles about alcohol vs. those about the hazards of our food?  Sorry, but statistically speaking, wine is a whipping boy right here that far deadlier hazards in life are not.  Moreover, there are a number of times where basic errors are made (as in the article linked here) that ought to get them put in the circular file by any honest researcher.  And yes, this extends to people at the WHO who also fail to differentiate between the effects of heavy drinking/drunkenness and moderate drinking.  People naturally tend to be less critical about sources that say things to which they're personally amenable, no?

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

JNoël's picture

Kirk Mellen wrote:

Interesting that this article by Kevin Bauder came up on my Facebook feed today http://religiousaffections.org/articles/in-the-nick-of-time/food-pharise... Interesting and timely thoughts on gluttony given the direction of this forum discussion.

 

Ashamed of Jesus! of that Friend On whom for heaven my hopes depend! It must not be! be this my shame, That I no more revere His name. -Joseph Grigg (1720-1768)

JNoël's picture

Very surprised J.B. ignored nicotine in his analysis. Still, I very much appreciate his attention to the dangers of alcohol.

This is one of the latest indicators of alcohol being on the rise again. It may not be the best article out there, but women drinking wine on a daily basis is a dangerous trend. 

https://www.realsimple.com/health/women-relationship-with-alcohol

 

Ashamed of Jesus! of that Friend On whom for heaven my hopes depend! It must not be! be this my shame, That I no more revere His name. -Joseph Grigg (1720-1768)

Ron Bean's picture

Not everyone who wants to point out the abuse of God's temple by covering it with fat and clogging its arteries with cholesterol is doing so to defend their alcohol consumption or draw attention away from the dangers of alcohol. Personally I'm concerned as I see gifted servants of God who are unknowingly limiting their years of service by being over weight or obese. Culture's obsession with "body image" has nothing to do with it. I've had a number of doctors tell me that one of the surest ways to lose a patient is to tell them politely and directly that they need to lose weight or risk severe consequences. I've also learned it's a way for me to lose friends.

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

Bert Perry's picture

JNoël wrote:

Very surprised J.B. ignored nicotine in his analysis. Still, I very much appreciate his attention to the dangers of alcohol.

This is one of the latest indicators of alcohol being on the rise again. It may not be the best article out there, but women drinking wine on a daily basis is a dangerous trend. 

https://www.realsimple.com/health/women-relationship-with-alcohol

 

Note that the article's prime point is that due to various societal factors (e.g. stress), more women are drinking heavily.  That's the big takeaway that is the huge risk.  Women in the Mediterranean countries often drink wine daily without harm; almost all of your problems occur when people drink a LOT.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

mmartin's picture

Bert,

Speaking of the WHO, they do not differentiate between moderate drinking and excess.  The quote says that any amount is a carcinogen.

Jim's picture

TylerR's picture

Editor

I'm suffering from the post-lunch slump. I think I'll go make some coffee right now ...

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Larry's picture

Moderator

But remember the stories about the guy who had too much at the Golden Corral and came home and beat his wife and kids? Yeah, me neither. Or the one time that guy super-sized the Big Mac meal at McDonald's and swerved all over the road until he plowed into grandma taking the neighborhood kids to church? Yeah, once again, me neither.

You know why? Because the affects aren't the same and the warnings of Scripture aren't the same.  Food and alcohol are simply not the same. Therefore, we should not equate them unless we want to abandon the foundation of Scripture. The problem is that people are wont to equate things Scripture doesn't equate. It is true that all sin is sin, but not all sin is the same (either in seriousness or in temporal effect). And in some cases, people have judged things to be sin that aren't sin at all.

The fact that some can't have a discussion about alcohol without raising food is a sad testament to our understanding of sin in Scripture and the warnings that Scripture gives. If we are going to embrace the "first fundamental" as some like to call it, then we should actually embrace its teachings and perhaps consider the proportionality of dangers and warnings. 

Ron Bean's picture

Did you hear about the overweight preacher who had a heart attack and had to leave the ministry early with no disability income and a family to support and a church that didn't know what to do with a pastor who couldn't do his job anymore? I did. 

Did you hear about the overweight preacher who had to have the church build a ramp into the building because he couldn't climb the stairs? I did.

Did you hear about the overweight preacher who dropped dead at 41, leaving his wife with no income and two small children? I did.

I'll concede that obesity may not be as "bad" a sin as drunkenness, but it is killing more of us than booze.

BTW, everyone who ever ate broccoli eventually died.

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

Bert Perry's picture

mmartin wrote:

Bert,

Speaking of the WHO, they do not differentiate between moderate drinking and excess.  The quote says that any amount is a carcinogen.

Agreed that this is exactly what they said.  They are in that regard in conflict with the data, however, which state rather clearly that the relative risk is in the neighborhood of 1.04, which is statistically speaking basically undetectable.  Really, along the same lines of other U.N. agencies overstating the case for global warming, and in evaluating data like these, you've got to remember that nobody gets his doctorate or tenure by retaining the null hypothesis--to get promoted, you've got to "prove" something new.  Guess what side of the scales the finger is on?

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

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