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The Alcohol Rap Sheet

Facts about alcohol you probably won't see shared on social media.

Alcohol Facts

This website is dedicated to plainly listing key facts from reputable and referenced sources about alcohol that most people either don’t know or choose to ignore. You may be surprised at some of them. Alcohol is so ingrained in our society through learned behavior, social conditioning, the alcohol industry’s $1.6B annual marketing budget and powerful government lobby that its almost impossible for us to see with clarity and objectivity. The information about alcohol we see, hear and read every day is mostly positive. The experiences we see modeled around alcohol in movies and TV are glamorous and life affirming.

Try for a moment to clear your mind. Attempt to set aside what you know and think about alcohol. Now, take some time to read the rest of this page and then ask yourself: Does it seem sensible to drink alcohol? Would you regularly consume any other product with this rap sheet? If a new product were introduced today and associated with these facts, would it be legal or socially acceptable? At the very least, consider whether alcohol should be consumed as casually and frequently as it is.

The Most Harmful Drug

A harm scale for addictive drugs, developed by a panel of experts called the Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs (ICSD), ranges from 0 (no harm) to 100 (greatest possible harm). The scale is weighted so that a drug that scores 50 is half as harmful as a drug that scores 100. According to WebMD, alcohol had the highest overall harm score of 72. The panel asserted that alcohol abuse is more harmful than crack or heroin abuse. [WEBMD]

Alcohol kills more people each year than all other drugs combined. [DFW]

The World Health Organization has labeled alcohol as the world’s third largest risk factor for disease. The first two are physical inactivity and obesity, both of which are associated with alcohol consumption. Alcohol causes 5.9% of all deaths globally and is a contributing factor to 5 of the top 10 causes of death globally.  10, 11, 21

Alcohol Causes Cancer

Alcohol is a Group 1 carcinogen, the group with the highest level of medical certainty for causing cancer. This group consists of 56 known carcinogens, including asbestos, arsenic, benzine, coal byproducts, diesel exhaust, formaldehyde, hepatitis B and C viruses, plutonium, solar radiation and tobacco. While increased alcohol consumption increases individual risk, no amount is considered safe in terms of cancer risk. Alcohol is the 5th most prevalent cause of cancer in the US.  3, 4

Compared to women who don’t drink at all, women who have three alcoholic drinks per week have a 15% higher risk of breast cancer. Experts estimate that the risk of breast cancer goes up another 10% for each additional drink women regularly have each day.  13

The type of alcohol you drink doesn’t matter. If it contains ethanol, the active ingredient in alcoholic beverages, it causes cancer.  20

Alcohol and Addiction

There are more than 4 times more alcoholics than heroin addicts in the US. There are 3.8 million heroin addicts America. There are 17.6 million alcoholics, with several million more who engage in risky, binge drinking patterns that could lead to alcohol problems. More than 6% of the US adult population are alcohol dependent.  1, 2

Alcohol is more addictive than cocaine and nicotine. Compared to nicotine, cocaine and heroin, alcohol is the most intoxicating and has the most severe withdrawal symptoms. It encourages users to take it again over other substances more than nicotine, and establishes more tolerance in users than cocaine. More people are addicted to alcohol than to any other substance. – SDE, DWF, TNM

40 million Americans age 12 and over meet the clinical criteria for addiction involving nicotine, alcohol or other drugs. 80 million more use tobacco, alcohol and other drugs in ways that threaten public health and safety. Addiction costs the government more than $468 billion annually. Meanwhile, a $35B addiction treatment industry largely focuses on 12 step programs that have no scientific basis and single digit success rates. – USNEWS, FORBES

Alcohol and Violent Crime

Alcohol is a factor in 40% of all violent crimes, higher than any other drug, and is involved in two-thirds of domestic violence reports.  5

Alcohol and Sexual Assault

Each year, more than 600,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are assaulted by another student who has been drinking. 95% of all violent crime on college campuses involves the use of alcohol by the assailant, victim or both. 90% of acquaintance rape and sexual assault on college campuses involves the use of alcohol by the assailant, victim or both.  5

Alcohol and Driving

Drunk driving is the 3rd most commonly reported crime in the US and is the number one cause of death, injury and disability of young people under the age of 21. Nearly 40% of all traffic fatalities are alcohol related. Every day, 36 people are killed in alcohol related car accidents and 700 more are injured.  5

Alcohol Impact on Athletes

The acute use of alcohol influences motor skills, hydration status, aerobic performance, as well as aspects of the recovery process; consequently, influencing subsequent training and competitions. Chronic alcohol use can lead to difficulty in managing body composition, nutritional deficiencies, and depressed immune function, resulting in increased risk of injury and prolonged healing and return-to-play. Alcohol negatively affects sleep, recovery from injury, and the production of hormones associated with muscular growth. – NCSA

Alcohol Marketing to Children

Children are exposed to alcohol marketing on 85% of their visits to supermarkets. Existing legislation does not protect children from exposure to alcohol marketing as it does other harmful substances, like tobacco. Alcohol marketing is frequently near everyday goods (bread and milk) and supermarket entrances and exits. – MKTG

The amount of alcohol that underage drinkers consume on a monthly basis is directly correlated to how many ads for alcohol they see on TV. Kids 11-14 see on average 2-4 alcohol ads on TV per day. – CNN

Drinking Alcohol is a Learned Behavior

Nearly two-thirds of 10 to 18-year-olds cite their parents as the leading influence in their decision whether to drink. There is a link between children who start drinking as adolescents and their parents who exhibited a favorable attitude toward drinking. Children are more likely to view drinking as harmless when their parents drink, and they start drinking earlier. There is a greater chance they will misuse alcohol by age 17 to 18. Adolescents with fathers who have more than two drinks a day have a greater risk of substance abuse. – CNN, LIVE

Alcohol and Politics

The alcohol industry paid more than $30M in lobbying money in 2017, more than agribusiness, construction, transportation and defense sectors. – OPENS

Alcohol Use and Living Longer

Despite popularly cited studies claiming that moderate alcohol use leads to a longer life, a meta analysis conducted in 2016 of the data and methods used concluded that moderate alcohol use does not extend life as promised in popular studies.  22, 23

Studies show that drinking grape juice imparts the same types of benefits claimed in wine studies, indicating that its the grapes, not the alcohol, that imparts a benefit.  24

Alcohol and Sexual Dysfunction

Among heavy drinking men, the amount of alcohol consumed is the number one indicator for sexual dysfunction, including premature ejaculation, low sexual desire and erectile dysfunction.  25

References

1. https://www.ncadd.org/about-addiction/alcohol/facts-about-alcohol

2. GRDH: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/mar/29/us-heroin-use-has-increased-almost-five

3. CORG: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancer-causes/general-info/known-and-probable-human-carcinogens.html

4. NCBI: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2515569/

5. NCADD2: https://www.ncadd.org/about-addiction/alcohol-drugs-and-crime

6. OPENS: https://www.opensecrets.org

7. NCSA: https://www.nsca.com/education/articles/nsca-coach/the-effects-of-alcohol-on-athletic-performance/

8. SDE: https://www.stopdrinkingexpert.com/how-addictive-is-alcohol/

9. DWF: http://www.drugwarfacts.org/cms/Addictive_Properties

10. WHO1: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs349/en/

11. WHO2: http://www.who.int/healthinfo/global_burden_disease/GlobalHealthRisks_report_full.pdf

12. WEBMD: https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/addiction/news/20101101/alcohol-more-harmful

13. BCO: http://www.breastcancer.org/risk/factors/alcohol

14. MKTG: http://eucam.info/2017/07/05/childrens-exposure-to-alcohol-marketing-within-supermarkets/

15. CNN: https://www.cnn.com/2016/09/07/health/kids-alcohol-ads-impact-underage-drinking/index.html

16. LIVE: https://www.livestrong.com/article/73239-emotional-effects-children-seeing-parents/

17. USNES: https://www.usnews.com/opinion/blogs/policy-dose/2015/06/01/america-is-neglecting-its-addiction-problem

18. FORBES: https://www.forbes.com/sites/danmunro/2015/04/27/inside-the-35-billion-addiction-treatment-industry/

19. DFW: http://www.drugfreeworld.org/drugfacts/alcohol/international-statistics.html

20. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancer-causes/diet-physical-activity/alcohol-use-and-cancer.html

21. http://www.who.int/gho/mortality_burden_disease/causes_death/top_10/en/

22. http://www.newsweek.com/no-moderate-alcohol-consumption-wont-help-you-live-longer-439259

23. https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/drinking-red-wine-is-good-for-you–or-maybe-not/2017/12/01/49f55e7a-cbd3-11e7-aa96-54417592cf72_story.html

24. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/expert-answers/food-and-nutrition/faq-20058529

25. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2917074/

26. http://www.businessinsider.com/alcohol-advertising-money-on-old-media-2016-6