Let’s face it, alcohol is glamorized in the media, in social settings, and in our everyday lives. Wherever you turn there are ads for alcohol, offers to get drinks or go to happy hours, and gifts of wine and liquor bottles. We hardly ever read about the dangers of alcohol unless it’s for the D.A.R.E. program, or trying to get kids to “just say no.” Articles that do bring up the dangers of alcohol consumption are often followed by jazzy headlines that read “a glass of wine a day is the same as one hour at the gym,” or “drinking alcohol prevents heart disease.” People are always looking for a way to justify drinking alcohol. I’m here to tell you, it’s worse than we thought. Here are 10 reasons why alcohol is actually poison.
1. Ethanol alcohol is used in gasoline and your drinks
You read that right. Ethanol alcohol, the kind of alcohol that is used in pharmaceuticals, toiletries, and the fuel you put into your car, is the same type of alcohol that is in your martinis and your favorite beer. The anesthetic called ether is also made from ethanol. Another kind of alcohol, known as methanol, derived from similar chemical compounds as ethanol, is used as a solvent, as a raw material for producing formaldehyde, as well as antifreeze and for cleaning metals. Yuck!
2. Alcohol is the direct cause of 7 forms of cancer
At the end of last year a study revealed that alcohol is the direct cause of 7 forms of cancer, not one, but 7. Health experts actually called for a warning label on alcohol products because the study, published in the journal Addiction, found that alcohol was the direct cause of liver, breast, oropharynx, larynx, esophagus, colon, and rectum cancer. Although the highest risk was seen in the heaviest drinkers, a considerable burden was still found in low to moderate alcohol consumption. The authors of the study concluded that there is no safe amount of alcohol to drink in reference to cancer.
3. 88,000 people die annually from alcohol-related causes
This statistic is shocking and should alarm anyone who reads it. It means that alcohol is the fourth leading preventable cause of death in the United States. I mean, if orange juice was the fourth leading preventable cause of death in this country do you think there would be a movement to stop drinking? To not make fancy drinks with it? To make it look uncool? To not give it as a gift? You’re damn right there would be.
4. It’s called alcohol poisoning for a reason
Yes, alcohol is so toxic it can literally poison you. When your blood alcohol level is high enough, it is considered poisonous. This is because the liver is only made to process a limited amount of alcohol, one unit every hour. If you drink too much too fast your BAC can spike. One patient dies each week in the U.S. from alcohol poisoning. You can be at risk for alcohol poisoning even if you don’t binge drinking as it can even happen accidentally.
5. No amount of alcohol is safe while pregnant
I’ve heard and seen pregnant women say that a glass of wine early on in their pregnancy won’t hurt. I’ve read articles about pregnant women being pressured to drink. The American Academy of Pediatrics, along with many other health organizations, have repeatedly said that prenatal exposure to alcohol is dangerous. In fact, as of 2015, it is the leading preventable cause of birth defects and intellectual and neurodevelopmental disabilities in children. A recent study found an increased risk of infant growth retardation even when a pregnant woman’s consumption was limited to one alcoholic drink per day. Some women believe drinking during the first trimester is harmless, but compared to no drinking, drinking during the first trimester results in 12 times the odds of giving birth to a child with FASDs.
6. Alcohol kills cells
This is why alcohol is used to clean stuff, to preserve food and to sterilize skin and needs. The toxicity of alcohol becomes greater when it is ready to be cleared from the body because it has to be metabolized to a substance called acetaldehyde. This substance is even more toxic than alcohol. The irony is, any food or drink contaminated with the amount of acetaldehyde that a unit of alcohol produces would be banned and outlawed immediately as having an unacceptable health risk.
7. Drinking can lead to addiction
Although not everyone who drinks alcohol becomes addicted, there is a risk and the negative effects can be detrimental. In the current drinking climate, it’s difficult to understand when drinking becomes alcohol misuse or an alcohol use disorder. According to the NIAAA, as of 2015 15.1 million adults in the U.S. aged 18 or older have an alcohol use disorder. It can be argued that other substances that are prescribed or taken daily can also cause an addiction, pain pills, food, etc. However, alcohol is unique in that we know it’s a drug and we glamorize it anyway.
8. Drinking in excess on one occasion can take a toll on your health
We often hear drinking only one can’t hurt us, but it can. Alcohol can interfere with the brain’s communication pathways and can affect how the brain looks and works. Drinking a large amount over a long time or too much on one occasion can damage the heart including issues such as cardiomyopathy, arrhythmias, stroke, and high blood pressure. Heavy drinking over time can lead to even more adverse health consequences.
9. Alcohol causes organs in the body to produce toxic substances
Alcohol actually causes the pancreas to produce toxic substances that can lead to pancreatitis, a dangerous swelling of the blood vessels in the pancreas that impedes proper digestion. Moreover, I already mentioned how the alcohol we metabolize also converts into a toxic substance, acetaldehyde.
10. Your body sees alcohol as a poison
When alcohol enters your body, your body sees it as a poison and it automatically reacts by attempting to fight back. To sober you up, the body produces an enzyme called alcohol dehydrogenase. The body goes after alcohol once it passes through the stomach lining into the liver. That’s where it changes into acetaldehyde. Acetaldehyde is thought to be the cause of nasty hangovers.
As you can see, any way you slice it alcohol is poison. Its effects are far-reaching and devastating. Personally, I believe it’s time to stop acting like drinking is the normal thing to do and treat is like what it really is: poison.