The Worldwide Effects of Alcohol Consumption

by Ryan Parsons on March 25, 2014

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The alcohol distribution market is a billion dollar industry. Each day, hundreds of thousands of alcoholic beverages are consumed. On weekends, that number easily rises into the millions. What are the problems with alcohol heavy consumption? The families of two and a half million people can tell you that alcohol can be lethal.

Last year, the world lost 2.5 million lives from alcohol related deaths. Because of this, alcohol has become the third highest health concern worldwide according to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence. The United States has an imminent alcohol threat among its citizens in drinking and driving. Each year between 10,000 and 15,000 American lives are lost due to drunk driving.

Compared to the rest of the world, the United States does not drink as much. Countries such as Estonia and Lithuania are among the top drinkers in the world in terms of consumption per capita and are showing no signs of slowing down. Since 1982, the United States has implemented interventions such as taxes and programs to promote safe drinking. This has decreased alcohol related deaths significantly.

Citizens of Estonia and Lithuania drink about 140 and 130 liters per capita respectively. Over the last fourteen years, Estonia’s per capita drinking has risen over 60 liters. Estonia scored a 3 (out of 5) on the World Health Organization’s patterns of drinking evaluation. This evaluation measures how much a country drinks per capita and the death rate due to alcohol. Countries with a high amount of heavy alcohol consumers but a low alcohol-related death rate would score a 1 on this evaluation. This would mean they are at little to no risk to develop bad patterns of drinking. Therefore, Estonia is at a medium risk for heavy drinking patterns and a country with a rating of 5 would be at a very high risk. Countries that are low on the list have been struck with economic recessions and therefore avoid risky drinking trends because these countries cannot afford to be drinking heavily. Russia scored a 5 on this evaluation and rightfully so. Russia has the highest mortality rate that is attributable to alcohol as well as the highest alcohol dependence prevalence among males.

What are we doing worldwide to prevent alcohol-related deaths? The Global Strategy is an organization that promotes programs and interventions intended to reduce the number or alcohol-related deaths worldwide. These programs and interventions include taxes on alcohol, raising the minimum age limit to purchase and consume alcohol, and education programs that stress the harms or alcohol as well as the safe amount to drink. In the United States, health classes in schools teach children as young as 12 what alcohol is and its harmful effects. Education aimed at teenagers and young adults targets the safe amount of alcohol to drink and the attempt to eradicate drinking and driving. If these programs were implemented in Russia, more lives could be saved.

As a population last year we lost 2.5 million lives from alcohol-related deaths. These deaths could be prevented by limiting the amount of alcohol consumed per capita. Education of the harms of alcohol would be beneficial because more people, specifically in countries like Russia, would understand how to responsibly drink alcohol, saving millions of lives.



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