Archive for Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Alcohol impact

A British assessment of the societal impact of alcohol reaches some sobering conclusions.

November 2, 2010

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The conclusions of a group of British experts concerning the harmful effects of various legal and illegal drugs is a strong reminder of the potential damage attributed to one of the world’s most accepted drugs: alcohol.

The report published online Monday in the medical journal Lancet concluded that, when all its harmful effects are considered, alcohol is more dangerous than illegal drugs like heroin, methamphetamine or crack cocaine. The report was based on the assessment of a group of British drug experts who gathered last June to assess the effects of 20 drugs. The participants ranked the impact of the drugs, both on users and on others, using a range of physical, psychological and social factors.

The online report apparently relies almost entirely on how the individual experts assessed the variables, so an element of subjectivity was involved. It also is done by British experts, but it seems likely that their conclusions have some broad applications in other countries, including the United States.

Perhaps the most interesting finding of the report was that although many illegal drugs were judged to be more harmful than alcohol to their individual users, when the “harm to others” was factored in, alcohol was far and away the top offender. The “harm to others” factors included such issues as crime, injury, loss of relationships, economic costs and cost to the community.

The experts scored alcohol particularly high in terms of economic costs (costs for such things as health care, police, prisons and social services, as well as costs related to lost productivity and absenteeism) and injury, which referred to the chances of the drug’s use causing injury to others, including traffic accidents, fetal harm, domestic violence, etc. Alcohol also was a notable leader in contributing to family adversities, such as family breakdown or child neglect.

The overall conclusion of the experts, therefore, was that, while many illegal drugs have a devastating impact on the individuals who use them, when it comes to the impact on society as a whole, alcohol is by far the most damaging drug.

It is a sobering assessment, but one that makes sense on a number of levels when we consider serious or fatal accidents caused by drunken drivers, workers impaired by alcohol use and the impact individuals’ alcohol use can have on families and children.

Although the British experts didn’t advocate outlawing alcohol, the report concludes “that aggressively targeting alcohol harms is a valid and necessary public health strategy.” Their assessment also raises some interesting questions about why some drugs that cause less societal harm than alcohol are illegal, while alcohol is ingrained and accepted in most global societies.

Because alcohol is legal in the United States, we tend to think of it as harmless. The conclusions of the British report should give us reason to rethink that judgment.

Comments

75x55 4 years, 8 months ago

Effects.

Both appear to have significant negative consequences....

CorkyHundley 4 years, 8 months ago

Affects.

To attack or infect, as a disease: Rheumatic fever can affect the heart.

Dopers are diseased as well....not that I have anything against dopers or drinkers or Dudes that do both while president of whatever...

imastinker 4 years, 8 months ago

This is my rifle...and this is my gun. One is for shooting...and the other for fun!

Liberty275 4 years, 8 months ago

"One is for fighting, one is for fun" is the proper expression. Now drop and give me 20.

imastinker 4 years, 8 months ago

Sir Yes Sir!!

Thanks for the correction! I didn't know that!

notajayhawk 4 years, 8 months ago

Don't call me "sir", I work for a living!

(As long as we're sounding like R. Lee Ermey ... )

geekin_topekan 4 years, 8 months ago

Staggering into the Masonic Temple's plywood front and relieving oneself is the effect of alcohol.

The risk of getting mowed down by a drunk at the wheel is alcohol's affect on the community.

notajayhawk 4 years, 8 months ago

Before all the "this-means-we-should-legalize-drugs" crowd chips in, I'd like to point out that the conclusions of the study (i.e. that alcohol causes more damaging) rely entirely on how much weight is given the various factors. Alcohol 'won' because of the overall damage to society, which would be because it is the most widely used and the most available - because it's legal.

geekin_topekan 4 years, 8 months ago

Go to the Pine Ridge reservation and see how much weight legality holds.

notajayhawk 4 years, 8 months ago

"Go to the Pine Ridge reservation and see how much weight legality holds."

http://www.nativevillage.org/Messages%20from%20the%20People/the%20arrogance%20of%20ignorance.htm

"The Oglala Lakota Nation has prohibited the sale and possession of alcohol on the Pine Ridge Reservation since the early 1970's. However, the town of Whiteclay, Nebraska (which sits 400 yards off the Reservation border in a contested "buffer" zone) has approximately 14 residents and four liquor stores which sell over 4,100,000 cans of beer each year resulting in a $3,000,000 annual trade. Unlike other Nebraska communities, Whiteclay exists only to sell liquor and make money. It has no schools, no churches, no civic organizations, no parks, no benches, no public bathrooms, no fire service and no law enforcement. Tribal officials have repeatedly pleaded with the State of Nebraska to close these liquor stores or enforce the State laws regulating liquor stores but have been consistently refused."

Doesn't do a whole heck of a lot of good to make something illegal when it's available 400 yards away, does it?

Stuart Evans 4 years, 8 months ago

so why not prohibit alcohol? oh that's right, it was destroying American faith in government, creating a massive black market crime syndicate, and killing people from drinking unregulated substances. boy those were the good ol days!

notajayhawk 4 years, 8 months ago

Hmmm. Let me think. How about the fact that the only legal drug mentioned is the one with the biggest cost to society? Other than that I can't think of much of a reason.

The point being that ending Prohibition and legalizing alcohol didn't exactly reduce it's negative impact much, did it? Somehow the logic behind legalizing more substances doesn't seem very convincing.

booyalab 4 years, 8 months ago

Before you assume "destroying American faith in government" is a bad thing, I think you should know that the vast majority of Americans don't share it. You might want to find a new assumption.

We can't prohibit alcohol because it's too popular. That's the reason behind every one of your examples. Prohibition by itself does not determine how massive or dangerous a black market is. Haggis is a good example. People generally recoil at the thought of it, but it is banned in the US over health concerns so by your logic there should be a huge crime syndicate and people should be killing themselves by making unregulated haggis at home.

notajayhawk 4 years, 8 months ago

Don't take that Scottish haggis cartel too lightly. They're killers.

geekin_topekan 4 years, 8 months ago

When alcohol was illegal its harmful effects were still felt by users and non-users alike. Ask Bill W. if legality was at issue when his life fell apart.

asbury 4 years, 8 months ago

True. Alcohol is a Drug, is a Drug, is a Drug! But I don't think prohibition is the answer.

notajayhawk 4 years, 8 months ago

"When alcohol was illegal its harmful effects were still felt by users and non-users alike."

I assume you're talking about Prohibition. When alcohol was made illegal, it had already been legal forever and was already widely used, and even while illegal it still enjoyed widespread social acceptability (much like marijuana today). That's the point: When something is legal (or recently was legal or is legal someplace nearby), it has more social acceptability, which results in more widespread use, which results in more overall cost to society in general.

Stuart Evans 4 years, 8 months ago

cannabis was always legal until the 1930's when a corporate tool spread racist lies to scare people like you into demonizing it.

notajayhawk 4 years, 8 months ago

Virtually every substance with a potential for abuse was legal until it was specifically made illegal. It was a fairly recent development that the approach switched to making anything illegal that wasn't specifically legal.

And I said nothing "demonizing" marijuana, only mentioned its widespread use due to its level of social acceptability. I mentioned that legalizing any substance increases its acceptability, and therefore its use, and therefore its costs to society.

Maybe if you'd put the bong down once in a while you'd have a little better luck with that paranoia problem.

booyalab 4 years, 8 months ago

Alcohol-related health problems like cirrhosis of the liver declined during prohibition. Not that I think that would change your mind.

Richard Heckler 4 years, 8 months ago

Why is the Lawrence,Kansas focus more and more alcohol downtown? Can city government say no?

What about more retail store fronts for shopping?

Slaphappy 4 years, 8 months ago

What about Minstrels with pan flutes, banjos, tambourines, European fiddles and bones near the store fronts?

Stuart Evans 4 years, 8 months ago

because alcohol is the gift that keeps on giving. First they tax it..they tax the brewer, then they tax the distributor, then they tax the consumer. Then when everyone is nice and drunk, they send them out onto the streets, so that a couple of them can pay the DUI tax each night.

Liberty275 4 years, 8 months ago

It's my body. What I do with it is my business as long as I don't infringe on other's rights.

You can do your studies and educate the public, and kudos for that, but keep your hands off our personal liberty unless you have the intention of restoring it.

Disclosure: I don't use illegal drugs and single malt scotch is too expensive for me to abuse.

jafs 4 years, 8 months ago

I agree.

What do you think about drinking and driving?

booyalab 4 years, 8 months ago

So if substance abusers commit more property crimes than non-users, would you consider that to be infringing on another's rights? Would you consider it to be infringing on another's rights for a substance abuser to receive money paid for by people who wouldn't freely choose to subsidize that person's lifestyle?

Casey_Jones 4 years, 8 months ago

Property crimes are certainly infringing on another's rights and will be punished as such. I would also say that yes, taxes that pay substance abusers are infringing upon my rights and is something that should be corrected. Unfortunately for me, too many disagree. But like Liberty said, keep your hands off our personal liberty unless you have the intention of restoring it.

Richard Heckler 4 years, 8 months ago

"What about Minstrels with pan flutes, banjos, tambourines, European fiddles and bones near the store fronts? "

Music is a good......

jafs 4 years, 8 months ago

There are costs involved with the fact that alcohol use is prevalent today.

There are also costs involved with illegal drugs, many of which have to do with the criminal enterprises surrounding the production and distribution of them, and the violence that accompanies them.

notajayhawk 4 years, 8 months ago

"There are also costs involved with illegal drugs, many of which have to do with the criminal enterprises surrounding the production and distribution of them, and the violence that accompanies them."

There's been a lot of talk in England, including support from their Association of Chief Police Officers, for legalizing heroin. That's the argument, that it would reduce the costs to the criminal justice system and those stemming from the violence. Which is interesting, since heroin was found by this study to be the substance that causes the second-greatest damage to the individual (edged out by crack cocaine).

So, do you support reducing the societal costs when it increases the suffering of the individual? Just curious.

jafs 4 years, 8 months ago

Can I have your assurance that you won't start insulting and attacking me personally?

notajayhawk 4 years, 8 months ago

If he thought it required an answer, that would be true, pretty much by definition.

Danimal 4 years, 8 months ago

This report is more likely to be used as a step in government more directly regulating individual alcohol consumption than legalizing illicit drugs. Legalized marijuana, or anything else will never happen. If anything, I'm looking for increasing taxes on alcohol and tobacco for BS public health reasons to effectively usher in a new prohibition.

notajayhawk 4 years, 8 months ago

Tobacco came in at number 6 on the list, just barely eeked out by (non-crack) cocaine.

nanimwe 4 years, 8 months ago

I agree. I believe this is the first step in taxing alcohol at the same level as tobacco.

Mary Darst 4 years, 8 months ago

Before I start, just know that I am talking about alcohol. I have been waiting for someone to study and write about just this subject. We have been told that cigarettes, Marijuana, and all other drugs are sooooo bad, but alcohol has been the drug of choice that has most affected my life. From an alcoholic mother to an alcoholic first husband and now an alcoholic (step) daughter. I have every co-dependent symptom there ever was. The affect it has on family is disastrous.. I have seen this in many other families other than my own. I don't have the answer, but I sure do agree that the subject needs a lot more attention than it gets. And yes, I also believe it needs to get the same taxes as tobacco.....The cost of alcoholism has to be a expensive.

notajayhawk 4 years, 8 months ago

The effects of alcoholism on family and other significant others has been long known, intensely studied, and heavily written about. There is help available, please do not think you have to go through it all alone.

Orwell 4 years, 8 months ago

The booze lobby will spend enough on legislator "entertainment" to keep things close to the status quo. When you add the simplistic, bumper-sticker sentiment that all taxes are inherently bad, there's not much likelihood of a significant increase.

kernal 4 years, 8 months ago

Number of friends killed by drunk drivers? 4 Number of relatives killed by drunk drivers? 1 Number of co-workers killed by drunk drivers? 1 Number of co-workers fired due to alchohol abuse? Number of co-workers who died due to alcohol abuse? 2

Number of friends killed by pot drivers? 0 Number of friends killed by pot? 0 Number of relatives killed by pot? 0 Number of co-workers killed by pot? 0 Number of co-workers fired due to pot 1 (was caught smoking in parking lot before work) Number of co-workers fired due to drug abuse? 3 (were crack/cocaine/meth users)

equalaccessprivacy 4 years, 8 months ago

Many studies have shown that moderate drinkers live longer. Keep those DUI-ers of the street!

notajayhawk 4 years, 8 months ago

Uh, oh, looks like California said no, no.

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