Global Disease Burden of Alcohol


With all the discussion in the news about illicit drug use, it can be easy to gloss over the dangers of legal, mind-altering substances. Alcohol, for instance, is embedded into not only the fabric of American culture but much of the western world. Experts estimate that drinking is responsible for 88,000 deaths in the United States each year. However, the actual death toll is likely much higher.

Drinking alcohol can cause systemic problems in the human body. With each passing year, scientists find new links between alcohol consumption and disease. Currently, the American Cancer Association supported research found that alcohol increases the risk of:

  • Mouth cancer
  • Pharyngeal (upper throat) cancer
  • Esophageal (food pipe) cancer
  • Laryngeal (voice box) cancer
  • Breast cancer
  • Colon, Rectum, and Bowel cancer
  • Liver cancer

Aside from cancer, drinking is known to cause many other fatal diseases such as cirrhosis of the liver, pancreatitis, and heart disease. Furthermore, prolonged and heavy alcohol use can lead to alcohol dependence and alcohol use disorder; both can be an impetus for the development of mental illnesses. When mental and behavioral health disorders are left untreated, the risk of suicidal ideation and attempts increases exponentially.

There is not much that can be said about alcohol use – even moderate consumption – that is good. Simply put, alcohol is poisonous to the human mind and body.

Alcohol is a Leading Cause of Death

Without any doubt, alcohol can cause a myriad of problems for those who imbibe; yet, the substance is legal, and companies generate billions of dollars from the substance each year. Public health organizations work tirelessly to educate people around the globe about the dangers of alcohol. Still, billions of people continue to imbibe despite the risks.

A new study – funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation – published recently in the medical journal The Lancet shows that beer, wine, and liquor are killing more people than previously thought, USA Today reports. Researchers found that alcohol use is associated with 2.8 million deaths each year. The research indicates that alcohol was the seventh-leading risk factor for premature death and disability globally in 2016. Nearly 1 in 10 deaths of people ages 15 to 49 years-old could be tied to alcohol use.

“If everyone cut their consumption in half, we could save a million lives globally,” said lead author Max Griswold of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington. 

The findings come from a systematic analysis of alcohol use for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2016. Researchers analyzed 694 studies to estimate worldwide drinking patterns, according to the article. They also looked at 592 studies plus 28 million people in 195 countries to better understand alcohol’s health risks. The data is from the years 1990 to 2016. The authors write:

“Alcohol use is a leading risk factor for global disease burden and causes substantial health loss. We found that the risk of all-cause mortality, and of cancers specifically, rises with increasing levels of consumption, and the level of consumption that minimises health loss is zero. These results suggest that alcohol control policies might need to be revised worldwide, refocusing on efforts to lower overall population-level consumption.”

Alcohol Use Disorder Treatment

Please contact Hemet Valley Recovery Center & Sage Retreat if alcohol use is causing significant problems in your life. We offer several programs and create custom treatment plans to meet each client’s unique needs.

As a Chemical Dependency Rehabilitation Hospital (CDRH), we can provide programs and specialty services all in one facility. Take the first step toward a life in recovery by calling us for a confidential assessment: 866-273-0868.