Alcohol has been part and parcel of normal life for centuries. Ancient civilizations in Greece, Egypt, China and India have been fermenting beverages for thousands of years. During the Middle Ages, alcoholic substances were largely used for medicinal purposes, although a change in British law at the beginning of the 18th century encouraged the use of grain for distilling spirits, which led to a boom in the market and subsequent consumption. Changes in attitude inspired moderation, with the early 1900s witnessing prohibition bans across several countries, including the United States and Canada. Illegal trade initiated the removal of prohibition laws and current exposure, advertising and availability makes it easier and more attractive for contemporary society to indulge than ever before.
- An estimated 3.3 million people die globally as a result of harmful use of alcohol, representing almost 6% of all deaths. To put this into perspective, the figure is more than the total amount of fatalities caused by lung cancer and HIV/AIDS combined.
- This legal drug is linked to over 200 diseases, conditions and types of injury, with the most common deaths arising from motor vehicle accidents, liver damage, heart disease, cancer, alcohol poisoning, and problems stemming from a weakened immune system, such as pneumonia.
- 80% of Canadians admitted to drinking alcohol in 2013 and 4.4 million of the country’s inhabitants are at risk from severe health issues.
- Whilst many people use alcohol as a relaxant after a busy day or a long week, long term abuse can actually trigger anxiety and stress.
- Links between alcohol and depression are long standing, as regular drinking lowers serotonin levels in the brain, which is needed to help regulate mood.
- Other effects include aggressiveness, short and long term memory loss, decreased inhibitions and impulsive behavior, which can lead to sexually transmitted diseases, self-harm and even suicide, plus detrimental societal consequences, including poor work performance, increased debt and strained relationships.