~ Follow along and read all of Annie’s columns on Elephant here.
There’s a pandemic raging around the world that no one is discussing.
As social distancing and lockdowns continue, along with economic and personal losses, we are seeing it increase and take down those who thought themselves immune. Many of you have the cause of this pandemic sitting in your fridge or on your table as you read this. You have no idea the potentially devastating effects it holds in its power.
This legal substance is attributed to 2.8 million deaths annually worldwide. Globally, one in three people admit to using it (equivalent to 2.4 billion people), and 2.2 percent of women and 6.8 percent of men die from health problems related to it each year.
In fact, it was ranked as the seventh leading risk factor for premature death and disability worldwide in 2016, and was the leading cause for people aged 15-49 years old. In this age group, it is associated with tuberculosis, road injuries, and self-harm. In older age groups, it’s often tied to cancer, cardiovascular issues, and strokes. It is deadlier than all other drugs combined.
Deemed as an essential in many countries amid the tight restrictions placed on most other substances and businesses, sales have increased globally since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. The United States has seen a sales increase of 27 percent while one in eight Australians admits to now doing this daily.
What is this legal but lethal drug that we should be more concerned about?
Yes, alcohol. It’s found at your corner gas station, in your fridge, and even in your churches. Easier to procure than cold medicine from the pharmacy, yet responsible for so much damage and destruction.
“Drink responsibly.” It’s such a catchy marketing slogan. but many of us have no idea what that even means! For good reason too.
The World Health Organization states that there is no safe level of alcohol consumption. According to the American Cancer Society Guideline for Diet and Physical Activity for Cancer Prevention, it is best not to drink alcohol. People who choose to drink alcohol should limit their intake to no more than two drinks per day for men and one drink a day for women. Yet, the United States 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee recommends that men and women limit alcoholic drinks to one per day.
Why the conflicting information? Why does alcohol get a pass in society while almost every other drug is looked upon with disdain? Why isn’t anyone talking about what an issue alcohol really is?
1. It’s legal.
For some twisted reason, we assume that if something is legal that means it’s safe. Yet there are so many things that are legal that can be lethal. From the benign—like overdosing on vitamins, to the sinister—like kitchen knives. Legal is not synonymous with safe.
Our culture glamorizes alcohol use. In the movies, in music, in print. We romanticize alcohol and give it a spin that, rather than a deadly drug, it is the answer to all of our issues. Alcohol will relax you, make you sexy, bring you friends, and it’s “good for your heart!”
The amended United States Dietary Guidelines were met with massive backlash by policymakers. The alcohol industry and lobbyists balked at the strong language and recommendations. Rightfully so as alcohol sales line an alarming number of pockets each year. Alcohol sales number in the hundreds of billions per year. Budweiser spends $34 million annually on advertising during the Super Bowl. $34 million on roughly seven minutes of coverage. No one wants to see that spending go away.
We need to face the truth though. Alcohol is a drug just the same as cocaine, crack, or heroin. Cigarettes were once as accepted as alcohol is today. Yet, through increased coverage about the dangers of smoking, stricter regulations when it came to marketing and sales, along with increased warnings and taxes, we made smoking undesirable. No longer is there anything sexy about smoking.
Let’s stop suggesting we need alcohol to be successful in business, to deal with our children, or to get intimate with our spouses. Let’s get real instead and make learning to communicate, being honest about our emotions and struggles, and asking for help with coping skills that we glamorize.
Imagine the world we could be living in if we made that simple but revolutionary change.
If you are curious about your drinking and want to take this time to evaluate it rather than diving deeper into it, join me for The Alcohol Experiment. You will receive encouraging and mindset shifting daily videos and emails and an incredible community of 130,000 people also experimenting with their alcohol intake. It is completely free (and always will be) at The Alcohol Experiment.