|HEALTHWATCH: When one for the road can be one for the grave|
By Dr Cory Couillard
Panama’s Independence celebrations are just ahead followed by American Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year, all occasions when raising a glass or two is standard procedure.
But alcohol has been named the world’s third greatest risk factor in the development of premature disease. This seemingly innocent drink is a staple in social gatherings but its effects often spills over into society as a whole.
In Panama where police enforcement of drunk driving is less effective than elsewhere, there is a high seasonal death toll on the road at national holiday times and alcohol’s intoxicating, toxic and dependence-producing properties play a role in violence, child neglect and abuse, shattered relationships and poor job performance.
The harmful use of alcohol is a global problem that claims at least 2.5 million lives ayear. The sad reality is that many of the lives lost are caused by an intoxicated person’s poor choices that ultimately resulted in the harm of others. Alcohol use is very similar to the concept of secondhand smoke; it impacts everyone around you.
Alcohol causing more than a buzz
Few people realize that the short-term abuse of alcohol can result in long-term, severe health conditions that include but are not limited to heart disease and cancer. These conditions are often called non-communicable diseases (NCD’s) as they cannot be passed from one person to the next but are greatly dependent on our personal choices.
Communicable diseases or ones that can be passed from person to person are also affected by the use of alcohol. Alcohol use is associated with diseases such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) as alcohol can compromise one’s immune system.
“320,000 young people between the age of 15 and 29 die from alcohol-related causes, resulting in 9% of all deaths in that age group” according to the World Health Organization.
Nearly everyone knows someone that has been harmed intentionally or unintentionally by risky drinking practices. Fatal accidents resulting from traffic accidents, violence and suicides tend to occur in younger age groups but are not limited to youth or any gender group.
Alcohol is not man’s best friend
According to statistics, men are more likely than women to drink excessively and make poor decisions that can result in serious injury or death. Examples may include reckless driving, violent behavior and other questionable decisions associated with alcohol consumption.
The use of alcohol can alter one’s mood significantly. Depression – the opposite of aggression – can occur as well. Men are more likely than women to have alcohol induced depression that increases the risk of committing suicide or doing other forms of self-harm.