Alcohol Abuse Increasing Worldwide, Warns Church Health Official

Silver Spring, MD, USA | Jonathan Gallagher / ANN

“Alcohol abuse worldwide is on the increase, with many more people becoming alcohol dependent and larger quantitites of alcohol being consumed,” reports Thomas Neslund, associate health director for the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

“From all the evidence we receive, it’s clear that alcohol is the drug of choice for a large number of people,” says Neslund, who is also director of the International Commission for the Prevention of Alcohol and Drug Dependency. “Alcohol consumption per individual is on the rise just about everywhere, with greater numbers experiencing alcohol-related problems and increasingly involving young teenagers.”

Neslund pointed to a May 19 Reuters news report from Russia which stated that two-thirds of Russian men died in a drunken state, with more than half dying in extreme alcoholic intoxication. The survey, based in Moscow and in the Republic of Udmurita, found that alcohol-related problems were the leading cause of death among males. This is related to the lowest life expectancy in Europe-57.4 years.

“The report shows that most deaths occur on Mondays after binge drinking over the weekend,” comments Neslund. “This pattern is reflected elsewhere and reveals the tragic impact of alcohol abuse.”

Portugal heads the world alcohol consumption league with the equivalent of 11.3 liters of 100 percent alcohol per person per year. France is third at 10.9, with the United Kingdom 17th at 7.7 and the United States 22nd at 6.6, according to 1999 figures released by the French organization, L’Association Nationale de Prevention de L’Alcoolisme. European Union figures reveal that alcohol consumption in the Czech Republic has doubled in the past 40 years to 10 liters per person.

“Even before political change, Central Europe was a high alcohol consumption area,” comments analyst Dr. K. Nespor in a World Health Organization report entitled Profiles of Alcohol. “Political and economic changes even worsened this situation. The availability of alcohol increased in all Central European countries including the Czech Republic.”

Binge drinking is also occurring at a younger age, Neslund says, with reports from the United States and Europe indicating that many school children are regularly getting drunk.

A national survey carried out in the United States in 1999 by the University of Michigan revealed that a quarter of all fourteen-year-olds had used alcohol in the previous month, with 15 percent admitting to binge drinking.

Two-thirds of Danish schoolchildren aged 15 admitted to have already been drunk twice or more, while their contemporaries in Europe also showed similarly high rates of drunkenness-50 percent in England and Finland, and 45 percent in Austria, according to a European Union report.

“Such evidence presents a disturbing picture of increased alcohol dependence that needs to be seriously addressed by all involved-government agencies, healthcare professionals, social, welfare and activist organizations,” Neslund concludes. “We ignore such a mounting problem at great cost in lives and impact on society.”

The Adventist Church has promoted an alcohol-free lifestyle since its inception and has worked to reduce the health impacts of alcohol for more than 130 years.