Social drinking (i.e., the pleasurable consumption of alcohol) is popular in modern society, despite insurmountable evidence that alcoholic beverages greatly jeopardize one's physical, economic and spiritual well-being. One's spiritual welfare should primarily concern Christians, though allusions to the effects of alcohol on one's physical and economic health also indict alcohol for the evil that it is. Therefore, the references in this series pertain to spiritual, physical and economic matters to more completely paint the picture of alcoholic beverages and their effect on us. Be assured that neither I nor others who speak against alcohol, especially from a biblical perspective, have the least desire of arbitrarily preventing anyone from having a good time. Some critics presume that for some unexplained reason that I (or others) speak against alcohol without cause. We are further charged essentially that we derive misguided gratification from forbidding indulgence in something that God purportedly recommends to mankind as a blessing. Let the evidence be allowed to speak for itself. Please, with as much objectivity as possible, examine the following information carefully about medical considerations. Our spiritual, physical and economic well-being is at stake.
Generally, the medical complications from the consumption of alcohol have been recognized from times immemorial. Only, individuals have as generally excused themselves from culpability for their social drinking on the grounds of a distinction between drinking in moderation versus drunkenness. Of course, everyone universally pleads the former for themselves, unless the latter cannot be successfully contested. Then, personal responsibility is mitigated by relegating the inebriation to an illness. Naturally, people are not usually accountable for the diseases they may contract.
Medically, even small amounts of alcohol pose medical hazards.
By drinking alcohol you place your health at risk. You risk damaging your brain which may result in: memory loss, confusion, disorganisation, decreased work performance, poor coordination, impaired ability to learn new things, hallucinations, fits, permanent brain damage, aggression, suspicion or paranoia, impulsiveness. You risk damaging your heart which may lead to: high blood pressure, irregular pulse, damaged heart muscle. You risk damaging your liver resulting in: impaired liver function, severe swelling and pain, inflamed liver (hepatitis), largely irreversible cirrhosis (scarring), liver cancer. You risk damaging your stomach which may result in the stomach lining becoming inflamed, bleeding and ulcers. You risk damaging your intestines which may lead to inflammation, bleeding and ulcers. You risk damaging your pancreas causing painful inflammation and bleeding. You risk damaging your muscles resulting in weakness and loss of muscle tissue. You risk damaging your nervous system leading to a loss of sensation in your hands and feet caused by damaged nerves (tingling). (Mark Davey, "Alcohol," The Drug Data Series, An Information Sheet from the National Drug & Alcohol Statistics Unit, Australia," 2-8-98. http://www.powerup.com.au/~mdavey/ alcohol.htm [14 Sep 1998])
Medical information critical of alcohol consumption is widely available and as widely ignored in favor of the popularity of social drinking. "Gail Gleason Milgram, Ed.D., is a Professor and Director of the Education and Training Division at the Rutgers University Center of Alcohol Studies." (Gail Gleason Milgram, Ed.D., "Facts On: The Effects of Alcohol," Center of Alcohol Studies, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey 1997, http://www.rci.rutgers.edu/~cas2/clearinghouse/factSheet/fact15.html. [14 Sep 1998]) The following information outlines the effects of even a little consumption of alcohol on the human body.
Alcohol acts directly on the brain, and affects its ability to work. The effects of alcohol on the brain are quite complex, but alcohol is usually classified as a depressant. Judgment is the first function of the brain to be affected; the ability to think and make decisions becomes impaired. As more alcohol is consumed, the motor functions of the body are affected. . . . The effects of alcohol are directly related to the concentration (percentage) of alcohol in the blood; however, the effects vary among individuals and even in the same individual at different times. In the following description, the blood alcohol concentrations (BAC) are those that would probably be found in a person weighing about 150 pounds:
At a BAC of 0.03% (after about one cocktail, one glass of wine, or one bottle of beer), the drinker will feel relaxed and experience a slight feeling of exhilaration.
At 0.06% (after two cocktails, two glasses of wine, or two bottles of beer), the drinker will experience a feeling of warmth and relaxation; there will be a decrease of fine motor skills and he or she will be less concerned with minor irritations.
At 0.09% (after three cocktails, three glasses of wine, or three bottles of beer), reaction time will be slowed, muscle control will be poor, speech will be slurred and the legs will feel wobbly.
At 0.12% (after four cocktails, four glasses of wine, or four bottles of beer), his or her judgment will be clouded, inhibitions and self-restraint lessened, and the ability to reason and make logical decisions will be impaired.
At 0.15% (after five cocktails, five glasses of wine, or five bottles of beer), vision will be blurred, speech unclear, walking will be unsteady, and coordination impaired.
At 0.18% (after six cocktails, six glasses of wine, or six bottles of beer), all of the drinker's behavior will be impaired, and he or she will find it difficult to stay awake.
At a BAC of about 0.30% alcohol in the blood (after 10 to 12 drinks), the drinker will be in a semi-stupor or deep sleep. Most people are not able to stay awake to reach a BAC higher than 0.30%.
If the BAC reaches 0.50% the drinker is in a deep coma and in danger of death. As the alcohol level reaches 1% in the blood, the breathing center in the brain becomes paralyzed and death occurs. (Ibid.)
The brain is composed of three basic sections which are referred to as the cerebrum, cerebellum, and medulla. The cerebrum is the seat of emotions, intelligence, and will. It is the part of the brain which effects personality and ability to act and think correctly. The cerebellum controls consciousness, while the medulla is the center which controls respiration, circulation, and other important processes. The effects of alcohol may be compared to dropping water on a sponge. It soaks in from the top, passing through the various sections to the innermost part. Its first effect is to numb the restraining power, the section which informs persons not to do those things which they have learned from years of spiritual, moral, and legal standards that they should not do. With the first section drugged, persons become more confident and less capable. Alcohol then soaks into the second section, which controls reaction, vision, and hearing. With the cerebellum affected, persons become sedated. Eventually, if the alcohol soaks into the third section, which controls the heart and breathing, it may prove fatal. All thinking persons therefore can see the dangers which are inherent in imbibing intoxicating beverages. (W.D. Jeffcoat, The Bible and "Social Drinking," c. 1987, pp. 98-99.)
The adverse effects of alcohol consumption described above begin to occur with the first drink. The human body's intolerance for alcohol usually causes a drinker to fall asleep before he can consume a lethal dose of alcohol. Still, people do die from alcohol poisoning. The word intoxication pertains to poison or toxin. Medically, this toxin or poison begins to adversely affect the human body with the first drink.
Dr. Sidney Cohen, a drug abuse expert, describes alcohol as "the most dangerous drug on earth." (Dr. Sidney Cohen, "Alcoholic Beverages and Alcohol Abuse," Environmed Research Inc., http://www.nutramed.com/alcohol/alcohol.htm. [14 Sep 1998]) Alcohol is the most widely used drug on earth and with little restraint or appropriate acknowledgment of the great health hazard it poses. It bears repeating, that even small amounts of alcohol pose definitive dangers and affect the human body unfavorably.
Alcohol is a drug and a poison. Consuming it involves a risk that increases with the amount consumed--the only absolutely safe level is zero. (Davey)
Driving accidents. Even at low blood alcohol concentrations, alcohol impairs your judgment and dulls your reflexes. If you weigh 140 pounds, just two drinks are enough to increase your chances of having a driving accident. (Anonymous, "Alcohol and Health: Proof Positive," HealthGate Data Corp., August 27, 1998, http://beWELL.com/healthy/eating/1997/alcohol/alcohol2.shtml. [17 Sep 1998])
Social drinking advocates, even some Christians, will doubtless sense some degree of vindication from recent news releases touting the healthful benefits of alcohol consumption. Such jubilation, though, is not justified. The studies behind the favorable press for alcohol consumption carry some significant disclaimers. Unfortunately, few people will concern themselves with the true ramifications of this information and only view it as permission to indulge more heavily in the consumption of alcohol with the purported blessings of the medical community. The following medical information concludes that the alcohol, even in wine, is not healthful.
The Feb. 27 -- March 1, 1998, "Eat Smart," USA Weekend magazine, pages 8-10, commends limited use of alcohol daily to promote good health. The article author, Jean Carper, cites a British researcher, Richard Doll, M.D., of Oxford University. However, these cautions and disclaimers also were prominently indicated.
Alcohol is unlikely to reduce mortality in those under 45. In young people, drinking increases deaths from cirrhosis, injuries and violence. . . . For teens and young adults: Alcohol has no health benefits, only a higher risk of death. . . . If you don't drink: Don't start drinking to promote good health. (Jean Carper, "Eat Smart," USA Weekend magazine, Feb. 27 -- Mar. 1, 1998, pp. 8-10.)
The following information is from a Thursday, December 11, 1997, article by Jenni Laidman, a Times writer (obtained from the internet) copyrighted 1998 by Michigan Live, Inc. The article addresses information gleaned from: "The study, published this week in the New England Journal of Medicine, tracked almost a half-million people aged 35 to 69 for nine years beginning in 1982."
Alcohol still isn't good for you, local substance-abuse counselors say in the wake of a new study that shows middle-aged people who drank about one drink a day had a slightly lower death rate.
Dr. Douglas L. Foster, the medical director of the mental health and chemical dependency programs at Bay Medical Center, warns that the study shows benefits for only a limited group of people -- the middle-aged and elderly. Left out of the study are the part of the population most likely to die from alcohol abuse -- young men. "That's not the whole population. The people who drink tend to be across the age range," Foster said. Plus, the benefits appear to accrue only in relation to a very small amount of alcohol, Foster said. "But what the public's going to hear is that for everybody it's OK. What the public needs to hear is that for everybody it's not acceptable," Foster said. Damon Tempey, a clinical psychologist at Bay Area Social Intervention Services, says alcohol is far from the only way to reduce risk of heart disease. "There are a number of other methods that don't involve alcohol. There are a lot of ways of raising good cholesterol. You can do it with diet. You can do it with prescribed medication. I would hope this doesn't become an excuse for people to drink," Tempey said. (Jenni Laidman, "New alcohol, Health Study Should Be Sobering to Some," The Bay City Times, Thursday, December 11, 1997, http://bc.mlive.com/news/drink.html [14 Sep 1998])
Comparison of alcohol versus grape juice shows that not only is grape juice superior to alcohol in any health benefits for the heart, grape juice does not pose the threats to human health that alcohol does. The following excerpt is from an internet article by Michelle Badash for HealthGate Data Corp., March 19, 1997.
It is believed that the benefit of wine, beer and liquor may be due to ethanol, (also known as ethyl alcohol) which is present in all alcoholic beverages. Ethanol is known to increase levels of high density lipoproteins (HDL), the "good" cholesterol which helps carry away plaque from artery walls.
But you don't need to drink alcohol to enjoy these heart benefits. Other studies being presented at the ACC meeting indicated that purple grape juice is also a very potent shield against heart problems and may even outweigh aspirin, the most popular blood clotting preventive remedy. Dr. John Folts, of the University of Wisconsin, conducted some smaller studies, and found that grape juice helps to reduce the "stickiness" of blood clotting cells, called platelets.
In one study, funded by Welch Foods Inc., he examined consumption of grape juice to orange and grapefruit juices. Three glasses of grape juice reduced platelet stickiness by 40%, compared to the other juices, which yielded only a 10% - 15% reduction. When grape juice was tested against red wine and aspirin, the grape juice again came out ahead: 75% reduction of platelet stickiness, compared to 45% for aspirin and red wine.
Folts said that findings would probably be similar for any brand of purple grape juice, but not grape "drink," which is not 100% juice.
A key element to the efficacy of grape juice may be compounds known as flavonoids, which are present in other fruits and vegetables. "I think (flavonoids) are going to be a significant part of heart disease prevention," commented Folts. (Michelle Badash, "Wine, Beer and Grape Juice All Prove Heart Healthy,"HealthGate Data Corp., March 19, 1997, http://beWELL.com/healthy/news/ 1997/03/news0319.e.shtml [3 Oct 1998])
A syndicated column, To Your Good Health, by Dr. Paul G. Donohue stipulates the dosages of grape juice respectively for men and women to match any professed health benefits of alcohol for the heart.
If you prefer to remain non-alcohol users, a daily 12-ounce glass of purple grape juice for men and a 9-ounce grape juice for women also does the trick. (Paul G. Donohue, "Alcohol Consumption Could Prevent Heart and Eye Disease," North America Syndicate, Riverton, NJ, 1998.)
Medical information regarding the consumption of alcohol neither reflects favorably on nor provides the least justification for social drinking. Even if alcohol were proven medically to be a boon to personal health (which is decidedly not the case at all), and if it were also true that God forbade its pleasurable consumption (which he does), faithful Christians still would not engage in social drinking. The fact, however, that medically alcohol consumption can be shown to be a definite health hazard complements biblical restrictions pertaining to its use.