UW study: There is no safe level of drinking alcohol

SEATTLE - A recent study done by the University of Washington shows how alcohol is killing more people at an alarming rate. The study, done by the university’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation says that alcohol use is the ‘leading risk factor for global disease burden and causes substantial health loss.’

This study shows that the number of deaths that can be attributed to alcohol increased by 35% from 2007-2017.  It also found that alcohol use led to 2.8 million deaths worldwide and that deaths among women, increased a staggering 85% during that same time frame.

In Washington state in 2017, the rate of deaths caused by alcohol was about 24 per 100,000 people.

For men, it’s about 38 per 100,000; and women about 10 deaths per 100,000, according to the study.

“Only 15% of the population smokes cigarettes now, but 50-60% more drink. But alcohol causes cancers across the board. It’s a poison. So, throat cancer, oral cancer, stomach cancer, colon cancer, breast cancer, all of those things have some impact with alcohol use,” said Dr. Eric Shipley, medical director for Overlake Hospital’s emergency department.

The study also found that alcohol use accounted for 10% of global deaths for people aged 15-49 years old.

“Alcohol is a preservative. Your stomach doesn’t like it. Your colon doesn’t like it. Your liver doesn’t like it. So, there’s this side to it that we don’t quite recognize,” said Shipley.

Max Griswold is a research scientist who helped put together the study which took a look at alcohol use by country and state.

“It causes almost half as many deaths as smoking which is widely recognized as something that you really don’t want to put in your body,” he said.

The study also pinpoints alcohol as the number one leading risk factor for global disease burden, including cancers worldwide.

“For folks 15-50 years old, the greatest thing you can do to improve patient health and healthcare across the globe is to decrease alcohol use or eliminate entirely,” said Dr. Shipley.

The study concluded that ‘the safest level of drinking is none,’ knowing that it comes in conflict with many health guidelines that suggest that having two drinks a day is fine.

But even though the numbers speak volumes, perceptions of alcohol will take a long time to change, if at all. The study concluded that alcohol control policies might need to be revised worldwide.

“I really hope policymakers will consider the toll that this has taken on the health of our population,” said Griswold.