Five things you may not know about alcohol, the most commonly used drug in the world
1) Alcohol is a Group 1 carcinogen according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC; i.e., it is known to cause cancer) and the US Department of Health and Human Services. For example, when examined as a group, studies investigating the relationship between drinking and cancer show that consuming as little as 1.5 standard drinks per day (i.e., 20 grams of pure alcohol) increases breast cancer risk in women by 25% and esophageal cancer risk by 86% (see here).
2) Harmful drinking and alcohol use disorder account for 12.1% of all disability-adjusted life-years lost (i.e., healthy years lost due to premature death or disease/disability) for men, and 4.5% for women in the United States (see here).
3) Worldwide, 6% of all deaths are attributable to alcohol consumption, greater than HIV/AIDS, violence, or tuberculosis (see here), while harmful alcohol use is the leading risk factor for death in males aged 15-59, and leading risk factor for all disability-adjusted life years lost in 15-24 olds (see here).
4) The potential negative harms of alcohol use can be challenged at a public health level with several straightforward policy changes (see here, for example). These policies include, for example, reducing excess availability of alcohol (e.g., by controlling the density of establishments that can sell alcohol), increasing the price of alcohol (e.g., via alcohol-specific taxes and minimum pricing), and regulating the reach of alcohol advertising, especially ads that target young people.
5) Excessive drinking – including but not limited to alcohol use disorder – costs the United States approximately $250 billion annually, in lost productivity as well as health care, criminal justice, and various forms of property damage including motor vehicle crashes (see here).