It would seem we, as a nation, are slowly trying to kill ourselves even as we think we are working harder to relax more, play often and enjoy life in ways we believe are fun and exciting.
According to The Washington Post this week, a new study published by in the British Medical Journal shows that deaths from liver disease have increased sharply in the United States over the past 17 years, a fact that closely mirrors data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The BMJ study shows that cirrhosis-related deaths in the U.S. have increased by 65 percent from 1999 to 2016 and deaths from liver cancer doubled. The rise in deaths, the Post reported, appears to be driven predominantly by alcohol-induced disease.
We know talking about alcohol consumption, much as it was for cigarettes in years’ past, is taboo. To say that we, as a society, rely too heavily on alcohol is regarded as a prudish statement made by teetotalers and those who simply aren’t living in the 21st Century.
Yet, the facts are as they are.
The same study shows that over the past decade, people ages 25 to 34, or about 10.5 percent per year — saw the highest increase in cirrhosis deaths, suggesting, the Post noted, that a new generation of Americans is being afflicted by the misuse of alcohol and thus the diseases that come along with that misuse.
That age group is generally considered health conscious, opting for water over sugary sodas, and kale over potatoes and other high-starch foods. Yet it appears alcohol is a serious problem.
If we were all willing to acknowledge it, we know our society has a serious problem with alcohol. In fact, truth be told, most people don’t know how to have a good time unless they are chugging a beer, sipping a glass of wine or downing a mixed drink, fruity or otherwise.
There are few, if any, functions where people don’t want wine, beer or stronger elixirs to be front and center. It’s such a true statement that if one thinks about the last dozen events they attended, it would be unlikely that any didn’t include an open bar of some kind.
The easy flow of alcohol, whether on a college campus, at an outdoor concert or at any of a thousand or more other events, can easily lead to binge drinking and all the complications that brings with it. And that, as the study shows, can lead to far more deadly consequences, impeding one’s health and, in many cases, the lives of others.
While everyone has a right to take a drink if they so choose, we are merely urging it be mixed with a little common sense. Think about it, a little moderation alone could mean less drunk driving accidents, fewer drunken affairs caused by skewed judgment, fewer family issues, less fights, less shootings and, based on the BMJ study, less chance of someone dying from cirrhosis of the liver.
According to the Post’s story, people are at risk of life-threatening cirrhosis if they drink several drinks a night or have multiple nights of binge drinking — more than four or five drinks per sitting — per week.
Sound familiar? If it does, perhaps we are among those who need to think twice before we imbibe or at least before we imbibe so often.
We, in many ways, control our destinies by the choices we make. While it seems like the party won’t get started without alcohol, the ballgame won’t be as good, the music won’t sound as cool and we won’t be as fun, it’s possible that all can happen, and be just as much fun, without that extra beer or that third glass of wine.
If the BMJ study is right, and we imagine it is, we have the power to change it. Unlike many cancers, cirrhosis-related deaths can be prevented.
The question is are we willing to do what it takes to make that kind of difference?