The Science Behind the Dangers of Alcohol Usage

“They ask you O Prophet about intoxicants and gambling. Say, ‘there is great evil in both, as well as some benefit for people, but the evil outweighs the benefit” (2:219)

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“They ask you O Prophet about intoxicants and gambling. Say, ‘there is great evil in both, as well as some benefit for people, but the evil outweighs the benefit” (2:219)

They ask you O Prophet about intoxicants and gambling. Say, ‘there is great evil in both, as well as some benefit for people, but the evil outweighs the benefit” (2:219)

Linking physical health with mental health is critical if we hope to curb the increasing trend of despair and suffering in modern society – in educating our populace about better dietary regimens, healthy sleep habits, regular physical exercise, and other common-sense practices such as abstinence from toxic chemicals including nicotine and alcohol, we stand to flourish individually and collectively. 

Research demonstrates that individuals with mental illness have a reduced life expectancy of about 10 years in comparison with the general population, with this reduction being partially explained by higher risks of physical health diseases [1].

These diseases are further compounded by a negative feedback loop; individuals most susceptible to mental disease tend to drink more with a 1990 epidemiologic study finding that 53% of individuals (n = 20,291) who had alcohol dependence also had a co-occurring mental disorder [2].

It is evident that we must root the weed from its stem, and we must employ a preventative model of health such as by educating young people about self-control, delayed gratification, and future goal orientation; all of which are linked with higher religiosity and better health [8].

This is glaringly obvious, yet deceitfully paradoxical when we account for some discrepancies – do our social institutions care first and foremost for the well-being of humanity, above and beyond their own profit margins? 

More than one billion dollars of alcohol advertising are placed in media leading to greater levels of youth drinking and increases in drinking over time.” [3]

Research demonstrates that “greater amounts of exposure to alcohol advertising lead directly to youth drinking more over the long-term with each alcohol advertising contributing to a 1% increase in the number of drinks ingested by youth”. Furthermore: “the alcohol industry is not subject to federal restrictions on their advertising practices but has voluntary advertising codes created by the major alcohol trade groups.” [3] 

The symptoms are apparent, with the latest Lancet-published study funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation finding that anything more than 2 teaspoons of wine and 2 ½ teaspoons of beer is detrimental to the health of those below 40 years old [4].

Yet I am hard-pressed to believe that our social institutions will do anything with this information, yes even our ‘mental health’ institutions which profit from pathology and suffering. How can ‘drinking alcohol’ be a symptom of despair when it is the norm in Western society? [5]

As the great thinker Aldous Huxley once reminded us: “the hopeless victims of mental illness are to be found amongst those who appear to be most normal… their perfect adjustment to an abnormal society is a measure of their mental sickness.” [6] This isn’t even accounting for the estimated 53 million Americans who are affected by someone else’s alcohol usage [9].

Yet the Qur’an so eloquently states “is the believer like the one who is an unbeliever? They are not the same” (32:18). Our prescription and diagnosis and treatment methods are not contained in the materialistic realm; we know from long-standing research that religious people are less apt to develop serious mental and behavioral afflictions [7]. For example, across 3 national US surveys, adults who did not consider religion to be important were 50% more likely to use alcohol and cigarettes and 3 times more likely to binge drink [7]. 

Let us not compromise on our values and continue teaching our populace, believers and otherwise, that ‘mental health’ is inseparable from a personal commitment to values such as self-discipline, integrity, transcendence, and communalism. We have the preventative remedies available, a mercy from the One who is Most Merciful, and as our Lord states “Which of the favors of your Lord will you then deny?” (55:69)

1. Schuch, F. B., & Stubbs, B. (2019). The role of exercise in preventing and treating depression. Current sports medicine reports18(8), 299-304.

2. Westreich, L. M. (2005). Alcohol and mental illness. Primary Psychiatry12(1), 41-46.

3. Snyder, L. B., Milici, F. F., Slater, M., Sun, H., & Strizhakova, Y. (2006). Effects of alcohol advertising exposure on drinking among youth. Archives of pediatrics & adolescent medicine160(1), 18-24.

4. Alcohol Study Lancet: Young adults should not drink (Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation)

5. News Gallup Poll: Percentage of Americans who drink alcohol  

6. How have individuals been affected by the technological advances of recent years? 

7. Koenig, H. G. (2009). Research on religion, spirituality, and mental health: A review. The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry54(5), 283-291.

8. Wagener, L. M., Furrow, J. L., King, P. E., Leffert, N., & Benson, P. (2003). Religious involvement and developmental resources in youth. Review of religious research, 271-284.

9. Webmd: Millions hurt by secondhand alcohol of others