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Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.
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Alcohol: Risks Outweigh Benefits

Allan N. Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. Updated: Jun 26th 2009

For a long time, now, there has been a lot of publicity about the health benefits of moderate alcohol consumption. It was always my opinion that this information was not helpful to most people for a variety of reasons. First, people have difficulty defining just what the term, moderate, really means. Second, many people gradually find it difficult to restrict their alcohol intake once they begin sipping that firs glass of wine, bear or other cocktail. Third, the out pouring of information about the "health benefits" of alcohol became a rationale for many problem drinkers to continue their heavy consumption despite the risks they were taking. In other words, the supposed medical benefits of alcohol was used as a kind of denial of health risks.

For these reasons, I was pleased to read the findings, published in The June 24th issue of The Lancet, Britain's prestigious medical journal, that four percent of world wide deaths occur as a result of alcohol usage. This does not include the damage that alcohol does to the physical and psychological health of millions more people. In other words, the risks of alcohol consumption far outweigh its benefits.

According to the report, "Alcohol is linked to many disease categories, but alcohol-use disorders, cancer, cardiovascular disease, liver cirrhosis, and injury are the most important disease categories causally affected by alcohol." (Lancet, June 2009).

Although the researchers of the article point out that the worst effects of alcohol abuse occur in the poorest nations, I have seen, through thirty years of work in mental health, the negative impact of alcohol on the lives of people here, in the United States.

It is my observation, supported by other research findings, that alcohol abuse leads to domestic violence, child and spouse abuse, deadly traffic accidents, arrests due to public disturbances, bar fights and other relationship and personal problems.

It has been my experience that alcohol abuse complicates the lives of those people already coping with depression. The reason for this is that one of the after effects of alcohol use is that it deepens feelings of depression. For those already taking anti depressant medications, alcohol negates the potential benefits of the medications and even causes these people to become drunk more quickly than if they were not on anti depressants.

In my professional and personal opinion, it is better to stay away from alcohol and fine more helpful ways to improve health. Remember, it is easy to start with that first drink but it is difficult for many to decide when to stop.

News Flash: A recent study indicates that alcohol intoxication and risk of suicide go together.  This makes sense because alcohol loosens the inhibitions.

Your comments, opinions and experiences are welcome.

Allan N. Schwartz, PhD.

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D.

Readers who live in the Boulder, Colorado metro area, or in Southwest Florida may contact Dr. Schwartz for face-to-face consultation. He is also available for psychotherapy through Skype video for those who are not in Florida or Colorado. He can be reached via email at for details.

Reader Comments
Discuss this issue below or in our forums.

we should not take away from those that can - JustTrying - Jul 1st 2009


I hadn't thought about it that way. There are many people who can consume alcohol in an enjoyable and safe way. I , like you cannot, however, we should not take away from those that can.

Thank you for your thoughts.


'Mister Booze' - JR - Jun 30th 2009

Hello, Allan,

You will hardly be surprised to learn that I agree with a great deal of what you say.  But is there not some danger of becoming too negative about all this ?  Alcohol is, after all, one of the "means that Heaven yields" to humanity to help us enjoy life.  Some of us (me included) cannot avail of it - but is there not some danger that we might go too far in demonising the Demon for those who can ?

Yours from the Wagon,


just spend a few days in jail - JustTryin - Jun 28th 2009

Glad we can have a civil conversation. As I said in a post I did the other day, just spend a few days in jail and you can see the effects of Drugs/Alcohol.

I think BOTH should be destroyed, how many more lifes will those things effect in a negative way? From the baby with addicted parents to the older person who drinks them self to death because they are lonely, and let's not forget the deaths caused by driving under the influance.

Prohabition, to me was a good idea.... but we know how that turned out!!! 

Alcohol and Other drugs - Allan N. Schwartz, PhD - Jun 27th 2009

Hi JT,

Good observation but the reason this article centered on alcohol is that the recent studies have centered on that particular one. However, you have made a good point and I will focus on other substances. For example, I will write about a major epidemic in the use and abuse of methamphetamine.

Dr. Schwartz

to just trying - - Jun 27th 2009


I am guessing that the reason drug use was not mentioned is because the original post by Dr. Schwartz was in response to health reports claiming that moderate alcohol intake can offer health benefits.  Drugs are illegal and it is doubtful that someone will take a similar position to moderate drug intake also having health benefits.  

Typically however, when one is specifically addressing addiction and it's catastrophic impact, both alcohol and drugs are mentioned.  

Wondering - JustTrying - Jun 27th 2009

I read the article and it does speak the truth. Alcohol, consumed more than moderately, like a lot of people do. And exspecially those with depression. Can kill. I know that many ( although not all) of my suicidal thinking was done under the influance.

However, we have spoke on this subject before and I was wondering, You don't mention Drug abuse much.... Perhaps you or a loved one had or has a problem with alcohol? Not trying to be ... but am really curious about your intrest in alcohol, and AA and the other groups. At times you have seemed very upset by the talk of drinking.

Not really expecting an answer, because it is kind of personal.

TT you later? JT

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