Universal Ethics > Wise Choices > Index > Alcohol

Alcohol Consumption


The consumption of alcohol, typically as a beverage, has many risks and health consequences. Based on the evidence (presented below) it appears that the harm to society that is caused by recreational use of alcohol far outweighs any potential benefit.

In many societies, alcohol is served during celebrations and recreational events, and people often feel obligated to drink it to please their hosts, even when they would prefer not to, or when they can forsee that in their circumstances it will cause them harm. Similarly, youth feel pressure to "fit in" with this tradition as soon as they are old enough to do so.

In order to bring forward a better world for everyone, the most reliable and recommended solution is for each person to choose to not consume alcohol.

Associated Policy and Ideals

This recommendation is consistent with the healthy living policy. Healthy living supports the Healthy Body and Healthy Mind ideals.


Here are some links to web sites that have information about alcohol:

Fetal alcohol syndrome (aka fetal alcohol spectrum disorder)

vitalitenb.ca: FASD

Effect on the brain

www.nm.org: Alcohol and the Brain

www.popsci.com: Moderate Drinking

www.quitalcohol.com: Effect on brain

Health Effects (why most diseases are made worse by alcohol)

www.cancer.org: alcohol use and cancer

www.healthline.com: effects on body

www.theguardian.com: alcohol consumption

Note that there is some research that indicates a potential benefit of alcohol to clear out congestion of the heart, which could potentially be a benefit to an older person who lives a sedentary life style. However, this is a "second best" solution compared to simply getting some exercise and living a healthy life style. Physicians never prescribe alcohol as a medicine because it doesn't pass the criteria that is applied to all other medications: that the benefit should outweigh the side effects. If a person has a heart condition, they are best advised to see a doctor and get the best treatment rather than a second-rate excuse for a treatment.

Drunk Driving, deaths, and role of social drinking

madd.ca: statistics

madd.ca home page

www.psychologicalscience.org: can't know when to stop

Odds of a new drinker becoming an alcoholic (especially high for teens)

www.drinkaware.co.uk: underage drinking

pubs.niaaa.nih.gov: risks

www.verywellmind.com: early drinking age and risk of alcoholism

Correlation between alcohol use and sexual assault rates

pubs.niaaa.nih.gov: association with sexual abuse

www.alcohol.org: sexual assault on campus

Effect on family life

riahealth.com: harm to marriages

www.therecoveryvillage.com: children of alcoholics

Historical changes in popularity of alcohol

www.statista.com: alcohol consumption stats

progressreport.cancer.gov: government consumption targets

Effects on society - statistics

talbottcampus.com: alcoholism statistics


Longevity is a bit controversial because some studies show that people who don't drink at the time of their death have shorter lives, while the alcohol drinkers live longer. The catch is that most diseases are made worse by alcohol, so unhealthy people may stop drinking as they get older. Of course it is no surprise that unhealthy people have shorter lives. So be wary of statistics on this matter, and be sure to look into all the details of the research!

For a true test, you need to examine longevity of people who choose to avoid alcohol for their whole life. That is true of some religions such as the Mormon Christians, which can be compared to a a population of social drinkers who live within the same environment. Results show that a choice to avoid alcohol and tobacco produces longer longevity. See:

Washington Post: Mormon Longevity

Where alcohol comes from

quirkyscience.com: alcohol as a waste product of micro-organisms

Medical uses of Alcohol

And, on the flip side, some beneficial uses of alcohol:

healthyone.org: medical uses of alcohol

Further recommendations

The use of alcohol is perpetuated across generations by a perceived need of people to be socially accepted, and to fit into a society where drinking alcohol is associated with celebrations, special events, and friendship. The problem with this is that people are pressured into drinking. They feel that they must accept the risks. This can be especially pernicious when this is done to people in these two categories:

  1. Youth, because they are at a stage of their life when they are not yet addicted, and when they cannot know if they will become an alcoholic or suffer from the other alcohol-related problems described above.
  2. People who have addiction problems or who have had addiction problems in the past, because they may fall back into addiction and all of the consequences that ago with it.

Many people feel that they can use alcohol in small quantities as a means of relaxing, and that they can control it without harm to themselves. But when they serve it to others, they cannot know the personal lives of those people that they don't see in the party or workplace, where those people might struggle against addiction.

Moreover, as we have seen in the case of tobacco usage among the offspring of smokers, the children will almost always choose to smoke even when their parents warn them of the well-document harm that it causes. Likewise children wish to copy their parents drinking habits as soon as they are old enough to be permitted, in order to demonstrate how "grown up" they are.

So, if we further elaborate a recommendation, here are three points:

  1. If you aren't already addicted to alcohol, don't start drinking it!
  2. No amount of alcohol is safe, so if you do have a habit of drinking alcohol, the best advice is to discontinue that habit.
  3. If you have a habit of drinking small amounts of alcohol, and you aren't willing to abandon that habit as per point #2, then at least you can avoid perpetuating social pressure that leads to other people becoming addicted. Specifically:

Return to Universal Ethics home page