Alcohol consumption and related diseases


Alcohol addiction: early identification (and training of doctors) is essential

A glass of wine, a spritz with friends are often synonymous with conviviality, but it is important not to overdo it in order not to risk consequences, even serious ones, on health.

“Alcohol dependence is a disease, a syndrome characterized by compulsiveness, by the obsessive search for the substance that causes addiction, that is, alcohol, alcoholic beverages, wine, beer, spirits, any type of alcoholic beverage and any gradation, the removal of which generates abstinence syndrome in the person ”.

As is the case with any drug addiction. We spoke to Emanuele Scafato, director of the National Alcohol Observatory of the Higher Institute of Health, about alcoholism and related diseases, but also about therapies and intervention strategies.

To first have a picture of the situation, let’s start with some data reported in the Global status report on alcohol and health 2018 of the World Health Organization, which shows that in 2016 the harmful use of alcohol caused about three million deaths (5 , 3% of all deaths) worldwide.

Mortality from alcohol consumption is higher than that from diseases such as tuberculosis, HIV / AIDS and diabetes.

Of all alcohol-related deaths worldwide, 28.7% were due to injury, 21.3% to digestive system disease, 19% to cardiovascular disease, 12.9% to disease infectious and 12.6% to tumors.

Emanuele Scafato points out that there are over 220 diseases related to alcohol abuse, including many types of cancer, such as breast cancer: a benign lump has an 800% risk of turning into breast cancer with consequent early mastectomies, in girls who consume alcohol excessively or engage in binge drinking.

  1. But the tumors that can be caused by alcohol abuse are many others and can affect in particular the gastroesophageal and gastrointestinal tract, the mouth and the oropharyngeal tract.
  2. A study published in The Lancet Oncology reports that in 2020 of all new cancers diagnosed in the world 741,300 (4.1% of the total) were attributable to alcohol consumption.

Globally, there are also significant gender differences in the prevalence of alcohol consumption: according to the data reported in the aforementioned report from the World Health Organization, it is estimated that 237 million men and 46 million women have had drinking disorders. of alcohol. The highest prevalence considering both men and women was recorded in the European region (14.8% and 3.5%) and in the Americas region (11.5% and 5.1%).

Complete interview with Emanuele Scafato, director of the National Alcohol Observatory of the Higher Institute of Health. Report by Monica Panetto, edited by Elisa Speronello.

Effects of alcohol in the body: young people

The Guidelines for healthy eating developed by Crea (Food and Nutrition Research Center) define “low risk” the intake of up to two alcohol units per day for men, up to one alcohol unit for women and people over the age of 65 and zero alcohol units under the age of 18: by alcohol unit we mean 12 grams of pure alcohol which correspond to a glass of wine (125 ml at 12 °), to a can of beer (330 ml at 4.5 °), an aperitif (80 ml at 38 °), a glass of spirits (40 ml at 40 °).

Effects of alcohol in the body: young peopleIn any case, the basic concept is well expressed by the slogan less is better, “less is better”. “One trick - underlines Scafato - is always to not consume quantities that exceed the unit of alcoholic beverage, now we are moving towards this indication, and above all to do it on a full stomach, because this halves the alcohol level”.


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