FIRST-PERSON: Better off without alcohol
ALEXANDRIA, La. (BP) -- "More needs to be done to protect populations from the negative health consequences of alcohol consumption," a little known individual recently said according to news reports. Who is the person? A) a backwoods Baptist preacher; B) a recovering alcoholic; C) an expert on chronic disease and mental health?
If you chose A or B, you are wrong. The answer is C. The person who spoke out on the negative health consequences of alcohol is none other than Oleg Chestnov, who works with the World Health Organization.
Chestnov said a recent report "clearly shows there is no room for complacency when it comes to reducing the harmful use of alcohol." Chestnov warned that alcohol raises people's risk of developing more than 200 diseases and killed 3.3 million people in 2012.
The 3.3 million who died from alcohol-related causes "translates into one death every 10 seconds," Shekhar Saxena, head of WHO's mental health and substance abuse department, said according to reports.
Chestnov and Saxena were two WHO representatives that answered questions when the health agency issued its "Global Status Report on Alcohol and Health 2014" on May 12 in Geneva, Switzerland.
According to the WHO report, some countries have strengthened measures to protect people from alcohol, including increasing taxes on alcohol, raising the legal drinking age and regulating the marketing of alcoholic beverages.
Among other measures WHO encourages countries to adopt is discouraging the consumption of alcohol.
Couple the WHO report on alcohol consumption with the organization's "2014 World Cancer Report" and the truth about alcohol becomes even worse. The WHO cancer report concluded, "No amount of alcohol is safe when it comes to cancer risk."
The more alcohol one drinks, the more at risk the person is to develop cancer, according to the WHO cancer report. Alcohol's few positive effects are far outweighed by its negatives and there is no such thing as safe drinking.
A 2010 study by Britain's Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs reported alcohol was the most harmful drug on the planet, even worse than crack or heroin.
"Professor David Nutt, chairman of the ISCD, whose work was published in the Lancet medical journal, said the findings showed that 'aggressively targeting alcohol harms is a valid and necessary public health strategy,'" Reuters reported.
Given the WHO reports, as well as the ISCD study, you have to wonder about those who are proponents of alcohol consumption. How can they advocate a product, a drug really, that wreaks so much havoc?
If the cold hard truth about alcohol were widely reported, it would likely not enjoy its favored status in many countries. "If alcohol were introduced today as a new product, its legal sales would be fought vigorously," Jeff Herten wrote in the book "The Sobering Truth: What you don't know can kill you." A medical doctor, Herten detailed in his book the dangers of alcohol, even when consumed in so-called moderation.
What I find most interesting is that, in light of recent scientific declarations on the ills of alcohol, some Baptist preachers have in recent days softened their stance toward alcohol consumption.
While it seems the advocacy of imbibing alcohol is most prevalent among young theologians, there have been some more seasoned pastors who have declared alcohol in moderation, or social drinking, to be OK.
Their argument has been that the Bible does not condemn alcohol consumption, it only denounces drunkenness. Those who believe abstinence is the best policy have been dismissed at times as stogy legalists who are ill equipped to minister in an enlightened society.
No, the Bible does not condemn drinking alcohol. However, I believe the principle found in Scripture is that you are better off without alcohol.
Consider the following passage found in Proverbs 23:
"Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has conflicts? Who has complaints? Who has wounds for no reason? Who has red eyes? Those who linger over wine, those who go looking for mixed wine. Don't gaze at wine because it is red, when it gleams in the cup and goes down smoothly. In the end it bites like a snake and stings like a viper. Your eyes will see strange things, and you will say absurd things. You'll be like someone sleeping out at sea or lying down on the top of a ship's mast. 'They struck me, but I feel no pain! They beat me, but I didn't know it! When will I wake up? I'll look for another drink.'"
There are other biblical passages that echo the sentiment found in Proverbs 23 -- your life will be better if you avoid alcohol. Or as I have long proclaimed to my children, "Nothing good comes from alcohol."
Societies of the world and advocates of alcohol consumption should take note. It is not just Bible-thumpers that denounce the drinking of alcohol; now it is scientists and medical doctors too.
The recent WHO reports and the 2010 ISCD study only confirm what the Bible has long taught: "Wine is a mocker, beer is a brawler, and whoever staggers because of them is not wise" (Proverbs 20:1).
Kelly Boggs is a weekly columnist for Baptist Press, director of the Louisiana Baptist Convention's office of public affairs, and editor of the Baptist Message (www.baptistmessage.com), newsjournal of the Louisiana Baptist Convention. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).