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BY KEVIN NGUYENUPDATED WED AT 5:41AM

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Parents are being asked to reconsider allowing their kids to drink alcohol these holidays.

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Thinking about giving a child wine or beer during Christmas dinner? Researchers say even a "sip" could lead to toxic drinking habits as they become older.

Key points:

  • Drinking even once as a child was associated with binge drinking in later years
  • A researcher said Australia had an unhealthy approach to alcohol compared to other countries
  • Health authorities have revised their "safe" levels of alcohol consumption to 10 standard drinks a week

The National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC) said it was conventional wisdom among parents that giving their underage children was a safe way to introduce them to drinking.

But the centre has published the results of an ongoing study about parental supply of alcohol — so far tracking 1,927 children from Year 7 to Year 12 — which indicated otherwise.

Amy Peacock, a senior research fellow at NDARC, said there was no benefit to supervising children's alcohol consumption and it was instead likely to increase how often adolescents drank.

"Providing alcohol, even if in the form of sips rather than full drinks, is associated with increased risks of later binge drinking and harms," Dr Peacock said.

She said even if a child drinks only once, especially when they are under 16 years old, it was more likely they would become regular drinkers in their senior years of high school.

"The sooner an adolescent is introduced to alcohol, the greater the chance they could be affected by harms like violence and serious accidents caused by drinking," she said.

"Also the greater change with an unhealthy relationship with alcohol, like binge drinking and dependence."

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  • Researchers studied more than 120,000 people in Japan and their cancer rates
  • They found risk of any cancer rose by five per cent with a daily drink for a decade
  • Cancers of the mouth, throat and breast were most commonly triggered 
  • Scientists said people who had never drunk alcohol in their lives were least likely to get any form of the disease.

'NO AMOUNT OF ALCOHOL IS SAFE' 

A major study by the University of Washington last year ruled there is no safe level of alcohol to drink.

The good sides of the occasional glass of wine, such as protecting against heart disease, are heavily outweighed by the downsides – links to a great swathe of cancers, they said.

Their study showed alcohol is responsible for 2.8million deaths each year worldwide and the only way to avoid alcohol-related health issues is to stop drinking altogether.

Globally, one in three people drink alcohol - the equivalent to 2.4 billion people, while 2.2 per cent of women and 6.8 per cent of men die from alcohol-related health problems each year.

Alcohol use was ranked as the seventh leading risk factor for premature death and disability worldwide in 2016, and was the leading cause for people aged 15 to 49.

In that age group it is associated with tuberculosis, road injuries, and self-harm. For people aged 50 and older, cancers were a leading cause of alcohol-related death, constituting 27.1 per cent of deaths in women and 18.9 per cent of deaths in men.

Study lead author Dr Max Griswold said: 'The widely held view of the health benefits of alcohol needs revising, particularly as improved methods and analyses continue to shed light on how much alcohol contributes to global death and disability.'  

The research was published in UK medical journal, The Lancet.

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Alcohol ranks at the 9th place among risk factors in the most recent Global Burden of Disease (GBD) analysis. But this does not take into account the social problems, which fall outside the GBD analysis of death and disease.

However, alcohol burdens society beyond the individual effects to the user. Some of the ways in which alcohol burdens societies include:

  • Decreased work productivity,
  • Absenteeism,
  • Increased morbidity and mortality,
  • Increased stress upon health systems, and
  • Damage to economies.

https://iogt.org/news/2019/11/24/who-new-report-about-alcohols-harms-to-others/

Australia: This includes an array of negative experiences, including generalized issues such as fear and disruption due to strangers’ drinking, and more specific, concrete harms such as violence, neglect or damage to property. The cost of harms experienced by someone other than the drinker has been estimated at over AU$6 billion per year (Laslett et al. 2010). 

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Alcohol plays a prominent role in deaths of despair, contributing to overdoses, suicides, and liver disease, as well as to a broad range of other disease states that lead to mortality. Alcohol use is increasing among middle-aged adults in the United States and is more common when people are faced with stressful circumstances, such as job loss, divorce, economic downturns, chronic pain, or psychiatric conditions—all factors related to deaths of despair.

Alcohol use both follows and contributes to mental health conditions that increase the risk of suicide. People with Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) are

  • twice as likely as those without AUD to experience major depression,
  • five times as likely to suffer from bipolar disorder,
  • three times as likely to experience post-traumatic stress disorder.

People with AUD are much more likely to contemplate suicide, and alcohol often plays a role in suicide attempts. Estimates suggest that nearly 1 in 4 males and 1 in 5 females are intoxicated—with BAC levels of 0.08% or more—at the time of a suicide.

In addition to overdoses, liver disease, and suicides, alcohol contributes to mortality in other ways that might add to deaths of despair. Alcohol plays a role in roughly 3.5% of all cancer deaths in the United States. For women, the risk of breast cancer increases with less than 1 alcohol unit per day. Compared to women who consumed fewer than 60 units of alcohol in a typical year, those consuming 60–229 units of alcohol (about 0.6 units per day, on average) were 20% more likely to develop breast cancer. Research also has shown that people who consume larger amounts of alcohol have a greater risk of cancers of the mouth, esophagus, larynx, pharynx, liver, colon, and rectum.

Alcohol also is a common factor in deaths from injuries. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2013) estimates that alcohol contributes to 32% of deaths from falls, 42 percent of deaths from fires, 47% of deaths from homicides, and 34% of deaths from drownings.

Alcohol is not the only factor driving the increase in deaths of despair, but raising awareness of the health risks posed by alcohol and the dangers of using alcohol to cope with challenges in life could help reduce the number of such deaths.

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The pounding head. The parched mouth. And, worst of all, the crushing sense of anxiety as you cast your (foggy) mind back to the night before and try to remember if you said or did anything awful.

Most of us have woken up with a hangover at some point and struggled through the day wondering how on earth a few drinks can leave us feeling so wretched ("Can I die from a hangover?" has more than 15 million hits on Google). But the medical definition of a hangover has finally been settled by a German court, which last month ruled it should be classed as an official illness.

Hangover is a proper 'illness' now. 

In February, a team of German scientists studying hangovers, writing in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found hangover prevention beliefs such as "beer before wine and you'll feel fine" were scientifically unproven.

"If alcohol was invented today – and treated like a new food additive coming to the market – the recommended safe dose would be about a glass of wine per year. We're very harsh on new food and drink meeting certain criteria, but we have a blind spot towards alcohol because it's so embedded into our culture.

"There's dehydration," says Prof Nutt. "There's inflammation of the brain, which is on a par with a bad cold or flu. The pumping headache is caused by an increase in blood pressure. In fact, incidences of strokes go up on a Sunday and Monday due to weekend alcohol consumption.

"And then there's hangxiety - hang-over anxiety - which is due to something called Gaba (gamma-aminobutyric acid)," explains Prof Nutt. "Alcohol targets the Gaba receptor, which sends messages through the brain and nervous system to inhibit the activity of nerve cells, which calms the brain. Alcohol stimulates Gaba, which is why you begin to unwind and feel happy when you drink."

There's dehydration. There's inflammation of the brain. The pumping headache is caused by an increase in blood pressure.

After the first few drinks, you start blocking glutamate, which causes anxiety, and this leads to the devil-may-care stage that sees you buying another round and missing your last train. However, the body registers these imbalances and begins to bring Gaba levels down and glutamate back up. So, overnight, the happy, carefree you in the pub becomes the anxious, mildly depressed one you see in the bathroom mirror the next morning.

"Then there's sleep," continues Prof Nutt. "After four hours of going to bed, withdrawal kicks in, so you don't sleep particularly well. Water before bed to stave off a hangover, or drinking a lot of beer, means getting up early to go to the lavatory, which affects sleep further. And a lack of sleep makes hangxiety worse."

Glutamate also plays a role in memory, and after around seven drinks the glutamate system is blocked. And if you can't remember what you said in the pub, it further increases hangxiety.

After four hours of going to bed, withdrawal kicks in, so you don't sleep particularly well. And a lack of sleep makes hangxiety worse.

Professor David Nutt, Imperial College London

So do hangovers get worse with age? "There's no evidence they do," says Sally Adams, an assistant professor in health psychology at the University of Bath. "Liver mass reduces with age, so your liver is less effective at metabolising alcohol.

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