Alcohol – the ‘Elixir of Life’ – intrigues me in many ways. Since time immemorial, it has been used in medicines and given as offerings to the gods and goddesses. It is also presented as a precious gift to the respected elders and is a special drink at social occasions to ‘break the ice’.
It is a magical tonic to many, especially the rich and famous. Scientifically, moderate drinking of red wine has been shown to boost the level of good cholesterol and lower the bad one. Thus, it protects the heart against heart attack and perhaps the brain against stroke. This further adds credence to the intriguing elixir.
Yet many die, fall seriously ill with organ damage and even cancer from the very same elixir. Is this elixir also an ‘elixir of death and disease’? Many people emerge from the happy hours plunging into hell thereafter. Their mental perceptions are distorted. They become disinhibited, disoriented and unable to balance themselves physically. Their higher brain functions such as decision making and judgmental ability are also adversely affected. Often, they have to drive back home themselves. In this state of mind, the driving would be most reckless and dangerous and they are likely to cause serious injuries or even kill themselves or someone else.
One Australian study pointed out that alcohol was detected in over 50 percent of single vehicle drivers who died in traffic accidents. Alcohol is the killer responsible for many traffic deaths and injuries. And road traffic accidents are one of the major causes of death in many countries.
In Cambodia, Prime Minister Hun Sen recently pointed out that: “The death toll from traffic accidents was higher than the casualties from war.” For a prime minister who is also a war veteran to point this out indicates the seriousness of traffic accidents in Cambodia. As traffic accidents are largely due to intoxication especially from alcohol, it is time to zoom in and have a closer look at the ills of this awesome brew and see how we can avoid falling ill and being killed by it.
Alcohol is a substance that has a physiological effect in our body when ingested. Thus, it is a drug. Historically it has been used widely and its many uses date as far back as 5,000 years ago. It has been a legal drug in most countries, unlike marijuana, cocaine, morphine, etc. People can buy it over the counter and drink as much of it as they like.
Being a drug, its effect on our body depends on how much of it we consume and how fast our body can eliminate it. Like all other drugs, at a certain concentration it is regarded as safe by certain guidelines – though this is not absolute. Beyond that it can be toxic to all types of body cells especially our liver, brain and nerve cells. Like any other medicine, at the right dose it is medicine and beyond that it is poison and may kill.
So how much of alcohol consumption is regarded as safe? Generally, it is a maximum of 20 grams of alcohol per day for an adult and that is equivalent to 400 milliliters of beer with an alcohol concentration of 5 percent or about 150 milliliters of 13.5 percent red wine for an adult.
It is important to note that a recent study by the University College London found patients who stopped drinking alcohol for four weeks saw benefits for their liver function, blood pressure and cholesterol levels and were also at lower risk of developing diabetes and liver disease.
For those who have not started drinking alcohol, my advice is to keep it that way as far as health is concerned as the risk of disease, injury and death far outweighs its solitary therapeutic benefit. Nonetheless, there are people who feel a strong need to imbibe the brew for social reasons. Let’s be reminded that the happy hour’s brew is often tricky. Once you start, its disinhibiting effect will often get you out of control to cross the thin line of danger.
Finally, allow me conclude this column with a meaningful poem:
Happy hours really?
Happy hour, happy day,
Yea, time to enjoy,
Time to indulge,
To unlock and LET GO.
To free one’s mind,
Off the locks, stops and blocks,
There is no need to shoot oneself,
Nor kill one’s cells.
Why get closer to hell?
Beware, my friend,
The age-old brew can kill,
Cause many ills,
And make you wriggle like an eel.
Being social, yea,
‘Cos if you don’t control them,
They’ll control you.
They’ll kill your cells,
Send you to a prison cell,
Or the worst of HELL.
By the time you realise,
You can yell,
But can’t rebel.
So, be SMART, my friend,
Watch the thin tricky line,
‘Cos if you cross it,
You are caught,
And there you shall stare,
At this judgement:
“One way, NO return”,
You are in for trouble,
My next column will be on ‘Stress – The peril of health’.
Dr. Victor Ti, MD, MFAM (Malaysia), FRACGP (Australia), Dip P Dermatology (UK), Dip STDs/AIDS (Thailand), Dip. AARAM (USA), LCP of Aesthetic Med.(Malaysia) is an experienced expat specialist generalist (Family Physician) of BH Clinic, Phnom Penh. As a specialist generalist, he is skillful at diagnosing all general diseases and excluding the sinister ones. Apart from the general diseases, Dr. Victor is also known for his skill in skin diseases, sexually transmitted diseases, minor surgery and aesthetic medicine. He can be contacted via messenger m.me/bhclinic1, Tel: 023900446 or Whatsapp: +60164122977