Benefits of Drinking Outweigh Harm from Abuse

Research by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) reveals that the benefits of moderate drinking outweigh the harms from abusive drinking.

The NIAAA calculates that if all drinkers in the U.S. became abstainers, there would be an additional 80,000 deaths per year. Abstaining dramatically increases the risks of heart attack, ichemic stroke, and many other diseases and life-threatening conditions. 1

The CDC calculates that abusive drinking lead to about 75,766 deaths from all causes in 2001, a number that continues to decline. Therefore, these analyses indicate that moderate alcohol consumption saves more lives than are lost as a result of alcohol abuse. 2

This has been found in other countries as well. For example, light and moderate drinking saves more lives in England and Wales than are lost through the abuse of alcohol according to scientists at the University of London.

The researchers determined that if everyone abstained from alcohol, death rates would be significantly higher. In the words of the lead author, "alcohol saves more lives than it costs." 3

Other researchers, led by Dr. Ian White, found that, in the United Kingdom, 15,080 deaths were prevented through the use of alcohol, while 13,216 were caused by its abuse. Thus, the use of alcohol led to a net gain of 1,864 lives. 4


  • 1. Gunzerath, Lorraine, et al. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism Report on Moderate Drinking, Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, 2004, 28(6), 829-84.
  • 2. Midanik, L.T., et al. alcohol-attributable deaths and years of potential life lost --- United States, 200. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), 2004 (September 24), 53(37) (published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).
  • 3. Britton, A., and McPherson, K. Mortality in England and Wales attributable to current alcohol consumption. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, 2001, 55(6), 383-388.
  • 4. Dodson, Roger. Alcohol prevents more deaths than it causes. Independent News (UK) 5-23-04.

Filed Under: Health