Health Impact of Alcohol and the Influence of Industry Funding

*According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), the toll of excessive alcohol consumption in the US alone surpassed 140,000 deaths in 2022, a staggering number when considering that consumption is a choice rather than an inevitability. To put it in perspective, opioids accounted for over 80,000 deaths in the same year. *

In a world where socializing often revolves around a glass in hand and celebrations are synonymous with toasts, alcohol consumption has become deeply ingrained in our culture. While moderate and responsible drinking is generally considered acceptable, the hazards associated with excessive alcohol consumption cannot be ignored. This blog post aims to shed light on the multifaceted dangers of alcohol consumption and explore the complex relationship between the alcohol industry and research funding.

Part I: The Hazards of Alcohol Consumption

1.1 Health Risks

Alcohol consumption is associated with a myriad of health risks, both short-term and long-term. Immediate effects include impaired judgment, coordination, and reaction times. Over time, chronic alcohol use can lead to severe health issues. Exploring these health risks in detail will underscore the importance of understanding the consequences of alcohol consumption on the human body.

Short-terms effects: Cognitive and physical impairment that generally takes effect after 2 alcoholic beverages. The volume needed to produce these effects differs based on sex, body mass, age and tolerance (increases with volume and frequency consumed). Excessive intake can result in alcohol poisoning which can cause vomiting, seizures, loss of consciousness, cardiac and respiratory suppression, permanent cognitive impairment and at worst, death.

Long-term effects: Chronic alcohol use (moderate and excessive) can result in cardiovascular diseases (hypertension, cardiomyopathy, arrythmias), cancer, liver damage (cirrhosis, fatty liver alcoholic hepatitis), GI disturbances (gastritis or ulcers), and an impaired immune system. Also, prolonged abuse can result in neurological problems such as cognitive impairment, memory loss and neuropathy (nerve damage). A condition known as Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, also referred to as wet brain, arises from thiamine (B1) malnutrition due to chronic alcohol misuse. Alcohol damages the lining of the intestine responsible for Thiamin absorption by up to 70%.  Its primary symptoms encompass disturbances in eye movement, impaired coordination, and enduring difficulties in learning and memory.

*A 30-year study conducted by the University of Oxford revealed that even at low levels of alcohol consumption, there is observed shrinkage in the hippocampus when compared to nondrinkers. The hippocampus is responsible for learning, memory, and emotions. *

1.2 Addiction and Mental Health

One of the most significant hazards of alcohol consumption is the potential for addiction. Alcohol use disorder can wreak havoc on an individual’s life, affecting relationships, work, and mental well-being. This section will delve into the psychological aspects of alcohol addiction and its impact on mental health, emphasizing the importance of recognizing and addressing these issues.

Prevalence of Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD):

  • According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) in 2019, approximately 14.5 million adults aged 18 and older had AUD in the past year.

Treatment for Alcohol Use Disorder:

  • The 2019 NSDUH also indicated that of the 14.5 million adults with AUD, about 7.2% received treatment for their alcohol use in the past year.

Youth and Underage Drinking:

  • The Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey, which tracks substance use among adolescents, reported that in 2020, about 23.6% of 12th graders had engaged in binge drinking in the past 30 days.

Alcohol-Related Hospitalizations:

  • The CDC also reported that in 2019, there were approximately 409,000 hospitalizations for alcohol-related issues.

Economic Costs:

  • The economic costs of excessive alcohol consumption in the United States were estimated to be over $250 billion in 2010, according to a study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

1.3 Social Implications

Beyond the individual, excessive alcohol consumption has far-reaching social implications. From an increase in violence and crime to strained relationships and family dynamics, the societal toll of alcohol abuse is substantial. This section will explore the broader consequences of alcohol misuse on communities and societies.


  • Alcohol is frequently associated with interpersonal violence, including domestic violence and assaults.
  • According to the World Health Organization (WHO), a significant proportion of violent incidents, such as homicides and assaults, involve alcohol consumption.


  • Alcohol use is often linked to criminal activities such as public disorder offenses, vandalism, and property crimes.
  • The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) reports that alcohol is a factor in 40% of all violent crimes in the United States.


  • Some studies suggest a correlation between alcohol consumption and homicides. Alcohol may be involved in both the commission of homicides and the victimization of individuals.

Sexual Assault:

  • Alcohol use is often cited in cases of sexual assault. Perpetrators or victims may be under the influence of alcohol during these incidents.
  • The impairing effects of alcohol on judgment and decision-making can contribute to situations where sexual violence occurs.

Traffic Accidents:

  • Driving under the influence of alcohol is a major contributor to road traffic accidents. Alcohol-related accidents can result in injuries and fatalities. In 2020, alcohol-impaired drivers were involved in motor vehicle crashes that resulted in the deaths of 11,654 individuals, constituting 30% of all traffic-related fatalities in the United States, as reported by the CDC. This marked a 14.3% rise compared to the number of crash-related deaths involving alcohol-impaired drivers in 2019.
  • Every day in the United States, crashes involving alcohol-impaired drivers result in the loss of 32 lives, equating to one death every 45 minutes.

Part II: The Alcohol Industry and Research Funding

2.1 The Funding Landscape

Research plays a crucial role in understanding the effects of alcohol on health and society. However, concerns have been raised about the influence of the alcohol industry on the research agenda. This section will provide an overview of the funding landscape, examining the sources of research funding and their potential impact on the objectivity and integrity of alcohol-related research.

  1. Government Agencies: Many governments allocate funds for alcohol-related research through agencies such as the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) in the United States, the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) in Australia, and similar organizations in other countries. These agencies often support a wide range of research projects related to alcohol use, its health effects, and prevention and treatment strategies.
  2. Private Foundations: Various private foundations and nonprofit organizations are dedicated to funding research on alcohol-related issues. These organizations may focus on specific aspects of alcohol research, such as addiction treatment, public health interventions, or the social impact of alcohol use.
  3. Industry-Sponsored Research: In some cases, research studies may receive funding from the alcohol industry itself. However, it’s important to note that industry-sponsored research can raise ethical concerns about potential conflicts of interest. Researchers receiving industry funding are expected to adhere to rigorous scientific standards and maintain independence in their work. Researchers are expected to be impartial to their donors, but often we find independent research outcomes being swayed by their sources (examples in section 2.2).
  4. Nonprofit Organizations: Nonprofit organizations with a focus on health, mental health, addiction, or public health may also fund alcohol-related research. These organizations may aim to address specific issues related to alcohol use, such as prevention programs or harm reduction strategies.
  5. Universities and Research Institutions: Academic institutions often play a significant role in alcohol research. Researchers may secure funding through grants from government agencies, private foundations, or other sources to conduct studies on various aspects of alcohol use and its impact on health.

2.2 Shaping Public Perception: The Role of Industry-Funded Research

The alcohol industry often utilizes research findings to shape public perception and influence policy decisions. This section will analyze how industry-funded studies may be strategically used to downplay the hazards of alcohol consumption or emphasize potential health benefits. Understanding these tactics is crucial for consumers, policymakers, and healthcare professionals to make informed decisions.

  • The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, a federal agency under the National Institutes of Health, secured funding from the alcohol industry to support the assertion that moderate alcohol consumption is a component of a healthy diet. The agency directly solicited funding from executives in the alcohol industry, illustrating a clear conflict of interest. Despite adherence to the “rigorous scientific standards,” corporate alcohol giants such as Anheuser Busch InBev and Heineken have thrown their money at research to support the notion that alcohol can be part of a healthy diet. This can result in misleading and poorly defined study results and conclusions. For an industry that directly benefits from continued use of its products and an obligation to maintain and increase its shareholder value, it’s highly unlikely that they would step on their own toes.

*Red wine has long been considered a proponent of heart health when consumed in moderation. The resveratrol in wine is said to have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, immunomodulatory, glucose and lipid regulatory, neuroprotective, and cardiovascular protective effects. However, the resveratrol from red wine required to produce such benefits would require consuming wine in excess. This is just another example of the alcohol industry’s influence over public perception. 

-As we navigate the complex landscape of alcohol consumption and industry-funded research, it is crucial to remain vigilant about the potential hazards and biases that may arise. By fostering a culture of transparency, independence, and responsibility, we can work towards mitigating the negative impacts of alcohol while promoting informed decision-making for individuals and societies alike. Through continued research, open dialogue, and evidence-based policies, we can strive to strike a balance that prioritizes public health over industry interests in the realm of alcohol consumption.




*Biddinger KJ, Emdin CA, Haas ME, et al. Association of Habitual Alcohol Intake With Risk of Cardiovascular Disease. JAMA Netw Open. 2022;5(3):e223849. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2022.3849

*Cho KH, Nam HS, Kang DJ, Park MH, Kim JH. Long-Term Alcohol Consumption Caused a Significant Decrease in Serum High-Density Lipoprotein (HDL)-Cholesterol and Apolipoprotein A-I with the Atherogenic Changes of HDL in Middle-Aged Korean Women. Int J Mol Sci. 2022 Aug 3;23(15):8623. doi: 10.3390/ijms23158623. PMID: 35955766; PMCID: PMC9369027.


*Alcohol Research Awash in Industry Money – Alcohol Justice

*WHF-Policy-Brief-Alcohol.pdf (

*Federal Agency Courted Alcohol Industry to Fund Study on Benefits of Moderate Drinking – The New York Times (

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