The Sober Curious movement, which promotes having fun without drinking alcohol, brings to light the effects that consuming this substance has on people’s lives.
Esteban Camilo Pérez Pérez
General practitioner and Psychiatry and Mental Health resident
Drinking one or several glasses of wine, spirits, rum or any other liquor at parties or gatherings when spending time with friends or family is a socially accepted practice rooted in many cultures, despite the scientific evidence which associates alcohol consumption with different types of diseases.
However, a movement known as The Sober Curious, promoted by young people in different countries, is taking it upon themselves to disprove that having fun is only possible when there is an alcoholic drink involved.
An article published recently in USA Today, which emphasizes the meaning of this movement, points out that people in different regions of the world – especially those who are part of the millennial generation – are openly declaring that they are abstaining from alcohol and are promoting it as a practice for wellbeing at social gatherings and on social media.
They have also sparked the creation of bars with zero alcohol policies, where drinks that simulate traditional cocktails are sold, and they promote not drinking as something sexy on their social networks.
An issue of public health
Abstaining from alcohol as a trend, which previously seemed to be relegated to Alcoholics Anonymous groups, does not go unnoticed when considering the effects of alcohol.
This trend is in line with World Health Organization (WHO) considerations on reducing the harmful use of alcohol, which are included in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. One of the main reasons this organization closely monitors the effects of alcohol consumption is because it causes around 3 million deaths worldwide each year and can trigger some 200 diseases.
General practitioner Esteban Camilo Pérez Pérez explains that alcohol consumption has an impact on many of the consumer’s habits, and also affects different biological factors as well as their social and psychological environment.
“It can cause many types of illnesses, not only in the liver, but also with other organs like the heart, kidneys, eyes, and brain. On the social side, in addition to the stigma associated with being an alcoholic, it becomes problematic when it starts to interrupt daily activities, since it creates a dependency,” he states.
The doctor refers to behaviors such as not going to work due to a hangover, or having symptoms known as acute alcohol withdrawal. The latter can lead to major problems, such as a decrease in productivity, overspending on alcohol, or even becoming violent with family or friends.
On whether alcohol consumption should be zero, as promoted by The Sober Curious, or if there is a safe level of consumption, the doctor states that the WHO recommends a life free of alcohol, since its consequences are never beneficial.
In ancient times, people attributed miraculous or divine characteristics to wine and other alcoholic beverages because they prolonged life. However, the distillation and fermentation process at that time destroyed the microbes in the liquid, thus, those who drank it got sick less compared to those who drank liquids made with water from rivers and wells without going through any type of potabilization process. Currently, there are studies that state that drinking a glass of wine per day decreases the risk of sexual dysfunction in men and even improves their libido, but no comparisons of these possible benefits versus the risks have been published. Therefore, it is not possible to make a medical recommendation on daily alcohol intake,” states the expert.
He also points out that having fun without alcohol is not simply a possibility that should be considered; it is everyone’s responsibility to do so.
“Although alcohol is socially accepted and has an ancient social construct, it is just another drug, as it produces a state of acute intoxication. Drunkenness causes withdrawal, which is the hangover, and can cause dependency, as evidenced by those who leave their whole life behind for their need to drink alcohol,” states the doctor.
Staying in control of intoxicating beverages is more complex for those who have a certain disposition to addiction, so instead of pretending to consume drinks that contain zero alcohol, the specialist’s recommendation is to avoid them altogether.
For everyone, even those who do not consider alcohol to affect their life, it is worth looking for alternatives to activities where drinking is essential. Eating out, doing physical activity, encouraging healthy family fun, or meeting for coffee are some possibilities.•
Effects of alcohol on the body
According to the Healthy Lifestyles Guide from the Mayor’s Office in Medellín, repeated consumption of alcohol can affect different organs in the body, for example:
Brain: loss of memory, self-control, or the ability to concentrate
Heart: palpitations, accelerated pulse, and low blood pressure
Liver: hypoglycemia, problems with metabolism, nausea, and vomiting
Kidneys: increase in the production of urine and dehydration
Lungs: accelerated breathing
Stomach: increase in the production of gastric juices, as well as the erosion of the mucosa