Alcoholic beverages have been produced and consumed by humans for millennia. Alcohol is used in some societies as part of religious ceremony—to commemorate important milestones, for example, or as an offering to ancestors. Alcohol is also considered by many societies to be central to celebrations and social cohesion. However, alcohol consumption is not ubiquitous globally; two-thirds of the world’s population does not use alcohol. [1]

Of all the threats to human health, it is alcohol which causes the widest range of injury ... It shortens life, being variously held responsible for between 1% and 10% of all adult deaths in industrialized countries. It shrinks the brain and impairs the intellect. It causes failure of the liver, heart and peripheral nerves. It contributes to depression, violence and the breakup of personal and social life. It has been blamed for a quarter of all deaths on the road ...
— Dr. Geoffrey Rose, Rose's Strategy of Preventive Medicine, 2008 [28]

Alcohol is also a toxic, psychoactive, carcinogenic substance that can damage the health of individuals and communities. As one of the foremost underlying causes of premature death, disease, injury, disability and violence, the harmful use of alcohol is an obstacle to human development across the world. [1] And its impact goes beyond health. Harmful alcohol consumption also has negative social and economic effects on individuals, families and civic life.

Despite alcohol’s burden, stemming the harmful use of alcohol remains a low priority among countries. Unless alcohol policy is given more attention, harmful use of alcohol and its consequences will continue to grow. [7] Urgency is required.

The reduction of the harmful use of alcohol provides an important opportunity for improving health and social well-being, as well as economic development.