Experts say alcohol abuse is responsible for as much as four percent of disease around the world. They say an international convention on alcohol is needed to reduce the harmful health and social effects of drinking.
International alcohol researchers say alcohol abuse is implicated in 60 different medical conditions.
"Fundamentally, alcohol can adversely affect nearly every organ in the body. And besides that, of course, it is very much involved in injuries, both accidents and also violence. So, it adds up to a very substantial burden of disease because it reaches across so many different categories," said Robin Room, of with the Center for Social Research on Alcohol and Drugs at Stockholm University in Sweden.
Mr. Room says alcohol abuse is growing fastest in developing countries that have little or no controls on drinking. He says in countries with few regulations, international pressure for privatization can be harmful.
"The developed world tends to have pushed them into abandoning these controls in a way that does not happen to the developed world. For instance, there is pressure from the World Bank or International Monetary Fund that results in the privatization of beer halls, for instance, in the southern part of Africa that were municipally owned and now are owned by private entrepreneurs. And the thing that immediately happened in one or two places is you immediately get one or two of them," he added.
Mr. Room says studies have shown that trying to educate children about the hazards of alcohol does not have any long-lasting effect. And brief interventions, such as traffic laws and getting medical professionals involved, do not work.
Instead, Professor Room says countries need to agree to respect each others' laws regulating the sale and consumption of alcohol.
"And that requires, as people found in the tobacco area in the end, you need an international agreement to reach that point," he noted. "You cannot do it simply telling Budweiser that it ought not have sold so hard."
The comments from Robin Room of Sweden University's Center for Social Research on Alcohol and Drugs are published this week in an article in the British medical journal, The Lancet.