By Ilse Pauw, Health24
Photo: Wikipedia Commons
Drinking plays an important role in many people's lives. In moderation, alcohol is relaxing and can also be beneficial to one's health. Unfortunately, not enough is said about excessive drinking which can cause havoc in a person's personal, social and work life.
Alcohol abuse is linked to a staggering proportion of criminal activities and fatal car accidents. It also often plays a role in suicides. Despite these facts, people continue to ignore the potentially damaging and lethal effects of excessive alcohol use.
Alcohol is often incorrectly classified as a stimulant or "upper". Alcohol is in fact a tranquilliser which depresses the central nervous system. The short-term physical effects depend on the blood-alcohol level. It ranges from mild mood changes to complete loss of coordination, vision, balance and speech.
These effects usually wear off in a matter of hours after a person stops drinking. Larger amounts of blood alcohol can impair brain functioning and eventually cause unconsciousness. A severe overdose - when the blood-alcohol level is higher than 0,50 - can be fatal.
Long-term alcohol abuse can be very damaging to one's physical health. Health risks include cirrhosis (hardening) of the liver, gastrointestinal problems, damage to the heart muscle and impaired muscle functioning. Heavy drinkers often tend to miss meals or lack adequate diets and therefore suffer nutritional imbalance and have an impaired immune system. Brain damage can occur as a result of a vitamin B2 deficiency.
A well-known condition, Karsokov's syndrome, is an amnesic disorder which means that people find it difficult to remember past events and to learn new things. Alcoholism can also lead to impotence in men, damage to the foetus in pregnant women and an elevated risk of cancer of the larynx, oesophagus, stomach, pancreas and upper gastrointestinal tract. Women cannot tolerate alcohol as well as men and are more vulnerable to alcohol-related health risks.
The psychological effects of alcohol intoxication include lack of inhibitions, increase in aggression and violence, uninhibited sexual behaviour/lack of interest in sex, mood swings, depression, impaired memory and sensory-motor co-ordination.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders classifies alcohol disorders into two categories: alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence.
Alcohol abuse is defined as a maladaptive pattern of alcohol use leading to significant impairment or distress, as manifested by one or more of the following:
The symptoms include:
Historically, alcoholic behaviour was blamed on a character flaw or weakness of will. Nowadays, chronic alcoholism is considered as a disease that can afflict anyone. It is common for an alcoholic to deny the problem and to use all sorts of excuses to blame problems on something other than alcohol. This makes it difficult to convince someone to seek help.
Even if the person recognises the problem, the continual craving for alcohol makes it difficult for him/her to stop drinking. It is therefore important to seek help as soon as possible. - (Ilse Pauw, Health24)