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Alcohol Abuse: Fast Facts

Drotumdi O


Otumdi Omekara, MD. MPAHA - Member of Society of Physician Entrepreneurs 


Alcohol abuse, also known as alcohol use disorder or alcoholism, is the consumption of alcohol in such a way and to such an extent that it causes distress or harm to individuals and people around them. It makes people incapable of fulfilling their major responsibilities at home, school or work. They drink in dangerous situations like while driving and or operating machinery. Their lives are complicated by alcohol related legal problems like arrests for DUI or physical assaults while intoxicated, or frequent family frictions. 


Ethyl alcohol (ethanol) is the main form of alcohol in wines, beer, and liquor, derived from the fermentation of sugars and starches with yeast. 


Alcohol affects every organ in the body. It depresses the central nervous system after it is rapidly absorbed through the stomach and small intestines into the blood stream. The liver enzymes metabolize only small amounts of alcohol at a time leaving a high level of alcohol circulating through the whole body most of the time. Thus rapidly consuming large quantities of alcohol overwhelms the liver and exposes body organs to alcoholic toxicity. 


According to Dietary Guideline for Americans, moderate drinking means that women should take only 1 drink a day while men take only 2 drinks a day. 


All the 50 states in USA agree on 0.08% (80mg/100ml) as the legal blood alcohol limit for adults over 21 to drive motor vehicles. Below this level no amount of alcohol is allowed while driving. Blood alcohol levels (BAC) are checked on the spot with breathalyzers whenever a driver is pulled over for possible DUI. 


Alcohol abuse is a treatable chronic disease that prevents the patient from living a productive economy life because of the amount time spent in treatment, recovery and incarceration. 


Global alcohol consumption of alcohol in 2005 was 6.13 liters of pure alcohol per person 15 years and older (55% of global population and 3.8% of all global death). Fatal alcohol consumption occurs more among young people. 


Alcohol is the 3rd largest risk factor for untimely death, disability and illness worldwide. It is the leading factor in Europe and North America. 


People drink because it helps them with socialization, celebration and relaxation. But alcohol overpowers heavy drinkers when the blood alcohol (BAC) level exceeds the normal range of ( ). 


It makes them lose count of how many drinks they have had and to drink excessively. 


As their blood alcohol levels rise, they go from tipsy to drunk, to stupor to coma and even to death. They also experience memory loss and inability to concentrate. 


At the tipsy stage people are disinhibited, talkative, highly sociable, flirtatious and vulnerable to risky behaviors like unprotected sex and violence. 


When people get drunk they become drowsy, disoriented, incapable of maintaining balance, weak and slow in both movement and speech. 


During the stupor stage the person is semiconscious or delurious, drifting in and out of consciousness. 


At the coma stage, the person passes out completely, and unable to respond to painful stimuli. 


At death there is no heart, lung or brain activity detectable by a physician. 


Alcohol abuse manifests in the following ways: troubled relationships, frequent social frictions, abnormal thoughts and feelings. 


The rate at which drinkers progress downhill varies with the rate and type of alcoholic drink, body constitution, body size, time of last meal, age, health status, current medication intake, race, gender, and family history (genes). 


Current research studies indicate that heavy drinking or alcohol abuse involves craving sensation created by a complex interaction of genes, hormones and other biochemical substances, inside the body cells. This accounts also for physical and psychological alcohol dependence 


Alcohol affects every organ of the body. It is a central nervous system depressant that is rapidly absorbed from the stomach and small intestine into the blood stream. 


Alcohol is metabolized in the liver by enzymes; however, the liver can only metabolize a small amount of alcohol at a time, leaving the excess alcohol to circulate throughout the body. The toxic effect of the excess alcohol depends on the amount consumed and the rate of consumption. 


This new insight has led to the discovery of drugs other than antabuse, now used to disrupt the Intracellular craving mechanism at different points. The two new drugs are naltrexone and acamprose. 


Moderate alcohol consumption has its benefits including protection against coronary heart disease, but the consequences of too much alcohol drinking far outweighs them all. It destroys not only an individual’s physical and social wellbeing, but also that of people close to them and the society at large. 


Alcohol abuse causes many serious social and developmental problems, including violence, child neglect and abuse, work absenteeism, family, friends, coworker, and stranger violence and injury. 


Driving while intoxicated (DWI) or driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI) causes up to 2.5 million deaths a year worldwide from vehicle and other injurious accidents. It also causes increased violence, suicide attempts, and homicide. 


Other health problems attributable to alcohol abuse include alcoholic withdrawal syndrome, liver fibrosis and cirrhosis, fetal alcoholic spectrum disorders, sudden infant death syndrome pancreatitis, hepatitis, fatty liver, dilated cardiomyopathy, cardiac arrhythmias, hypertension, stroke, and cancers of the live (hepatoma), mouth, esophagus, throat, and breast. 


Alcohol weakens the immune system after a long period of heavy drinking because it weakens the liver, which produces immunoglobulins. This makes chronic alcoholics vulnerable to HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and sexually transmitted diseases. 


5,000 people < 21 years die from underage drinking yearly. See more of similar articles andproduct recommendations.