Alcohol

An alcoholic will continue to drink despite serious family, health, or legal problems. Despite information to the contrary, alcoholism cannot be cured, it can only be put into remission. The risk for developing alcoholism is influenced both by a person’s genes and by his or her lifestyle. Just because alcoholism tends to run in families doesn’t mean that a child of an alcoholic parent will automatically become an alcoholic too. Some people develop alcoholism even though no one in their family has a drinking problem.

Alcohol’s Effects on the Body

Here are some ways alcohol can affect the human body:
Brain
Alcohol interferes with the brain’s communication pathways. These disruptions can change mood and behavior, and make it harder to think clearly and move with coordination.
Heart
Drinking a lot over a long time or too much on a single occasion can damage the heart, causing heart disease.
Liver
Heavy drinking takes a toll on the liver, and can lead to a variety of liver problems.
Pancreas
Alcohol causes the pancreas to produce toxic substances that can eventually lead to pancreatitis, an inflammation of its blood vessels.
Cancer
Drinking too much alcohol can increase your risk of developing cancer.
Immune System
Drinking too much can weaken your immune system, making the body more susceptible to disease.

What Factors Influences Its Effects?

Alcohol’s effects vary from person to person, depending on a variety of factors, including:

  • • How Much
  • • How Often
  • • Your Age
  • • Health Status
  • • Family History

Some Of The Risks Of Drinking

  • • Car accidents
  • • Risky Behavior
  • • Violent Behavior
  • • Suicide and Homicide

Moderate and Heavy Drinking

Moderate alcohol use, up to two drinks per day, is not considered harmful for most adults. Moderate drinking is difficult to define because it means different things to different people. The term is often confused with social drinking, which refers to drinking patterns that are accepted by the society in which they occur. However, social drinking is not necessarily free of problems. Moderate drinking may be defined as drinking that does not generally cause problems, either for the drinker or for society.

Studies have shown that moderate drinkers, men who have two or less drinks per day and women who have one or less drinks per day are less likely to die from one form of heart disease than are people who do not drink any alcohol or who drink more. It’s believed that these smaller amounts of alcohol help protect against heart disease by changing the blood’s chemistry, thus reducing the risk of blood clots in the heart’s arteries. If you are a nondrinker, however, you should not start drinking solely to benefit your heart. You can guard against heart disease by exercising and eating foods that are low in fat. And if you are pregnant, planning to become pregnant, have been diagnosed as alcoholic, or have another medical condition that could make alcohol use harmful, you should not drink. If you can safely drink alcohol and you choose to drink, do so in moderation.

Heavy drinking can actually increase the risk of heart failure, stroke, and high blood pressure, as well as cause many other medical problems, such as liver cirrhosis.

Consequences

The consequences of alcohol misuse are serious, in many cases, life threatening. Heavy drinking can increase the risk for certain cancers, especially those of the liver, esophagus, throat, and larynx. Heavy drinking can also cause liver cirrhosis, immune system problems, brain damage, and harm to the fetus during pregnancy. In addition, drinking increases the risk of death from automobile crashes as well as recreational and on-the-job injuries. According to the most current government information, both homicides and suicides are more likely to be committed by persons who have been drinking. In purely economic terms, alcohol-related problems cost society approximately $185 billion per year. In human terms, the costs cannot be calculated.

Age

Alcohol’s effects do vary with age. Slower reaction times, problems with hearing and seeing, and a lower tolerance to alcohol’s effects put older people at higher risk for falls, car crashes, and other types of injuries that may result from drinking. Older people also tend to take more medicines than younger people. Mixing alcohol with over-the-counter or prescription medications can be very dangerous, even fatal. More than 150 medications interact harmfully with alcohol. In addition, alcohol can make many of the medical conditions common in older people, including high blood pressure and ulcers, more serious. Physical changes associated with aging can make older people feel “high” even after drinking only small amounts of alcohol. So even if there is no medical reason to avoid alcohol, older men and women should limit themselves to one drink per day.

can a problem drinker simply cut down?

It depends if that person has been diagnosed as an alcoholic, the answer is “no.” Alcoholics who try to cut down on drinking rarely succeed. Cutting out alcohol that is, abstaining is usually the best course for recovery. People who are not alcohol dependent but who have experienced alcohol-related problems may be able to limit the amount they drink. If they can’t stay within those limits, they need to stop drinking altogether.

Some Statistics

According to the most current government information, over 14 million Americans, 1 in every 13 adults abuses alcohol or are alcoholic. Several million more adults engage in risky drinking that could lead to alcohol problems.

Alcohol abuse and alcoholism cut across gender, race, and nationality. Nearly 14 million people in the United States, 1 in every 13 adults, abuse alcohol or are alcoholic. In general, more men than women are alcohol dependent or have alcohol problems. And alcohol problems are highest among young adults ages 18-29 and lowest among adults ages 65 and older. We also know that people who start drinking at an early age. For example, at age 14 or younger, greatly increase the chance that they will develop alcohol problems at some point in their lives.

Do you have to be an alcoholic to experience problems?

No, alcoholism is only one type of an alcohol problem. Alcohol abuse can be just as harmful. A person can abuse alcohol without actually being an alcoholic that is, he or she may drink too much and too often but still not be dependent on alcohol. Some of the problems linked to alcohol abuse include not being able to meet work, school, or family responsibilities; drunk-driving arrests and car crashes; and drinking-related medical conditions. Under some circumstances, even social or moderate drinking is dangerous for example, when driving, during pregnancy, or when taking certain medications.