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The Other Side of Alcoholism (Alcohol Addiction)

By Tamon

It’s no longer any news to find people who are being controlled or under the influence of alcohol on our streets. The trend of alcoholic consumption has greatly increased in recent times especially among youths. But what can be the actual cause of this rise in alcoholic consumption? When it comes to alcohol consumption “the more you consume it, the more it feels good and the easier you get carried away in alcoholism”,. This can make you become an alcohol addict such that if they don’t take it, there may grow mad or disturbed.

In as much as the law may be firm on drugs like Cocaine, it isn’t the case with alcohol. All the law provides on alcohol is; avoid excess consumption of alcohol that is consume alcohol with caution and care, not to be consumed by children or people younger than 18 years, forbids drinking and driving and also every form of abnormal behaviors that could be associated with excess alcohol consumption causing social mishaps. Although the consumption of alcohol is legal for adults over the age of 21 in the United States, there are many women who discover that they are incapable of using this substance in a way that is not problematic. As a widely accepted practice in various settings, several persons can consume beer, or liquor wine, on occasion without suffering any negative consequences. However, others find themselves stuck in a pattern of ongoing alcohol use or binge drinking without even noticing it. Since alcohol is a composition of substances, its addiction has serious effects to the health of those addicted by it as well as other socio-economic consequences as explained subsequently in this article.

How Alcohol Destroys the Body

As a person takes alcohol it goes through their mouth and esophagus into their stomach. At that point a small quantity of the alcohol is converted there in the stomach. However, the greater part of the remaining alcohol enters the user’s bloodstream and continues to disseminate throughout their body. Alcohol work in a complex manner in the brain and affects different systems in the brain such as depressing the central nervous system. It is however, thought to work by first binding to GABA receptors in the brain, activating the release of inhibitory neurotransmitters in the Central Nervous System (CNS). This is why a person who takes alcohol on an empty stomach experiences faster and severe effects.

Remember that nobody ever decides to become an alcohol addict. The act of addiction or the urge to take a substance in an unlawful manner grows over time mostly due to poor choices.

Different Causes of alcohol addiction

While the exact causes of alcoholism are still unknown, there are a number of factors that are thought to be working together to get someone entangled in the web of alcohol. These factors streams from the genetics to social and emotional (psychological) factors.

Genetic and family factors: It is a common possibility that when addiction runs in a family, there is a higher possibility of addictive tendencies in the forthcoming generations. However, this is not an excuse. It is left to each person to take responsibility for their actions and decisions. Alcoholics who stem from parents, grandparents, etc. who had difficulties with alcohol consciously made the choice to experiment with drinking. There are several individuals who have alcoholism in their family, but they do not become Alcoholics themselves. Science has not yet been able to determine which person will choose to abuse alcohol and which person will choose to handle their problems in a responsible manner. 

Environmental factors: There is evidence of increase in the number of alcoholics in areas with much alcoholic activities; easy alcohol reach with many alcohol addicts. People easily get to alcoholism as they try to follow the prevailing lifestyle of their surroundings.

Emotional factors: These are physical, sexual (abuse) and mental issues (depression, low self-esteem, bi-polar and just to cite a few) that to a larger extern cause people to change their lifestyle. Individuals who suffer or have suffered physical and/or sexual abuse will sometimes turn to drugs and alcohol as a way of numbing their pain on the inside. This coping option only works for so long before the alcohol become a problem in their lives, just like the abuse they are trying to withdraw from. Mental issues such as depression will also cause people to turn to alcohol to feel better. Initially, they will feel a kind of improvement but as they continue to consume, the depressive nature of alcohol takes over and will bring them down more than before they took their first drink. People who are bi-polar are very susceptible to turning to alcohol and other recreational and prescription drugs as a means of self-medicating.

Social and peer pressure: A handful of people start drinking socially and gradually develop an abusive relationship with alcohol. What may have once been mere drinks with friends becomes drinking at every social function and feeling the overwhelming urge to drink if alcohol is not part of the event. Peer pressure equally leads to several people’s abuse of alcohol. Some teenagers in high school and college enjoy the attention they get when they drink and brag about holding their liquor. This is a slippery slope as it can make them develop dangerous drinking habits and a reliance on alcohol as a means of social interaction. As time progresses they will not develop the skills necessary to feel comfortable interacting with others socially without having a drink in their hand.

Alcohol with medicines: Some medicines are said to increase the effects of alcohol on the body, such can lead to alcoholism if taken together. The effects of some medicine taken with alcohol can be dangerous and life-threatening. Thus, you should follow your doctor’s advice on how to take your medications and avoid taking them with alcohol if you have not been asked to do so.

 

Effects of alcohol addiction

There are health, emotional and social effects of alcohol addiction. Alcoholism cause serious infection of the pancreas, defection of the esophagus, liver cirrhosis, defection of the liver, sleeping complications, infection of the stomach, sexual issues and premature dementia.

Effects of Alcohol on the Liver

There could be the development of fatty liver, as well as hepatitis due to alcohol consumption. Alcohol is mainly metabolized in the liver thus alcohol addicts easily develop liver problems. As they move on to consume more and more alcohol their livers become severely affected by alcohol because it is unable to process a number of important chemicals. This damages the liver and can result in fatty liver, fibrous scar called cirrhosis and hepatitis. These conditions can only get worse if the alcoholic does not stop drinking. The good news is that if the individual is apt to stop drinking their condition can be reversed.

Effects of Alcohol on the Brain

Alcohol is known to be extremely damaging on the user’s brain. Brain damage due to Alcoholism is caused by frequent changes in the brain either directly or indirectly by Alcohol. When a person drinks alcohol excessively they may experience memory lapses, black outs, Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome and brain damage. Blackouts take place when the Alcoholic drinks too much too quickly. This causes their blood alcohol level to rise drastically. They will not be able to remember details for a period of time or even whole events that took place during their blackout. Memory lapses are one of the most rampant effects of Alcoholism because of the drug’s effects on the user’s brain. Alcoholics will always have periods of time that are unaccounted for or they will have difficulty remembering specifics of events that took place while they were heavily intoxicated. Brain damage due to alcoholism can be permanent or reversible.

Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome is a serious disease. This disease is made up of two separate syndromes, the Korsakoff’s syndrome and Wernicke’s. Wernicke’s encephalopathy is a short-lived serious condition that includes paralysis of the nerves, mental confusion that move the eyes and difficulty with muscle coordination while Korsakoff’s psychosis is a future condition characterized by memory and learning problems.

Alcohol poisoning or intoxication that is often time life-threatening: Some alcohol addicts sometimes degenerates to alcohol poisoning. This may cause serious respiratory problems such as difficulty in breathing or the inability to breathe which is fatal or may lead to death.

Alcoholics show little to no control over the amount they consume. The dependence on alcohol shows that the user has made the consumption of alcohol a central focus of their existence.

Other effects of alcohol addiction, especially on long term consumption

  • Nervous system disorder;
  • Heart problems including heart failure;
  • Stomach (intestines) problems such as stomach upset;
  • High blood pressure;
  • Sexual problems include poor erecting, low sex drive and low sperm count;
  • Cancer; and
  • Osteoporosis, especially in women.

When in active alcohol addiction, several facets of a person’s life become affected and usually not in a positive way. For the fact that alcohol is legal, it does not mean it cannot impact your life negatively when abused. Still, many people find this hard to accept. There are a couple of consequences of alcohol addiction.

Relationship Deterioration: As you indulge in alcohol addiction and become addicted it begins to affect your relationships. Your friends become irritated and will obviously begin to seek ways for you to stay safe for those who are concerned. Through alcohol addiction, your friends will become fade up with your inability to control your drinking, to the point that even your good friends will tell you they are tired of keeping you as their friend. This is one of the major serious consequences of alcohol addiction.

An Unhealthy Physical Appearance: You may not realize that when you start consuming Alcohol, but the truth is that alcohol will take a large toll on your body. Alcoholic drinks such as; photo credits, beer, cider, wine, tequila, rum, brandy, gin, whiskey, vodka and liqueurs have different percentages of Alcoholic contents, dissipate energy and vitality. More often when you drink uncontrollably and become drunk, the tendency is that you miss out your time for breakfast, lunch and supper. This of course has serious consequences on your physical appearance as it degrades body freshness.

Ability to perform daily tasks: This is a large indicator of Alcoholism. This is one of the consequences of alcohol addiction to watch out for. As you drink alcohol and becomes overwhelm by it, as a student it puts your education at risk and for an employee, it could cause you could fired due to inconsistency and delay in the execution of your job. Additionally, one of the dreaded consequences of Alcoholism is that it could spoil the good reputation people have known you for over the years.

Effects of Alcohol on Pregnancy

There are many good reasons why pregnant women should not drink alcohol. The effects of alcohol addiction during pregnancy are long lasting and often times severe to the development of the baby such as fetal alcoholic effects (FAE). Other effects of alcohol consumption during pregnancy include:

  • Small head circumference;
  • Low birth weight;
  • Organ damage;
  • Failure to thrive after birth;
  • Behavioral problems;
  • Developmental delays;
  • Facial deformities;
  • Learning disabilities;
  • Poor motor skills; and
  • Epilepsy.

Effects of Alcohol on Teens

Alcohol addiction is common among teens. These teens who abuse alcohol show the same effects as adults but with greater severity, mostly due to their lower body weight, lower resistance and under developed organs. These teens most often face problem with studies - easily drop out of school, attempt suicide and are more frequently involved in sexual abuse than teens who do not drink. If you notice or suspect that your child is taking alcohol, you should immediately start a program to help them get out of it. Such should include making rules in the house that prohibits alcohol use, monitoring, help them select their peers, and create other interesting activities that can attract their attention.

Signs and symptoms of alcohol addiction

In most cases of addiction, the signs and symptoms depends, to a greater extend on the degree and frequency the subjects consume the substance. Progressive increases in the frequency and quantity of alcohol consumption can begin to produce more serious medical signs and symptoms of alcohol addiction. Someone abusing alcohol makes drinking a central activity of their lives, displacing healthy activity and relationships. Alcohol abusers most of the time maintain some strength to recognize situations that lead to over-consumption, and to measure their alcohol intake. Some of the recorded signs and symptoms of alcohol addiction include:

  • Poor balance and clumsiness;
  • Slurred or incoherent speech;
  • Alcohol cravings;
  • Delayed reflexes;
  • Lapses in memory (blacking out);
  • Loss of consciousness or blacking-out;
  • Loss of control over the quantity consumed once they begin drinking;
  • Tremors (involuntary shaking);
  • Stomach pains, vomiting or nausea;
  • Dangerous behaviors exposed to legal consequences;Redness of the face at the time or after consumption;
  • Withdrawal symptoms such as shaking, and vomiting;
  • Regular focus to professional and family obligations;
  • Increase in expressions of anger or other emotions, especially in inappropriate milieu;
  • Insomnia, which may be followed by oversleeping; and
  • Illnesses, such as alcoholic ketoacidosis (includes dehydration-type symptoms) or cirrhosis.
  • Drinking alone or more to feel the effects of alcohol (having a high tolerance);
  • Violence or annoyance when asked about their drinking habits;
  • Loss of appetite (not eating or eating poorly);
  • Important hangovers, and increase in time required making up from after-effects of alcohol use;
  • Recognition of side effects of medical complications from Alcoholism;
  • Repeated unsuccessful efforts to decrease withdrawal symptoms of alcohol consumption;
  • Withdrawal symptoms of alcohol when unable to consume;
  • Neglecting personal hygiene;
  • Missing schedules activities (work or school) because of drinking;
  • Unable to control alcohol intake;
  • Making excuses to drink;
  • Keep on drinking even when legal, social, or economic problems develop; and
  • Giving up important social, occupational, or recreational activities because of alcohol use.

Effects of alcohol withdrawal

Alcohol withdrawal is the process or the act to completely stop alcohol consumption. This in itself poses serious consequences. An instant discontinuation of alcohol intake can lead to the death of the individual or often induce a condition known as delirium tremens. Practically, medical detoxification is required to safely discontinue heavy drinking. There is a physiologic step of withdrawal that individuals witness when they attempt to stop using substances like alcohol after a period of heavy and/or chronic use.

When alcohol is consumed on a frequent basis, an individual develops tolerance to the presence of the alcohol in the body. This tolerance requires the person to consume greater amounts in order to achieve the desired effects or to simply avoid feeling withdrawal symptoms of Alcohol. As this pattern continues, an individual can become physically dependent on Alcohol, meaning that the body is no longer able to function as it once did unless alcohol is consumed. As a result, when the body is denied Alcohol, the individual will go into a period of withdrawal as the body attempts to re-adjust to fun coming without Alcohol. Those who take alcohol for long periods are at higher risks to develop serious medical conditions if they attempt to stop alcohol consumption without proper medical advice and supervision. There are various programs to help those who want to quite alcoholism. Withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Profuse sweating;
  • Extreme agitation or anxiety;
  • Convulsions ;
  • Persistent insomnia;
  • Nausea or vomiting;
  • Tremors;
  • Seizures;
  • Hallucinations;
  • Psychomotor agitation;
  • Uncontrolled shaking of the hands (or even the entire body);
  • Increased pulse rate (going above 100 beats in a minute);

Alcohol Overdose and Its Effects

Unlike addiction, alcohol overdose occurs when a person takes a large amount of alcohol at a very short period than her body is capable of processing or excreting. Alcohol overdose is a serious medical condition and should be treated with some urgency. You should call an emergency help service if you notice any of the following symptoms of alcohol overdose:

  • Shallow or slowed breathing
  • Loss of skin color
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Incoherent speech
  • Hypothermia
  • Confusion
  • Seizures

Treatment of alcohol addiction

Problems of alcohol abuse if not treated can progress to an addiction to alcohol characterized by physical dependency and/or inability to stop despite serious consequences. The following steps serve as the treatment of alcohol addiction in brief:

  • Complete abstinence is the only treatment of alcohol addiction and dependence;
  • Emphasize that the most common mistake is underestimating the amount of help needed to stop drinking;
  • Hospitalize patients if they have a profile of delirium tremens or if they have significant comorbidity;
  • Consider inpatient treatment of alcohol addiction if the patient has poor social support, important psychiatric difficulties, or a history of relapse after treatment;
  • Strongly approve Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)
  • Motivate hospitalized patients to call AA from the hospital; AA will send someone to talk to them if the patient makes the contact
  • Patients need to attend AA meetings constantly (daily at first) and for a sufficient length of time (usually 2 years or more) because recovery is a difficult and lengthy process
  • In the beginning of therapy, and probably ongoing, patients should get rid of alcohol from their homes and avoid bars and other establishments where strong pressures to drink may hinder abstinence
  • If the patient has anxiety disorder, primary depression, or another potentially contributory disorder, treat this primary problem first.

Alcohol related problems have drastic consequences on a country’s economy. This has resulted in some nations prohibiting the consumption of alcohol during working hours.

Conclusion

Alcohol addiction remains a serious health and social problem. It is said that, about 95% humans have consumed alcohol in one form or another and in different stages of their lives. While the majority of these people may not turn to addicts, a good number of them have at one point in time show some symptoms of alcohol addiction. Parenting is a great factor in the fight against illicit drinking and addiction. Parents have to watch their children as there grow and be able to educate them on the dangers alcohol may have on their lives. Remember that alcohol consumption poses serious threat to the life of the consumer especially teenager. Play safe, play healthy, and play non-alcoholic!!!  

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