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19-04-2020, 07:52 AM
Alcohol is the most commonly used recreational drug. Taken in moderation, it can be compatible with a healthy lifestyle. But alcohol abuse causes problems that reach far beyond drinkers themselves. Alcoholism has defined as "the nations' number one health problem" a major cause of disrupted family life, automobile and industrial accidents, poor job performance, and increasing crime rates.
Cirrhosis of the liver, almost invariably a result of alcohol abuse, is the seventh leading cause of death. In addition, alcohol has been implicated as a contributor to 50 percent of fatal automobile accidents, 53 percent of fire deaths, 45 percent of drownings, 22 percent of home accidents, and 36 percent of pedestrian accidents. Violent crimes attributed to alcohol abuse include 64 percent of murders, 41 percent of assaults, 34 percent of rapes, 30 percent of suicides, and 60 percent of child abuse.
The financial toll of alcohol abuse is heavy, too.

The pregnant woman who drinks heavily risks giving birth to a child with fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) a pattern of physical and mental defects that may include malformed facial characteristics, growth deficiency, heart defects, poor neurological coordination, and mental retardation. FAS has become a problem of large proportion, since there are millions of alcoholic women of childbearing age. Studies looked at data pregnancies and found that consumption of at least one to two drinks daily was associated with a substantially increased risk of producing a growth-retarded infant. Even though an occasional drink may not cause a problem, alcohol has no positive effects on pregnancy to recommend it, and thus pregnant women, or those who wish to get pregnant, are advised not to drink at all.
Finally, heavy drinkers, especially those who also smoke cigarettes, are at an unusually high risk for oral cancer and cancers of the larynx and esophagus.

Is it safe to drink at all? For some people, light to moderate drinking does not seem to have any serious effect. The problem is knowing how much is harmless for whom. Some people, for example, can develop cirrhosis of the liver with only one drink per day, while ten drinks per day will not lead to cirrhosis in others (although this amount may have other serious consequences). At what point does social drinking become alcoholism?
For those who still want to enjoy an occasional drink, there is much that can be done to promote a healthy, positive attitude toward alcohol. The following suggestions for keeping alcohol use moderate are especially important for parents of teenagers and young adults.

Make it clear that drunkenness is not acceptable, and certainly not attractive or chic. Too many people consider getting "bombed" or "plastered" to be appropriate at social gatherings; in fact, it's the goal of some events. Don't send children the message that getting drunk is tolerated in certain people (e.g., a famous writer or a family member whose drunkenness is found endearing). At the same time, be clear that "holding one's liquor" isn't a sign of prowess for either men or women; if anything, it reveals a dangerously high tolerance that comes from overuse.

Put alcohol in its proper place. Drinking should be enjoyed in moderation at social events and as an accompaniment to meals. It is an adjunct to living, not an end in itself. Parties and family gatherings should be planned around enjoyable activities, good food, and good conversation rather than the liquor. Good hosts and hostesses do not try to push alcohol on their guests; they always take no for an answer.


Serve a variety of beverages at social functions. Whether at home or at the worksite, nonalcoholic alternatives should be available for abstainers and safe drinkers alike. Drinkers can enjoy an alcoholic drink for sociability and for its mellowing effect, then switch to something nonalcoholic for the rest of the evening.

Set comfortable drinking patterns. Some experts suggest avoiding a habitual pattern of drinking. By varying the drink, the time, even the place, the drinker avoids making alcohol an ingrained habit that is intimately associated with a certain time of day or a certain way of drinking. For example, if drinkers find themselves trapped by the after-work ritual of cocktails, they can substitute some other activity for it on occasion. Instead of having a martini, they can try a hot bath or a cool shower, play music, talk to a friend on the phone, or move meal time up 1 hour earlier.

Recognize that it's all right to say no. You should never have to explain why you're not drinking at any particular time. The growing concern with fitness and with a natural, healthy life has made abstinence acceptable. Safe drinkers can test their own drinking habits by abstaining occasionally, asking themselves: Do I feel perfectly comfortable doing without alcohol?

Prohibit driving while drinking. Partygoers should make return transportation arrangements beforehand. One person can abstain in order to drive home. And friends can tell friends ahead of time, "If I ever have too much to drink, don't let me drive." Never allow an intoxicated friend to take the wheel out of fear of making a scene. Do so and you permit a possible suicide or murder. Not all drunk drivers are alcoholics, but they are all a menace to themselves and others.

Present a healthy role model to children. Alcohol abuse is often related to family drinking patterns. The children of alcohol abusers are at higher risk of becoming alcoholics themselves than are children of moderate drinkers or teetotalers. Because family patterns of drinking both good and bad affect children's behaviour, parents have ample opportunity to guide their children away from alcohol abuse through their own actions. Parents can talk to their children, without moral overtones, about the problems of alcohol and drug abuse. They can discourage drunkenness in themselves and their friends. They can refuse to drive when they've been drinking. They can present moderation and abstinence as part of a healthy and appealing lifestyle.

Avoid drinking alone. Tests designed to diagnose alcohol abuse often include the question: "Do you drink alone?" It's not that the presence of others magically protects against alcoholism, but drinking alone is a sign that alcohol figures too heavily in a person's life. Drinking alone abandons the social benefits of alcohol. Alcohol abusers often isolate themselves with their drinking. They are having a "love affair" with the bottle and prefer its company to human companionship. Also, solitary drinking makes it easier to over indulge by, for example, gulping drinks and sneaking extra ones.

Don't drink to avoid problems. It may seem tempting to escape family troubles, crises in love relationships, and problems at work with a drink. But no problems are ever solved by a bout with the bottle. "Escapist drinking" is symptomatic of alcoholism; people who find themselves using alcohol in this way should talk to a good friend, loved one, member of the clergy, or doctor they trust.
Effects of Alcohol Abuse
Since alcohol so easily permeates every cell and organ of the body, the physical effects of chronic alcohol abuse are wide-ranging and complex. Large doses of alcohol invade the body's fluids and interfere with metabolism in every cell. Alcohol damages the liver, the central nervous system, the gastrointestinal tract, and the heart. Alcoholics who do not quit drinking decrease life expectancy by 10 to 15 years.

Alcohol also can impair vision, impair sexual function, slow circulation, cause malnutrition, cause water retention (resulting in weight gain and bloating), lead to pancreatitis and skin disorders (such as middle-age acne), dilate blood vessels near the skin causing "brandy nose," weaken the bones and muscles, and decrease immunity.

The liver breaks down alcohol in the body and is therefore the chief site of alcohol damage. Liver damage may occur in three irreversible stages.

Fatty Liver. Liver cells are infiltrated with abnormal fatty tissue, enlarging the liver. Alcoholic Hepatitis. Liver cells swell, become inflamed, and die, causing blockage. (Causes between 10 and 30 percent mortality rate.)

Cirrhosis. Fibrous scar tissue forms in place of healthy cells, obstructing the flow of blood through the liver. Various functions of the liver deteriorate with often fatal results. (Found in 10 percent of alcoholics.)

A diseased liver: Cannot convert stored glycogen into glucose, thus lowering blood sugar and producing hypoglycemia. Inefficiently detoxifies the bloodstream and inadequately eliminates drugs, alcohol, and dead red blood cells. Cannot manufacture bile (for fat digestion), prothrombin (for blood clotting and bruise prevention), and albumin (for maintaining healthy cells).

Alcohol in the liver also alters the production of digestive enzymes, preventing the absorption of fats and proteins and decreasing the absorption of the vitamins A, D, E, and K. The decreased production of enzymes also causes diarrhea.
The Brain and Central Nervous System
Alcohol profoundly disturbs the structure and function of the central nervous system, disrupting the ability to retrieve and consolidate information. Even moderate alcohol consumption affects cognitive abilities, while larger amounts interfere with the oxygen supply to the brain, a possible cause of blackout or temporary amnesia during drunkenness. Alcohol abuse destroys brain cells, producing brain deterioration and atrophy, and whether the organic brain damage and neuropsychological impairment linked to alcohol can be reversed is unknown. Alcohol also alters the brain's production of RNA (a genetic "messenger"), and serotonin, endorphins, and natural opiates whose function may be linked to the addictive process.

A neurological disorder called Wernicke-Korsakoff's syndrome results from vitamin B deficiencies produced by alcoholism and the direct action of alcohol on the brain. Symptoms of this condition include amnesia, loss of short-term memory, disorientation, hallucinations, emotional disturbances, double vision, and loss of muscle control. Other effects include mental disorders such as increased aggression, antisocial behaviour, depression, and anxiety.
The Digestive System
Large amounts of alcohol may inflame the mouth, esophagus, and stomach, possibly causing cancer in these locations, especially in drinkers who smoke. Alcohol increases the stomach's digestive enzymes, which can irritate the stomach wall, producing heartburn, nausea, gastritis, and ulcers. The stomach of a chronic drinker loses the ability to adequately move food and expel it into the duodenum, leaving some food always in the stomach, causing sluggish digestion and vomiting. Alcohol may also inflame the small and large intestines.
The Heart
Moderate daily drinking may be good for the heart, but for many the risks outweigh the benefits. Even one binge may produce irregular heartbeats, and alcohol abusers experience increased risk of high blood pressure, heart attacks, heart arrhythmia, and heart disease. Alcohol may cause cardiomyopathy (a disease of the heart muscle). Cessation of drinking aids recovery from this condition.
Withdrawal Symptoms
Three to 6 days after a heavy drinker (drinking a fifth of liquor a day) completely stops drinking, alcohol is finally gone from the body, and acute and life-threatening effects may occur. Withdrawal phenomena include sleep disorders such as insomnia, visual and auditory hallucinations, disorientation, alcoholic convulsions, epileptic seizures of the grand mal type, and delirium tremens accompanied by acute anxiety and fear, agitation, fast pulse, fever, and extreme perspiration. Consequently, alcoholics who decide to quit drinking should do so under competent medical supervision.
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