Understanding Alcohol Abuse
To some people, enjoying alcohol in moderation is o.k. The problem is, everyone’s definition of “in moderation: is different. When people use alcohol as an escape route for social, personal or career pressures, alcoholism can result. Long term, the effects of alcohol can cause to liver damage and other debilitating conditions. Most people already now this. Even mild alcohol abuse can lead to full-blown alcoholism. This is commonly diagnosed as alcohol use disorder, according to the latest Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5). It’s defined as alcohol addiction, in which a person becomes physically and psychologically dependent on alcohol to the point that he or she cannot function without it. Alcohol abuse and addiction can also lead to destructive behavior such as driving under the influence of alcohol and domestic violence, among other adverse long term effects of alcohol abuse. According to the US Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, in 2013, more than 18.0 million people age 12 years or older in the US needed treatment for alcohol use (6.9% of Americans age 12 or older). These stats increase every year. [contact-form-7 id=”27″ title=”Contact form 1″]
Short-term Effects of Alcohol
Most adults will experience few detrimental effects from one or two servings of alcohol a day. What is a normal “serving?” A serving is generally considered to be a four-ounce glass of wine, a 12-ounce can of beer or a 1.5-ounce shot of a distilled spirit. While some studies suggest that small levels of consumption may decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease and dementia, dangers lurk as drinkers tend to build up a tolerance to the effects of alcohol on the brain and body. . Short-term effects of doses of alcohol that go above this level include a higher level of relaxation and reduced inhibitions. The effects will vary depending upon the person’s weight and whether they consume on an empty stomach. As dosages go up, drinkers will experience lowered awareness, lowered reflex and response time and poor coordination, all of which result from a slowdown in the activity of the brain. None of this is news to casual drinkers. Side Effects The most common side effects of drinking too much include hangovers, which includes headaches, nausea, and vomiting that occurs after a drinker is no longer actually intoxicated or experiencing a buzz from the alcohol. Weight gain and high blood pressure can result from repeated abuse of alcohol, and long-term overconsumption of alcohol can raise the risk for:
- Liver damage.
- Depression of the immune system.
- Reduced sexual performance.
Long Term Effects of Alcohol
As time goes on, the long term effects of alcohol become more serious. Long-term abuse of alcohol causes death of brain cells, which can lead to brain disorders as well as a lowered level of mental or physical function. Liver damage from alcohol can lead to cirrhosis, a severe medical condition that can require a liver transplant to treat. Alcohol abuse can cause pancreatitis, a very dangerous inflammation of the pancreas, and it can also cause nerve damage. Tolerance builds up over time. This is when the body becomes accustomed to higher and higher doses of alcohol after a long period of overconsumption. This makes it more likely that long-term drinkers to consume amounts of alcohol that are dangerous without experiencing the short-term effects that they might otherwise convince them to stop. Tolerance can lead to dependence, and invariably, addiction. During this progression, friends and family will notice that it’s harder for the person to function normally. Changes in mood or behavior become more obvious. Social interactions become abnormal at many levels. Work performance, school attendance and relationships begin to suffer.
The Damaging Effects of Alcohol on the Brain
Even with light use of alcohol, the effects of alcohol on the brain are obvious. Drinkers many experience difficulty in walking, blurred vision, slurred speech, slowed reaction times and impaired memory. These are clear signs that the abuse is affecting the brain. Some of the effects of alcohol on the brain are detectable after only one or two drinks and quickly resolve when drinking stops. For heavy drinkers, brain deficits might persist well after he or she achieves sobriety. Exactly how alcohol affects the brain and the possibility of reversing the impact of heavy drinking on the brain remain the focus of many studies on alcohol abuse research today. What we have seen so far is that the long term effects of alcohol abuse include extensive and far–reaching changes to the brain, ranging from short gaps in one’s memory to severe physiological damage and debilitating conditions that require lifetime custodial care. Surprisingly, extensive studies have found that even moderate drinking leads to short–term impairment. A number of factors influence how and to what extent alcohol affects the brain, including
- how much and how often a person drinks;
- the age at which he or she first began drinking, and how long he or she has been drinking;
- the person’s age, level of education, gender, genetic background, and family history of alcoholism;
- whether he or she is at risk as a result of prenatal alcohol exposure; and
- his or her general health status.
The study Alcohol Alert reviews some of the common disorders that are typically associated with alcohol–related brain damage. It also provides a glimpse of the people at greatest risk for impairment. The study looked at traditional as well as emerging therapies for the treatment and prevention of alcohol–related disorders. It also includes a brief look at the high–tech tools that are helping scientists to better understand the effects of alcohol on the brain. These long term effects of alcohol abuse can destroy a person’s health and their ability to care for themselves. [contact-form-7 id=”27″ title=”Contact form 1″]
One of the most unpleasant long term effects of alcohol abuse is dependence. Commonly known as alcoholism, this occurs when the body cannot function without alcohol. Alcohol affects important neurotransmitters within the brain. When the brain becomes accustomed to the way that alcohol affects these brain chemicals, it can no longer send proper signals to the rest of the body without the presence of alcohol. Once someone has developed a dependence on alcohol, he or she will continue to drink regardless of any serious physical symptoms caused by alcohol. Tragically, a person who has developed alcohol dependence will continue to drink even if he or she suffers social or personal setbacks such as the loss of a job or career, breakup of personal relationships, or arrests for behavior related to alcohol consumption. Any one of these is a sure sign that a person can no longer control their alcohol usage and is in urgent need of professional help.
Alcohol dependence is a physical disorder that requires medical treatment, as attempts to withdraw alcohol from a dependent patient will lead to unpleasant and even potentially dangerous withdrawal symptoms. Medical treatment for alcohol dependence is known as detoxification, or detox, and it is followed by inpatient or outpatient rehabilitation treatment and therapy that helps patients avoid future alcohol abuse. In a residential rehab center, intensive counseling and therapy that helps patients find positive ways of dealing with the stress and pressures that led them to abuse alcohol begins as soon as the acute detoxification process is over. Residential treatment programs lasting from 30 days including detox to 90 days and beyond are available at rehab centers that are located in pleasant surroundings where patients can focus solely on recovery. Once the inpatient phase of treatment is complete, counselors at these centers encourage patients to continue treatment with outpatient addiction professionals. Self-help support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous provide support both to those in sober living treatment and post-recovery.