Last Updated February 21st, 2019
Overview of alcohol abuse
Addictions in more than one way are devouring the world. The primary targets of addictions in different forms are the youth, and so are the primary victims. The reason behind this is very obvious. Among all kinds of addictions, alcoholism is the greatest menace to the society. It’s destructive effects impact not only the alcoholics but also the society they dwell in. Statistics show that in the year 2012, 5.9 % of deaths all over the world were caused by alcohol.
What is alcohol abuse?
Alcoholism refers to the aggressive inclination towards alcohol consumption and a gradually growing an extreme dependency on it.
Due to this dependency, alcoholism is always associated with mental and physical disorders and compulsive behavior.
Limited alcohol consumption, even on a regular basis does not count as alcoholism.
It is only when the threshold is exceeded that a person falls into the alcoholic category.
Under what circumstances can alcohol abuse become a habit?
There are various social, economic and environmental factors that determine the risk of becoming an alcoholic. The social influence plays a major role here. Half of the alcoholics start drinking when they continuously watch people around them drinking and enjoying its effects. So alcohol consumption begins primarily as a venture and enjoyment. With time, it depends solely on the individual how he can manage the balance between low-risk drinking and high-risk drinking. In most cases, this balance is not maintained and the person tends to become an alcoholic.
A person’s mental conditions partly contribute towards alcoholism. Usually, when a person is depressed or has recently been subjected to traumatic circumstances, he hunts for means to come out of the grave mental state, and during under such pressing circumstances, alcohol seems to be the quickest and effective means of respite. Finally, brain structure and wiring also determine the possibility of a person becoming an alcohol addict. A particular portion of the brain called lateral habenula is involved in making decisions and analyzing right and wrong. The improper functioning of this section increases the risks of susceptibility.
What are the primary symptoms of alcohol abuse?
During the first few benign stages, people are not aware of harboring any ill-addiction. The symptoms manifest themselves gradually, especially when things become uncontrollable. Here are few of the alarming symptoms:
- Alcohol craving, which causes a dire need to consume alcohol at any time of the day
- Nausea, constant quivering, perspiration, and anxiety when forced to stop alcohol consumption. Combined together, these are called “withdrawal symptoms”
- Physical and mental dependence on alcohol
- Lack of tolerance towards people around and their activities
- Lack of control over one’s activities
- Frequent hangover and laziness
- Frequent blackouts
- Irritation about trivial things
- Losing interest in normal activities of life
What are the long-term effects of alcohol abuse?
Alcoholism when allowed to persist for a long span, leads to some permanent damages within the body and mind. Following are few critical and long-term consequences of alcoholism:
- General effects: Constant tremor occurs which is associated with hyperventilation and anxiety, leading to disturbed sleep cycle. Damage caused to liver results in disturbed bile secretion which might end up in jaundice. Abnormal swelling of parotid gland occurs leading to secretion of sticky saliva. Seborrheic Dermatitis occurs causing dry, reddish and itchy skin.
- Gastrointestinal disorders: Nausea and frequent vomiting occurs, accompanied by stomach ailments and abdominal pain, which might be an indicator of gastritis. Dyspepsia occurs in many cases due to improper digestion and metabolism. Diarrhea and acute pancreatitis might follow soon. But the major damage is caused due to Liver Cirrhosis.
- CardioVascular ailments: Nearly 3% of the alcoholics are diagnosed with Cardiomyopathy that might finally lead to congestive heart failure. Palpitations occur in few patients due to arrhythmic heartbeats. Dilation of blood vessels occurs that causes disruption of temperature control within the body.
- Respiratory diseases: Repetitive chest congestion and bronchitis is observed due to dried-up lung tissues and bronchi. Alcohol also causes severe damage to lung alveoli that in turn causes Chronic Obstructive Airway Disease.
- Central Nervous System: Seizures and blackouts occur more often that leads to impaired memory at some later point. Peripheral Neuropathy results due to hampered Vitamin B absorption. This further leads to Ataxia or “Loss of balance”.
- Muscular System: Muscular Atrophy is a common occurrence among alcoholics that causes acute muscle pain in upper arm and pelvic region.
- Renal Failure: Acute inflammation of kidneys leads to Nephritis which results in blood in urine.
Is alcohol a gateway drug?
Detailed research has revealed that alcohol not only causes irreversible damage to the body due to its own effects but also pushes the victim towards more harmful and toxic drugs like cocaine and heroin. It is, therefore, necessary to focus on the victim’s present pathological conditions as well as his possible future addictions when he is deprived of alcohol.
Role of Heredity
Recent research findings reveal that children of alcoholic parents are four times likely to drink than children with non-alcoholic parents. There is a particular gene variant present in Asian people that impact their “alcohol metabolism” causing them to experience nausea and palpitation while drinking. These genes govern the functioning of the lateral habenula which determines the extent of alcoholic inclination of an individual.
Treatment and prevention
There are several recovery and intervention programs that are designed to help individuals overcome alcohol addiction. The amount of time one needs to devote to the recovery center depends upon the severity of the addiction disorder.
A proper medical Detox, prescribed by medical professionals should be taken by instead of taking an informal approach.
Not seeking proper help can result in relapse and even fatal withdrawal symptoms.
Rehabilitation programs are also proven to be effective in case of severe alcohol abuse problems and/or in cases of frequent relapses.
The following preventive measures can help an individual steer clear of alcohol addiction:
- Learn to cope with peer pressure instead of falling into its trap. One must learn how to say no to such addictive habits, regardless of how pressured he/she feels to conform to social norms.
- Be well- informed and aware regarding the adverse effects of alcohol on human mind and body. Have more control over your lifestyle and dietary habits.
- Maintain a safe, nurturing, and abuse-free environment at home/school/work. If someone is showing signs of any mental condition, seek immediate medical help before the person indulges in addictive habits.
- Establish healthy communication channels with the youngsters and make sure that they are able to communicate about addictive patterns openly.
- The human brain physically adapts to alcohol consumption. It treats alcohol as a new environment and changes brain connections to perform effectively in the presence of alcohol. But the brain cannot un-adapt from this which results in addiction.
- Women absorb alcohol more and their bodies process it slower as compared to men. Thus there is a greater risk of bodily damage in women.
- In the USA, almost 17 million adults have an alcohol abuse disorder. This is roughly 7% of the entire population.
- Similarly, in the USA, around 7 million children live in households where at least one parent is a heavy drinker.
- Heavy alcohol consumption is the 3rd most preventable cause of death in the USA. It kills almost 88,000 individuals annually.
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Dos and Don'ts
- Seek medical help if one has been diagnosed with an alcohol abuse disorder. It is important to openly address this issue with the doctor and with the friends and family members of the affected individual.
- Rehabilitation and addiction recovery centres are great for chronic alcohol abusers. Seek their services for a long-term treatment.
- Encourage healthy physical and mental habits of the patient and celebrate small milestones achieved during the process of quitting.
- Encourage the idea of quitting alcohol suddenly. This will lead to unmanageable withdrawal symptoms and will eventually lead to a relapse.
- Indulge in shaming the affected person or involve in emotional/aggressive dialogues with him/her regarding the alcohol problem. Discuss matters calmly and with the help of professionals.
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