Effects of Alcoholism
Alcoholism affects approximately four times as many men as women, but the incidence of alcoholism among women is on the rise, as is the use of alcohol by children, adolescents, and college students. Women are physiologically more sensitive to alcohol than men are. Because of their bodies lower water content and higher fat content, alcohol becomes more concentrated in the bloodstream and is also retained in their bodies longer. Also, men produce more alcohol dehydrogenase, the enzyme in the stomach that breaks down alcohol before it reaches the bloodstream, than women do. Even after you adjust for body weight, women are still affected more than men by the same amount of alcohol. This may be why alcohol abuse seems to have more serious long-term consequences for women.
They are subject to all the same ill effects, but at lower rates of consumption. For example, women develop liver disease at lower levels of alcohol intake than men do, and they are also at increased risk for osteoporosis due to alcohol's adverse effects on bone metabolism. The overall rate of premature death related to alcohol abuse is 50 to 100 percent higher for women than for men.
Alcoholic women are more likely than alcoholic men to suffer from other psychiatric disorders, including depression, anxiety, and eating disorders. Often, these disorders existed prior to the onset of alcoholism, which means that these problems do not go away once the drinking stops; usually, independent treatment is required. Early treatment for these disorders, however, may help prevent alcohol abuse from occurring. Get more information on Oklahoma alcoholism treatment.
Alcohol affects everyone differently. Some become intoxicated with the first drink; others may be able to consume four or five drinks before showing any effects, often because they have built up a tolerance to the drug. In alcoholics, each drink triggers a craving for another. Alcoholism is a progressive disease that usually starts with acceptable social drinking. This leads to a drink for every mood: one to calm down, one to perk up, one to celebrate, one to "drown one's sorrows," and so on. The alcoholic soon needs no excuse to drink. In time, the alcoholic is completely controlled by his or her dependence on alcohol. Overindulgence often leads to depression, anxiety, memory loss, and lack of coordination, and can exaggerate antisocial behaviors such as aggression and/ or other personality disorders. Intoxication also causes blood pressure and heart rates to be higher at first and then to decrease with prolonged consumption. Irregular, inefficient beating of the heart can lead to stroke. Respiration rates are lowered, are lowered and reflexes and reaction times slowed.
Alcoholics often become ashamed and angry at their compulsive behavior, and harbor deep feelings of inadequacy inside. This usually only leads to further alcohol abuse, however, as they use alcohol to numb the pain. This may also begin taking out their frustrations on those closest to them.
The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence and the American Society of Addiction Medicine define alcoholism as "a primary, chronic disease with genetic, psychosocial, and environmental factors influencing its development and manifestations." It is a complex disorder that is unique to each individual; no two cases are alike. Some people drink moderate to heavy amounts of alcohol for years before becoming clinically dependent on it, while others may become addicted to alcohol the very first time they ever take a drink. Medical science cannot yet explain why one person doesn't drink or drinks rarely, while others drink to excess. It is known, however, that alcohol itself is not the only cause of alcoholism. There is considerable debate as to whether alcoholism is genetic, environmental, or psychological. A family history of alcoholism is common among both men and women with the disorder, and research has shown that heredity is involved in almost 50 percent of the risk of con tracing the disorder. While there is considerable evidence to support all sides, the truth probably lies somewhere in between; alcoholism is probably the result of a combination of many factors.
As far as the body is concerned, alcohol is a poison. Some of the effects of chronic alcohol consumption include damage to the brain, liver, pancreas, duodenum, and central nervous system. Alcohol not only reduces the amount of oxygen going to the brain, but it also directly harms brain cells, which can result in amnesia, disorientation, hallucinations, emotional disturbances, and-in cases of extreme abuse seizures and neurological disorders. Alcoholism causes metabolic damage to every cell in the body and depresses the immune system. It may take years before the consequences of excessive drinking become evident, but if an alcoholic continues to drink, his or her life span may be shortened by ten to fifteen years or more.
The liver processes 95 percent of alcohol ingested, at a rate of about 1/4 to 1/2 ounce per hour. The repeated consumption of alcohol inhibits the liver's production of digestive enzymes, impairing the body's ability to absorb proteins, fats, and the fat-soluble vitamins (vitamins A, D, E, and K), as well as B-complex vitamins (especially thiamine and folic acid) and other water-soluble vitamins. It inhibits protein uptake, leading to amino acid deficiencies, and reduces the body's storage of zinc. Furthermore, many essential nutrients are not retained for use by the body; they are rapidly eliminated through the urine. The toxic effect of alcohol on the liver is very serious. First, excessive amounts of fat accumulate in the liver, a result of alcohol's effect on the body's ability to digest fats properly. Next, the alcoholic may develop hepatitis, a condition in which liver cells become inflamed and may die. The final, usually fatal, stage of alcoholic liver damage is cirrhosis of the liver, a disease characterized by inflammation, hardening, and scarring of the liver. This prevents the normal passage of blood through the liver, inhibiting the organ's ability to filter out toxins and foreign substances. An estimated one in five chronic drinkers is affected by cirrhosis of the liver.
The liver is one of the most robust organs of the body. It is the only organ that has the ability to regenerate itself after certain types of damage. Up to 25 percent of the liver can be removed, and within a short period of time, it will grow back to its original shape and size. It continually takes abuse, but if cared for properly, it will function more than adequately for decades. Alcohol is one of the toxins that the liver doesn't handle as well as others. The liver cannot regenerate after being severely damaged by alcohol.
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