The Effects of Alcohol by Rahul Nag
The complete resource to show you the physical, psychological and social effects of excess drinking
Please note that the information contained in this report is for information and educational purposes only. None of this information constitutes medical advice or replaces medical advice from your own practitioner. You are strongly recommended to consult your medical practitioner if you have any alcohol dependence issues whatsoever. Also, if you have significant alcoholism issues, you are highly recommended to consult alcohol support groups depending upon how serious your condition is. The authors, publisher and interviewed experts can be held in no liability for your use or mis-use of this information and you hereby agree to take responsibility for your use of this material. If you do not agree with these terms, please return the report to [email protected]
Your reading and keeping of this copy hereby affirms you understand and agree with this disclaimer
© Rahul Nag, 2008. All Rights Reserved. No part of this publication may be used without the express permission of the copyright holder
Table of Contents
Introduction Chapter 1: What is Alcohol? Exactly what happens to you when you drink - where does the alcohol go? Chapter 2: What Impact Does Alcohol Have on You? The effect of each drink on your behaviour and your body Chapter 3: Effects on the Liver The liver has to deal with 90% of the alcohol you drink so here are the issues Chapter 4: Effects on other parts of the body Learn what alcohol drinking does to your kidneys, skin and your brain Chapter 5: Psychological Impacts of Drinking How alcohol can worsen depression and lead to mental health problems Chapter 6: The Long-Term Effects of Drinking What are some of the long-term damages you are doing to your health Chapter 7: Dealing with Your Drinking How you can either moderate your drinking or give it up
1. Getting to know about Alcohol Alcohol is a socially acceptable drug and something which you may have been consuming for years without really knowing what it is and what impact it has on your body apart from the hangovers from drinking to excess. Well, this report will detail just exactly what alcohol is and what it does to you from the first sip. How does the body deal with it and more importantly what are the impacts on the body, mind and the brain. Also, what are the short term and long term impacts of drinking alcohol. 2. Safe Drinking Limits Before we start let me say something about excess drinking. Standard units of drinking are what you need to work out. Very roughly, 1 Glass of Wine = 1 Cocktail = 1 Shot = ½ Half Pint of Beer = 1 Unit of Alcohol For Men, more than 21 Units a week constitutes a potential risk. For Women, that level is 14 Units. According to the National Health Service in the UK, you are recommended not to drink regularly more than 3-4 units of alcohol per day for men, 2-3 units per day for women. Different authorities have different figures, with the United States Center for Disease Control classifying heavy drinking as more than one drink per day for a woman and 2 per day for a man, with binge drinking classified as 4 drinks or more on one occasion for a woman and 5 or more drinks on one occasion for a man. However, we will stick with the 21 Units per week for a man and 14 Units per week for a woman. If you are around this level or above it, please read carefully about the long-term damage you may be doing to your body and brain
What is Alcohol?
1. What is Alcohol? Alcohol is a drink containing ethyl alcohol, or ethanol. Ethanol is a by-product of the fermentation process (when yeast and sugar are mixed together and react). Ethanol dissolves easily in water, so it can be rapidly absorbed from the digestive tract and circulate throughout the body in the blood. Ethanol acts as a depressant on the body. This means that it slows down the brain's activities and the activity of the spinal cord. Many people assume alcohol is actually a stimulant because of the feeling it gives you but this is actually just the short term feeling. Ethanol does contain calories but does not have any minerals, vitamins, carbohydrates, fats or protein associated with it. The body actually assesses ethanol to be a poison, and therefore has many mechanisms to try to deal with it and render it harmless 2. What happens to you when you drink alcohol? When you take a drink of alcohol, the alcohol is absorbed by the stomach, enters the bloodstream, and goes to all the tissues. The effects of alcohol depend on a variety of factors, including your size, weight, age, and sex, as well as the amount of food and alcohol you have already had before drinking this particular drink. Let’s begin with how alcohol is absorbed in the body. The first effect of drinking is felt of course in the mouth. Some alcohols can cause a ‘burning’ taste on the back of your throat. This burn is caused by the pain receptors in your taste buds. Essentially, the body is warning you against consuming alcohol because it sees it as a toxic substance. Next, the stomach wall absorbs 20% of the alcohol as it enters the blood stream. Depending on the time of day and when you last ate, the alcohol may be readily absorbed or slowly absorbed. If your stomach is empty, the alcohol is quickly absorbed. Essentially only a few minutes after you have started drinking, there will be alcohol all across your body. The remaining 80% of the alcohol is absorbed in the small intestine.
We all have an enzyme in our stomaches designed to process ethanol into a safer substance. The enzyme in use is called alcohol dehydrogenase. Alcohol dehydrogenase in men is 70-80% more effective than the same enzyme in women. There are also age differences - young women and men over 50 years of age have the most difficulty coping with alcohol. But note that heavy drinkers and people with alcohol problems have severely reduced levels of this important enzyme. The longer the stomach has to work on the ethanol, the less harm it can do to your body. When a meal is eaten the exit valve of the stomach closes in order to digest the food. When food and alcohol are consumed at the same time this prevents the alcohol from passing quickly into the small intestine from where it would be rapidly absorbed giving the enzyme more time to work. The bigger you are the more blood you have in your bloodstream. Added to this, the average adult male is made up of 66% fluid, compared to 55% for women. So if a man and woman of the same weight drink the same amount in one occasion, the woman will end up with a blood-alcohol level a third higher than the man's. It will take a third longer for the woman's body to eliminate the alcohol from the blood. The alcohol that passes through the stomach is absorbed by the small intestine. The small intestine allows 80% of the alcohol to be absorbed more quickly than from the stomach. Once in the blood stream, the alcohol spreads throughout the body. Finally, alcohol enters the nerve cells and begins to have an effect on the brain. Alcohol circulates in the bloodstream until it is processed by to the liver. The body cannot store alcohol so has to deal with it. Problems occur when there is too much alcohol in the system and the liver is being overworked. 3. The Role of the Liver Alcohol is then metabolized (or oxidised) by the liver, which means simply that enzymes break down the alcohol. In general, the liver can process one ounce of liquor (or one standard drink) in one hour. If you consume more than this, your system becomes saturated, and the additional alcohol will accumulate in the blood and body tissues until it can be metabolized. This is why pounding shots or playing drinking games can result in high blood alcohol concentrations that last for several hours. The liver works hard to remove the toxins contained in alcohol and is the organ most affected by alcohol. As the liver works it produces a poison called acetaldehyde. Acetaldehyde is actually related to formaldehyde, the chemical
used to embalm dead bodies. It is this chemical which makes you feel sick after drinking heavily. Eventually the poison is broken down into carbon dioxide and water but this is a long process. By the time this occurs, the poison has circulated through the body more than one hundred times. One reason why the liver has to work so hard in removing alcohol is that the vast majority of the alcohol in your body is taken to the liver for disposal. 90% of the alcohol you take in is eliminated by the liver with only 10% being execreted through urine and the breath. Oxidation involves a process by which the cells combine the nutrients of the food that has been consumed with oxygen. Heat and energy are released causing the oxidation of alcohol by the body cells. The calories from alcohol cannot be stored in the body for future use. These calories are used immediately by the body. While the alcohol is being burned off, the fats and carbohydrates of the body are being stored.
What does alcohol do to you?
1. What does alcohol do to you? Here is an overview of what the overall effects of drinking alcohol are. Remember 1 Unit of Alcohol = 1 Glass of Wine = 1 Cocktail = 1 Shot = 1/2 Pint of Beer
Number of Units 1 to 3 Units 4 to 6 Units 7 to 9 Units 10 to 15 Units 20 Units Plus 30 Units Plus • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • Effects on the Body Flushing of Skin Heart Speeds Up Talkative Judgement is affected Giddiness Co-ordination impaired Vision blurred Speech fuzzy Reaction time slower Staggering Loss of balance Double Vision Skin is clammy Pupils are dilated Unconsciousness Death
2. Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) The key factor which decides how drunk you are getting is called the Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) or simply how much alcohol there is in your bloodstream at any one time. They are measured by mass per volume. So, a BAC of 0.01% means 0.01 grams of alcohol per 100 grams of an individual's blood, or 0.1 grams of alcohol per 1000 grams of blood. A rough rule of thumb is that if you consume two standard drinks (which contain 20g of alcohol) when you are sober, your BAC will increase by roughly 0.05%. Two standard drinks are roughly equivalent to two 500ml glasses of beer at 5% alcohol by volume (a pint of beer is 568ml). This chart taken from Wikipedia shows the level of Blood Alcohol Content and what impact it has on you and your behaviour. Please remember all of the factors such as your age, weight, sex, tolerance to alcohol etc will determine how your BAC varies not just the number of drinks you consume. Progressive Effects of Alcohol BAC (%) Behavior Impairment 0.01–0.029
Avg. individual appears
Subtle effects that can be
• • • • • •
detected with special tests
Mild euphoria Sense of well-being Relaxation Talkativeness Joyous Decreased inhibition
• • • •
Lowered alertness Judgment Coordination Concentration
• • • •
Blunted Feelings Disinhibition Extroversion Impaired Sexual Pleasure
• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
Reflexes Impaired Reasoning Depth Perception Distance Acuity Peripheral Vision Glare Recovery Reaction Time Gross Motor Control Staggering Slurred Speech Severe Motor Impairment Loss of Consciousness Memory Blackout Bladder Function Breathing Heart Rate Breathing Heart Rate
• • • • • • • • • • • •
Over-Expression Emotional Swings Angry or Sad Boisterous Stupor Lose Understanding Impaired Sensations Severe Depression Unconsciousness Death Possible Unconsciousness Death
Effects on the Liver
1. Damage to the Body The main damage from excessive alcohol drinking comes on the organs which have to deal with the detoxification and elimination of the alcohol. This falls almost predominantly as we have already seen to the liver. Whilst the liver is working to eliminate the alcohol (and one drink can take 60 to 90 minutes to eliminate) meanwhile the rest of the alcohol consumed is flowing around the bloodstream. This means it will affect the rest of the body including the skin, the kidney and of course the brain. 2. The Liver What does the liver do? The liver processes most things a person consumes, including alcohol. The liver is the only organ involved in processing alcohol, and only a certain quantity of alcohol can be detoxified over a period of time. Meanwhile, excess alcohol affects the brain, heart, muscles, and other tissues of the body. How does alcohol affect the liver? If too much alcohol is consumed, normal liver function may be interrupted, leading to a chemical imbalance. Liver cells may be destroyed or altered, resulting in fatty deposits (fatty liver), inflammation (alcoholic hepatitis), and/or permanent scarring (cirrhosis). Mixing alcohol and medications may also damage the liver. What are the symptoms of alcohol-related liver damage? Symptoms of liver damage include fatigue, appetite loss, and lower resistance to infection, jaundice, abdominal swelling, intestinal bleeding, brain dysfunction, and kidney failure. Alcohol in the Liver If you drink faster than your liver can process alcohol you will start to feel drunk. As we already know, the Liver is the main organ that gets rid of alcohol by breaking it down. It metabolizes about 90% of the alcohol in our body while only about 10% is excreted through either our urine or breath. The liver needs water to get rid of toxins from the body but, as alcohol acts as a diuretic, there will not be sufficient amounts in the body, so the liver is forced to divert water from other organs including the brain.
The liver also produces more toxins in the body as a by-product of breaking down alcohol. When the liver is metabolizing alcohol it produces acetaldehyde, a substance which has toxic effects on our liver, brain and stomach lining, resulting in headache, nausea, vomiting and heartburn.. As discussed in Chapter 1, the ADH enzyme (alcohol dehydragenase) in the liver breaks down the alcohol into acetaldehyde, which is even worse than alcohol, more poisonous. However this acetaldehyde quickly changes to acetic acid - or vinegar. The vinegar burns up to water and carbon dioxide and hence the energy for day to day living. The other main problems from excess drinking on the liver are:
• • •
Cirrhosis of the Liver Alcoholic hepatitis Fatty Liver
3. Cirrhosis of the Liver Cirrhosis of the Liver tends to develop after a decade of heavy drinking. Exactly how much alcohol equates to heavy drinking differs from person to person. In women, as few as two to three drinks per day have been linked with cirrhosis and in men, as few as three to four drinks per day. Alcohol appears to injure the liver by blocking the normal metabolism of protein, fats, and carbohydrates by its requirement to focus on breaking down the alcohol. In cirrhosis, liver cells are killed and injured, and the resulting inflammation and repair that is associated with the dying liver cells causes scar tissue to form. The liver cells that do not die multiply in an attempt to replace the cells that have died. This results in clusters of newly-formed liver cells (regenerative nodules) within the scar tissue. The scar tissue blocks the flow of blood through the organ. The liver's function includes storing glycogen (comes from sugars) which it breaks down into glucose. This is then released into the bloodstream which produces energy. It processes fat and proteins from digested food and several other critical elements in removing toxins from the body and helping to digest fats. Cirrhosis starts to impair these functions of the liver. As the situation worsens, the liver will start to deteriorate and it may start to fail to deal with infections and blod clots and stop bile from passing into the small intestine. The Symptoms of Cirrhosis
In the early stages of cirrhosis you may not notice any symptoms at all. It is only when the scar tissue in the liver has built up that the symptoms start to appear. The classic symptoms of cirrhosis are:
• • • • • •
Tiredness and weakness in the body Loss of appetite, feeling sick Tendency to bruise and bleed easily Jaundice - yellow skin colour which is caused by bilirubin, a substance created when red blood cells are broken down Itchiness because of the toxins starting to build up Changes in personality because of the toxins in the bloodstream affecting your brain. Things such as forgetfulness, confusion and difficulty in concentrating
As the cirrhosis gets worse, the scar tissue will further restrict the flow of blood through the liver. This will cause high blood pressure or hypertension because of the pressure in the vein that transports blood from the gut. This can even cause the veins in the lining of the gullet (oesophagus) and stomach to swell. These swellings are called varices and they often bleed into the gut and you will then either vomit blood or pass blood in your stool Treatment for Cirrhosis Cirrhosis cannot be treated but can be slowed down. However this will depend upon the severity of the condition but almost certainly at that stage, no more alcohol can be drunk.There are various drugs and other options which are used to try and slow down the process. This can even result in changes in diet such as a low sodium diet or low salt diet and water tablets so as to reduce the amount of fluid in the body. Then there are various solutions for the treatment of the symptoms such as drugs to deal with the hypertension and so on. 4. Alcoholic Hepatitis Hepatitis is inflammation of the liver. This inflammation can vary from mild to severe.
Mild hepatitis may actually not have any effects on the body. The only indication of inflammation may be an abnormal level of liver enzymes in the blood which can be detected by a blood test. When the hepatitis becomes more serious, symptoms can include feeling sick, jaundice and some feelings of pain over the liver The worst situation is when severe bouts of alcoholic hepatitis lead to liver failure. This can then cause deep jaundice, blood clotting problems, confusion, coma, bleeding into the guts, and is often fatal.
When the hepatitis becomes persistent, what is called chronic hepatits, the liver will become damaged and eventually can cause cirrhosis as explained above. 5. Fatty Liver When you drink too much on a consistent basis, fat can build up within the liver. It is not generally seen to be serious and can be reversed once you reduce or give up alcohol. However it is also seen to be the first step towards cirrhosis of the liver so is an important warning sign. Fatty liver can be detected through some of the blood tests which indirectly measure liver disease. The National Health Service in the UK estimates that 20 to 30% of people with fatty liver who continue to drink heavily will develop alcoholic hepatitis or inflammation of the liver. Of the people with alcoholic hepatitis, the NHS goes on to say, approximately 10% of people will then develop full cirrhosis. 6. Overview of Liver Problems The key issue with liver problems is that there are generally very few early symptoms of this disease. This is because there are few nerve fibres in the liver and what pain you might feel will be over the right hand side of the stomach. Other symptoms to consider are fatigue, loss of appetite, sickness and diarrhoea, especially in the mornings.
Effects on other parts of the body
1. Overview The liver is unfortunately not the only part of the body which suffers damage from drinking alcohol. There are other elements which will be explored here. In particular the kidneys, the skin, the heart and the brain. 2. Kidneys The kidney's role is to eliminate excess water and salts in the body as well to filter and remove wastes in the bloodstream. The kidney is controlled by the brain. Anti-Diuretic Hormone (ADH) is the hormone which is used to control exactly how much water is excreted. Each kidney contains about 1 million nephron units. These are a collection of thinly walled capillaries (smallest of the blood vessels) where waste can filter through the cell walls and can then be removed as urine. The constriction of these capillaries affects the filtering ability of the kidneys. When the body needs to conserve water, which is needed as alcohol is a diuretic and dehydrates the body - the pituitary gland (located in the brain) excretes a hormone called vasopressin (also known as anti-diuretic hormone or ADH). ADH causes the nephron filters to become permeable (yielding passage), retaining more water in the blood stream and allowing less water to be excreted in the urine. Along with the filtration of excess water, the kidneys also regulate the concentrations of the ions sodium, potassium, magnesium, chloride, and phosphate. These ions have to be in balance in the blood stream to maintain healthy metabolic processes. Alcohol can have major impacts on the kidneys. The main ways are from causing cell damage and enlarging the kidneys to impacting the various hormones that control kidney function. Alcohol causes an ionic imbalance in the body that can affect many metabolic processes.
The Impact of Alcohol on the Kidneys
Alcohol impacts the balance of the ions and water inthe body by altering the filtering ability of the kidney. Kidney problems can also be exacerbated if the person also has liver damage as detailed in the previous chapter.
Alcohol affects the amount of ADH available which makes the nephrons in the kidney less permeable to water and so more water travels through the ureters to the bladder. This is why you may need to urinate only 20 minutes after drinking. With more water than usual leaving the body ,all of the concentrations of ions in the body negatively impact many of the essential metabolic processes. The kind of alcohol consumed can either increase or decrease the concentrations of certain ions in the blood stream. Beer is low in dissolved nutrients. When a person drinks beer, large amounts of water enter the body; that lowers the concentration of metabolic nutrients and because of the effect of ADH impairment, an equal amount of water does not leave the body in the urine. Fluid overload in the blood stream decreases the body’s ionic concentrations and can be very dangerous, especially for advanced alcoholics who also have liver disease.
The Effects of Decreased Ionic Concentrations
When a person drinks hard alcohol (such as whiskey or vodka), the ionic concentrations can increase in the blood stream. The suppression of ADH causes more liquid to leave the body as water, and ionic concentrations left in the blood can rapidly increase as more ions (mostly sodium) are ingested with the alcohol. Alcohol can also impact the muscle cells of the body, causing them to release ions (i.e. phosphate). The effects of more ions in the blood stream impacts the water held in the cells of the body through osmosis. Osmosis pulls the water that resides in the cells into the blood stream to counteract the ionic imbalance. This drying effect can negatively impact the normal function of cells and organs. Effects of Decreased Ionic Concentrations
Potassium - Increased thirst. - Hormonal imbalance promoting fluid intake.
Phosphate - Decreased blood acidity resulting in a breakdown of glucose and increased metabolic activity. - Resulting low blood sugar.
Magnesium - Possible enzyme impairment
- Impaired mental activity.
- Seizure in
Source: Montana State University
The Effects of Increased Ionic Concentrations
One alcohol drink can affect the normal function of a person’s kidneys. While only severe alcoholics suffer from some of the complications, keep in mind that these ionic imbalances occur each time you have a drink. Effects of Increased Ionic Concentrations
- Creates a buffer
Magnesium - Possible enzyme impairment.
- Osmotic flow of water out of body cells to Effects areas of high sodium.
- Osmotic flow of water out of body cells to areas of high potassium.
imbalance in the blood. - Increase in blood pH.
Source: Montana State University 3. Skin Because alcohol dehydrates your body and skin, this causes redness of the skin and makes it appear blotchy. This can lead to permanent enlargement od the peripheral vessels of the skin.
This is particularly more marked with women. Women's skin is thinner than men's so the effects of drinking on their complexions is more marked. Alcohol dilates blood capillaries , which can cause the face to flush while drinking. The skin also becomes greasy and blemished. Alcohol dries the scalp, too, which leads to severe dandruff and hair loss. The face can become puffy and bloated because alcohol acts as a diuretic, forcing water to leave the body in the form of urine. This stresses the kidneys, as noted above, causing imbalances in the body’s salts, which in turn upset the balance of fluid in the cells, particularly in the face. Excessive drinking will lead to the development of telangiectasias or chronic dilation of the capillaries and a permanent flush on the face. Alcohol also worsens acne rosacea, a skin disorders that is characterized by redness, flushing, pusheads and pimply bumps and telangiectasias. Alcohol also depletes the body of vitamin A, an important anti-oxidant. The general malnutrition in the body from excess drinking combined with the junk foods often consumed after nights out will further lead to damages in the skin
4. The Brain
While alcohol is waiting to be processed by the liver it travels in the blood through the heart to all the other organs of the body, including the brain. Alcohol is traditionally called a depressant drug because although it can make people feel buoyed up and it does so by closing down different circuits in the brain. It is both a stimulant and a depressant. At low levels alcohol increases the electrical activity in the brain affecting pleasure and euphoria, (working in a similar way to cocaine and amphetamines). In this respect it acts like an accelerator. It also works on the circuits targeted by drugs like Valium - calming, easing anxiety, and acting more like a brake pedal. Alcohol also acts on the serotonin system, which (like Prozac) increases selfconfidence and reduces depression. Unfortunately this is usually short lived. Drinking more than a couple of drinks can ruin any short-term emotional gains. In large amounts, alcohol interferes with some of the chemical messages in your brain. It can make you clumsy, affect your coordination and slur your speech. It dramatically reduces your ability to learn and form memories, which is why people experience "blackouts." Regular
drinking sessions can make it very difficult to learn new skills or retain new knowledge.
5. Other potential illnesses from alcohol There are many other ways in which the body is affected by alcohol. They include:
• • • • •
Inflammation of the pancreas Cancer of the throat and mouth Trembling hands and fingers Frequent colds and reduced resistance to infection Impairment of sexual performance
Psychological Impacts of Drinking
1. Overview Many people believe alcohol is a stimulant and is a 'social lubricant'. A good way of relaxing and getting yourself out of shyness and able to communicate and meet others. However, as we have already seen, alcohol is both a poison and a drug. In this section we will learn how alcohol affects you emotionally and can cause you to become dependent and reliant on its effects. Also unless you deal with the underlying causes e.g. low self-esteem, a stressful job you will have an extra problem to deal with, i.e. the effects of alcohol rather than just the issue at hand. And it can also exacerbate the emotional feeling and magnify it. So, if you are in a good emotional state and then drink you are more likely to be able to moderate your drinking. If you are using alcohol to change your emotional state then excess is a likely possibility as well as frequently drinking in order to get back to the change in emotional state. 2. Emotional Effects The most recognised form of emotional effect of drinking alcohol is the reduction of inhibitions you feel upon drinking. This is because of its role as a depressant. This means that it starts to change how you behave and it is the behaviours which this causes which can be the problem for you. Drunk people can put both themselves and others in danger through aggressive or inappropriate behaviour. The lack of awareness can put drunk people in danger of physical and sexual violence. Excessive drinking also affects chemical balances within the brain. Such as the production of serotonin, which regulates moods. So depressive feelings, insomnia and a loss of concentration can be the results. Heavy drinking interferes with the balance of chemicals in the brain. It lowers the production of serotonin, which regulates to mood - this leads to mild symptoms of depression, including insomnia, sluggishness, anxiety and loss of concentration Magnifying Your Existing Emotions Alcohol is like a magnifier. If you are depressed, it will make you more
depressed. The same goes for angry people who can become angrier and more violent. 2. Psychological Impacts of Drinking There are also other likely problems to come from drinking
Addiction Cravings can develop as you rely on alcohol for mood change and also to divert attention from problems Psychiatric issues negative thoughts and patterns can be developed and exacerbated by reliance on alcohol
Affects sense of judgement Anti-social behaviour and negative social relationships can be the consequence of excessive drinking
3. Drinking leads the brain to incorrectly assess threats A report published in the April 30 2008 Journal of Neuroscience shows how alcohol consumption reduces your biological ability to feel fear. MRI scans were conducted at the National Institute on Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse on 12 volunteers. These had an average age of 26 - and crucially - were social drinkers, so they did not drink everyday although they did drink every week. The averages were 1.9 days a week and 3.6 drinks per day on the days they would drink. They were injected either with alcohol or a saline solution both of them. The test was for them to look at images of human faces and some of these faces were designed to provoke a natural fearful response in the viewer. The scan was conducted to track activity levels where emotions are processed. The findings were that the parts of the brain which deal with rewards were boosted whereas the parts of the brain dedicated to fear were muted. So even with social drinkers, you can run the risk of the consequences of not being able to judge dangers which you would normally avoid when sober 4. Feelings of Shame
Having a problem and not being able to deal with it can lead to you feeling shameful in revealing the full extent of the problem to you and your family. This can also lead to avoiding people or situations in which the problem can be exposed. This avoidance however will only lead to further isolation and to exacerbate reliance on alcohol to deal with the pain and loneliness which you are trapped in in this situation.
4. Negative Patterns To Protect Addiction A lot of people with alcohol problems rely on drinking to relax and deal with issues such as stress and worries. So, it is essentially an addiction in these kinds of circumstances. People in this situation will therefore develop the thinking patterns to protect the source of their addiction and their ability to continue with the addiction. The main issues are the classic issues with dependency which include obsessiveness and focusing on the source of the alcohol. Avoiding the seriousness of the condition and that you can change. Hopelessness is a serious side condition of alcohol dependence. Nothing and no-one, least of all yourself can help you so you have to drink. This is obviously distorted thinking. The main issue is that alcohol becomes the crutch rather than you dealing directly with the underlying reason why you turn to alcohol, e.g. job stress, family and relationship problems and low self-esteem. If you were to deal with these issues, often the need for drinking would naturally disappear.
Long Term Effects of Drinking
1. The Long Term Effects of Drinking This section can be kept short because as you drink large amounts both frequently and over the long-term, you run the risk of setting in motion the processes which will affect your body and mind as detailed in the previous chapters. Long-Term Physical Effects of Drinking In terms of the body, it is the liver which is the most likely organ for long-term damage as it is responsible for breaking down the ethanol in alcohol. Frequent and excessive drinking will overload the liver and lead to the fatty livers and possibly to hepatitis and cirrhosis. The other issues are skin - you can often tell someone who is a heavy drinker because of their red skin. And then there are the physical signs - the beer bellies from the excess calories etc. Drinking too much too often will cause physical damage, increase the risk of getting some diseases, and make other diseases worse. Excessive drinking over time is associated with:
• • • • • • • •
hepatitis and cirrhosis of the liver gastritis (inflammation of the stomach lining) or pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas) high blood pressure (which can lead to stroke) certain types of cancer, including mouth and throat damage to the brain heart failure neurological problems such as epilepsy certain types of vitamin deficiency
Emotional Long-Term Effects We also know about the emotional long-term effects, the number one is the likelihood of alcohol addiction or dependence. Using alcohol as a drug to change your mood, make you feel in the short term good about yourself will lead in the long term to an addiction. This is because it is the strategy you are reliant on from which you can feel good. Over the long-term, it becomes a habit to drink and therefore the body and mind expects it. It can also signify boredom because over a long period you have the
same behaviours and variety is often needed for enjoyment and excitement in life which the alcohol can no longer do. The other issue is hopelessness which can lead to feelings of helplessness and suicidal feelings. That you cannot help yourself and nor can anyone else. Only alcohol can do that. Denial of the problem can lead to both guilt and shame and make it harder to admit you have a problem, especially because the problem has gotten worse. So, the earlier you can deal with any issues with alcohol the better - for you both emotionally and physically.
Dealing with your Drinking
Taking Control of your Drinking With all of the negative physical and psychological effects of drinking we have explored, it is essential that you are able to drink safe amounts. However to do this is not always easy. I also had issues with drinking too much alcohol. I was not an alcoholic but I started drinking 2-3 times per week when I suddenly had a lot more free time after becoming freelance. This lead to me not knowing my limits and starting to drink too much, waste the next day and worryingly become dependent on alcohol to feel good and change my emotional state. As I noticed the drinking was starting to get heavier I decided to make a change and developed a solution to help me change my relationship with alcohol. You can find out more about how to take control of your drinking once and for all at: