People used to drink alcohol during special events, celebrations or just from time to time in little doses. Of course, the average amount we consume will depend on many factors like a country of living (different traditions and social causes), age, gender, a physiological situation, personal problems etc. Sale and advertising of alcoholic drinks, social and psychological tension, lack of leisure activities contribute to alcohol abuse of population, including young generation.
For general understanding, in chemistry alcohol is any organic mix in which the hydroxyl functional group is bound to a saturated carbon atom. But the term is taken from predominant alcohol in alcoholic drinks – ethyl alcohol (ethanol).
When the drinking of liquids containing alcohol is going out of control, it may cause different diseases. The most common is alcoholism (alcohol use disorder) – is a chronic and progressive disease that includes it dependence, consuming even when it causes problems, wish to drink more for getting the same feelings, withdrawal symptoms when a drinking is rapidly stopped or decrease. If a person has alcoholism the understanding of how much he/she drinks, how often or what it cause is absent and it’s the most terrible thing you will face while treating this disease.
Alcoholism includes following signs and symptoms:
- loss of control (being unable to limit the amount of alcohol or stop drinking it)
- craving (feeling a strong need or urge to drink)
- tolerance (need to drink more alcohol to feel its effects)
- drinking alone or hiding this habit
- physical dependence (withdraw symptoms such as nausea, sweating, shaking, anxiety when you stop drinking)
- remembering problems
- settling a special time for drinking and getting angry when it doesn’t happen
- being irritated if it isn’t available
- keeping alcohol in not suitable for this places
- drinking to feel good or «normal» like taking a specific pill
- having problems in relationships, workplace due to drinking
- losing interests and motivation in doing activities that usually were your hobbies
There are much more problems you may face having alcoholism or some of included may not appear, be not so visible.
It is also possible that your condition is not progressed to the point of alcoholism, but you still drink too much at times, causing problems in your life. And if you are not dependent of it, this type of problem drinking is called binge drinking – is a pattern of drinking when man drinks five or more drinks in a row and women – at least four. It’s important to be aware of your binge drinking as it may lead to alcoholism with its all negative consequences.
Substance abuse experts separate alcohol abuse from alcoholism, arguing this by saying that alcohol abusers have abilities to limit themselves in drinking. However, it doesn’t cancel the thing that alcohol is self-destructive and dangerous to them and surrounding people. Abuse can be distinguished by common signs and symptoms:
- repeated neglecting your responsibilities, promises because of drinking
- using alcohol in psychologically hard situations to release feelings and emotions, relieve stress
- experiencing legal problems like getting arresting for driving under the influence of an alcohol
- continuing to drink even when alcohol causes relationships problems like a fight with wife, contempt of children etc.
Causes of alcoholism and alcohol abuse
These problems can be caused by the variety of reasons but in general, they can be divided into few groups: genetic, psychological, social, spiritual.
The biological or genetic factors include unique personal things. All people differ from each other, some of them may like, enjoy particular activity or substance and some don’t. Ability to temper impulsive desires and emotions and use rational thinking and some people are not able to resist those emotions, so they are considered more genetically vulnerable to alcohol addiction. Likewise, it depends on family history, so if some of parent or another close relative were alcohol depended, a person might have a predisposition to alcohol too.
Psychological factors are covering such problems as the mental health disorders, stress, and depression. People who are not able to cope with this are more vulnerable to addiction. Also, it’s related to unmotivated people who can’t easily change unhealthy lifestyle.
Socio-cultural also can contribute to development of alcoholism when specific culture accepts or tolerates drunkenness. The biggest social influence can be done by family and friends as well. For example, if your partner drinks regularly, it makes you more vulnerable to it dependence.
Spirituality matters a lot too as factor of causing alcohol dependence because people used to have beliefs and find meaning in some spiritual power like God, many gods, the universe, the life force etc. what help them to make their life meaningful. But if life has a lack of meaning and aim it leads to disconnection from yourself and each other which means self-conflict and loneliness and it can be the reason of starting alcohol addiction.
Alcohol-related diseases and disorders
Even a small amount of alcohol can cause some effects to your organism. When you drink alcohol is getting into your bloodstream and distributes in your body. So alcohol consumption can lead to physical and emotional changes that may be harmful to your health. The long-term drinking is endangering your life and putting your health into very dangerous condition.
Alcohol can make an impact on different systems of our organism and depends on which was affected, related to it disease appears.
The excretory system is responsible for processing and eliminating waste products so will deal with it as well. Excessive alcohol consumption can cause the pancreas to produce toxic substances that can lead to dysfunctions of this system. As a result, people can be affected by inflammation is called pancreatitis.
Moreover, during driving out toxic substances, liver will be involved and it can cause alcoholic hepatitis and develop jaundice. And long-term liver inflammation causes a serious disease is named cirrhosis.
Not proper work of the pancreas and liver can lead to dangerous problems – hyperglycemia (low blood sugar) and liver cancer.
It can easily reach your brain and other parts of central nervous system. It can destroy the substance of the brain and cause aggravation of problems with its circulation. It is able to disrupt the body’s ability to perceive and process the data, responsiveness, thinking processes, ability to control yourself, peripheral vision. Acute alcoholism can cause seizures and delirium and in the end, lead to brain damage and dementia. What is more, this disease can be a reason of thiamine (vitamin B1) deficiency, confusion, hallucinations.
The digestive system can be affected by alcohol in a way that it will impair many processes such as digestion, absorption and assimilation of nutrients. Also, it is the cause of increased generation of acidic gastric juice, which can damage the gastric mucosa. So if to drink a big amount of alcohol you can get stomach ulcers, gastritis, heartburn.
People who have alcohol abuse are in risk of damage to the salivary glands and irritation of the mouth and tongue what cause tooth decay and tooth loss. Alcoholics can suffer from gassiness, abdominal fullness, malnutrition, and diarrhea. Alcohol in big doses causes life-threatening diseases as mouth, throat, colon and esophageal cancers.
It was proved that some people who tried alcohol once can be even more in risk of getting heart diseases then experienced drinkers. The effects which it may cause in the circulatory system are cardiomyopathy (poisoning of the heart muscle cells), myocardial infarction, arrhythmia, high blood pressure, heart attack, heart failure, stroke, and hypertension.
Skeletal and muscle system
Alcohol makes muscles weaker, prone to cramps. It abusers can be in risk of osteoporosis and bone fractures.
Alcohol abuse can cause erectile dysfunction and infertility in men, for women, there is a danger to get stop menstruating period, miscarriage, premature delivery, and stillbirth and become infertile as well.
Obviously, the immune system of it dependent people is weaker and more prone to different viruses, infections and kind of diseases. Heavy drinkers can easily get pneumonia or tuberculosis.
Treatment of alcohol abuse and alcoholism
The most important thing you should remember if you need to treat these illnesses, that alcoholism cannot be cured, but can be treated. So it might include mix of treatment approaches.
It will take a while to treat it because it includes a bunch of methods and strategies which can differ for each of us.
First of all, it’s reasonable to start with recognizing the drinking problem by a drinker, admitting it, accepting that he/she needs professional help. If this step is missed, nothing is going to work for a long time.
Treatment approaches may include:
- Detoxification and withdrawal
- Psychological counselling
- Oral medications
- Establishing a treatment plan
- Injected medication
- Support groups and clubs
- Spiritual practice
DISCLAIMER: This information should not substitute for seeking responsible, professional medical care.