Chronic alcohol abuse is a condition characterized by excessive alcohol consumption that leads to mental and physical disorders.
The term “alcohol abuse” has been previously used as a psychiatric diagnosis now identified as alcohol use disorder that later may progress to alcohol dependence.Chronic drinking is a sustained drinking, which causes or is likely to cause harm.
Ethanol is the alcohol found in alcoholic beverages. The chemical formula is C2H5OH.
The maximum recommended quantity
- for men – 140 g–210 g per week;
- for women – 84 g–140 g per week.
Types of alcohol abuse
- Anti-social type, alcohol abuse is caused by the desire to reach pleasure.
- People are able to avoid drinking for a long period of time, although they are unable to stop once they start drinking.
- Binge drinking (also known as heavy episodic drinking) is drinking alcohol with an aim to become intoxicated.
Influence on the body
Alcohol abuse affects the body, however, the brain, heart, liver, pancreas, and immune system suffer the most. As a result mental illness, Wernicke–Korsakoff syndrome, liver failure, pancreatitis, cancer are likely to develop.\
- Alcoholic liver disease includes fatty liver, alcoholic hepatitis, and chronic hepatitis with liver fibrosis or cirrhosis. Liver damage is crucial for the organism as long as the liver is the main body’s “factory” that produces and transforms various substances. Cirrhosis is a late stage of the liver injury. The symptoms include fatigue, excessive bleeding and easy bruising, itchy skin, jaundice, ascites (accumulation of fluids in the abdomen), loss of appetite, nausea, weight loss, confusion, drowsiness, slurred speech, redness in the palms of the hands.
- Hepatocellular carcinoma is a hepatic cancer that may be the result of the previous liver conditions such as hepatitis or cirrhosis.
- Pancreatitis is an acute or chronic inflammation of the pancreas characterized by the upper abdominal pain that radiates into the back and may be aggravated by eating, swollen and tender abdomen, nausea and vomiting, fever.
- Anemia is caused by the interfered absorption of folate in the gastrointestinal tract and the toxic effect of alcohol on the erythroid precursor cells.
- Cardiovascular disease and stroke may develop as a long-term consequence of the alcohol abuse.
- Neuropathy occurs due to the nerve damage. Alcoholic neuropathy affects various parts of the body and causes numbness, tingling and burning sensations, muscle spasms and cramps, muscle weakness and atrophy, incontinence, constipation/diarrhea, sexual dysfunction, impotence, impaired speech and difficulty swallowing, etc.
- Alcohol consumption inhibits the absorption of thiamine (vitamin B1) in the gastrointestinal tract, so that excessive alcohol consumption leads to vitamin B1 deficiency and therefore causes Wernicke-Korsakoff’s syndrome (WKS). WKS is the combination of the two tightly conditions Wernicke’s encephalopathy (WE) and Korsakoff’s psychosis. The triad of symptoms is characteristic for WKS including confusion, ataxia (loss of balance and coordination), and nystagmus (involuntary eye movements). Affected individuals experience gait abnormalities, inability to walk or difficulties walking, diplopia (double vision), strabismus, apathy and indifference, hallucinations, confabulations (a person fills in gaps of memory with data that can be recalled at that moment), intellectual impairment, aphasia (an inability to comprehend and formulate language), apraxia (an inability to perform tasks or movements), agnosia (an inability to recognize objects, persons, sounds etc.) and amnesia (Korsakoff dementia), insomnia, anxiety, weight loss and recurrent vomiting. Other symptoms that are associated with WE are stupor, low blood pressure (hypotension), increased heart rate (tachycardia), hypothermia, epileptic seizures and a progressive loss of hearing.
- Marchiafava-Bignami disease is a disorder characterized by disorientation, epilepsy, ataxia, dysarthria, hallucinations, limb paralysis, and deterioration of personality and intellectual functioning.
- Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) – alcohol consumption during pregnancy causes fetal abnormalities, including an abnormal appearance, short height, low body weight, small head size, poor coordination, low intelligence, behavior problems, and problems with hearing or seeing. Fetal alcohol syndrome is the most severe form of the injury to the fetus.The features of FAS may include a small head and brain size, distinctive facial features (a smooth ridge between the upper lip and nose, a short upturned nose, small and wide-set eyes), short height, hyperactivity, lack of focus, poor coordination and memory, delayed mental and psychomotor development, heart problems, kidney defects and abnormalities, limb deformities, mood changes.
The diagnostic criteria for FAS are:
1) Growth deficiency: Prenatal or postnatal height or weight (or both) at or below the 10th percentile;
2) FAS facial features;
3) Central nervous system damage with a significant structural or functional impairment;
4) Prenatal alcohol exposure: confirmed or unknown prenatal alcohol exposure.