Individuals must stop focusing on the minute and short term consequences of alcohol addiction. People believe that hangover and uncontrollable behaviour are the only two consequences of heavy drinking. They need to understand, that there is a lot more that could happen. The world has seen various cases of abuse to oneself and their loved ones. Not to mention, the violence caused due to drunken individuals having no idea of the implications.
Driving after heavy drinking has caused 10,000 lives alone in the US, according to The National Highway Traffic Administration. Alcohol has also been linked to almost 60 other diseases and illnesses, many of which are irreversible and life-threatening.
What is Alcoholism. When do you become an alcoholic?
Alcoholism, medically termed as ‘alcohol use disorder’, involves a pattern of alcohol usage where the individual faces problems in controlling their drinking and being preoccupied with it despite having a lot of problems for the individual.
It is very hard for people with alcohol addiction, colloquially referred to as an ‘alcoholic’, to stop alcohol consumption easily.
Male alcoholics consume almost 15 drinks per week, whereas female heavy drinkers consume about 8 drinks per week. They show withdrawal symptoms which can decrease with proper rehabilitation and support services. People who consume alcohol in unhealthy amounts can have a lot of other diseases. An individual is suffering from alcohol addiction if he or she drinks enough to harm them or their family members.
Binge drinking is the pattern of alcohol consumption in which males consume five or more drinks within two hours and females consume four or more drinks within two hours. A report in 2012 revealed that around 38 million Americans binge drink at least four times a month. Just like alcohol use disorder, binge drinking also causes significant safety and health risks.
Also Read: Can Alcoholism lead to erectile dysfunction?
Short term risks of Alcohol Addiction
There are multiple health disorders and pain which excessive alcohol consumption can cause for a short term. Binge drinking is one of the main reasons which can cause the problems mentioned below:
- Homicides, suicides, sexual assault and violence to their partner are very common acts of violence by individuals in an intoxicated state. Here are a couple of statistics related to acts of violence committed by alcoholics by the John Hopkins School of Public Health:
- Between 2002 and 2011, people who lived in neighbourhoods with more off-premise alcohol outlets had 8% greater odds of committing alcohol-related suicide.
- Each year in the US, there are 7,756 homicides attributable to alcohol and 1,269 of these occur in persons younger than 21 years old.
- Survey of men aged 21-35, found perpetrators drank before 61.2% of reported and sexual assaults.
- Motor vehicle crashes and injuries caused due to improper control over the body after alcohol consumption also cause harm to the body. Some of the other common ways in which people hurt are drowning, burns and falling. These injuries can either be short term or cause trouble in the future.
- HIV becomes highly contractible as individuals participate in risky sexual activities without the use of proper protection after alcohol consumption. A Sildenafil tablet with no condoms is a bad combination..
- Pregnant women can face miscarriage, stillbirth or foetal alcohol spectrum disorder if they are involved in binge drinking.
Life Threatening Diseases Caused by Alcohol Addiction
Cancer is a deadly disease which starts with a small growth of malignant cells in one area which spreads thereafter. It took up to 9.6 million lives all over the world in the year 2017.
Alcohol causes many types of cancers which can start to grow in almost any part of the body. The Centre for Diseases suggests that excessive alcohol consumption has been linked to six types of cancer, these are
- mouth and throat
- colon and rectum
There is heavy tissue damage with each drink ingested by the individual which further adds to the risk of cancer and reduces the body’s capacity to fight it. Due to binge drinking the individual exposes the liver to toxic chemicals which are harmful to the liver as it causes inflammation which eventually leads to liver cancer.
In the case of colon cancer, excessive scarring due to alcohol is witnessed; it is most common in women. Women have witnessed an increase in their estrogenic levels with increased frequency of alcohol intake which can put them at a constant risk of breast cancer.
2. Liver Disorders
The liver is the main organ which metabolizes alcohol, hence making it the most prone to the drastic effects of alcohol. Alcohol is metabolised into acetaldehyde which is a substance that is both carcinogenic and toxic.
Alcohol liver disease is mainly a result of the amount and duration of alcohol addiction. Individuals with excessive consumption are most prone to witness their various levels. It starts with fatty liver disease, then goes on to show symptoms of Hepatitis and finally end up causing cirrhosis. Multiple organs will face failure if the liver is unable to perform its normal, life-sustaining functions. This failure causes death for a lot of patients. The different types of liver diseases are elaborated below-
A. Fatty Liver Disease
As the name suggests, this occurs when there is excessive fat build upon the liver. A few days or a weekend of constant drinking can lead to the deposit of fat over the liver. It doesn’t trigger any noticeable symptoms which makes it hard to diagnose. Stopping heavy drinking can help to cure fatty liver disease.
B. Hepatic Encephalitic:
As mentioned above, the liver is responsible for filtering toxins out of the bloodstream. Some toxins end up going to the brain as they haven’t been filtered properly due to a damaged liver. Alcohol brings in certain toxins and along with it also damages the liver causing a spike in the number of toxins present in the body.
When the brain gets damaged due to excessive toxins entering it through the bloodstream, the individual is diagnosed with Hepatic encephalopathy. This becomes a problem as it causes drowsiness and slurred speech and if left untreated can put the patient in a coma.
C. Alcoholic Liver Cirrhosis
Almost 20% of heavy alcohol drinkers in the world suffer from Cirrhosis. Healthy tissue in the liver is replaced with scar tissues which are the result of toxins introduced by alcohol addiction. It can lead to internal bleeding, confusion and a build-up of unwanted liquids in the stomach. Medications are made which can treat alcoholic liver cirrhosis but it is much better if the individual also reduces their alcohol intake.
D. Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders:
Unborn children are extremely prone to the harmful effects of alcohol as the brain is most vulnerable when it’s growing and developing.
Consumption of alcohol by pregnant women can affect a baby’s brain development. A number of birth defects are observed in children who suffer from this disorder due to heavy drinking by their mothers during pregnancy. Such children are born with small brains, lesser number of brain cells and have a lot of cognitive and behavioural issues as they grow up.
3. Cardiovascular Diseases.
One of the main reasons of death in the United States and the United Kingdom are heart diseases. Alcohol addiction can cause a huge problem for the hearts of heavy drinkers. However, even a little amount of alcohol consumption causes some problems to the cardiovascular system of the human body. Studies have found that a glass of wine per day, throughout a week can cause shrunken arteries. This imposes immense pressure on the heart to pump out blood at a higher pressure.
As heavy drinking increases the pressure and makes it hard for the heart to pump and regulate blood flow; heart failures are commonly observable in such cases. Sildenafil tablets help patients with high blood pressure and in treating such symptoms.
Gout affects the joints and is extremely painful for the patients to endure. Symptoms of gout are also the result of excessive alcohol consumption, especially beer. The main purpose of the kidney is to excrete uric acid to breakdown purine nucleotides. These are commonly present in many types of alcohol.
Gout is caused by the excess secretion of uric acid. This excess secretion is a direct result of increased alcohol addiction. The more the patient consumes alcohol, the greater the quantities at which the patient’s kidneys produce uric acid. This cascades to the uric acid entering the bloodstream and triggering the onset of gout.
It has been reported that seven out of ten cases of chronic pancreatitis are the result of chronic heavy drinking. Inflammation occurs in the pancreas which causes severe pain. This leads to acute and chronic pancreatitis, which is again the result of heavy alcohol consumption. On-going research is trying to pinpoint the exact cause or issue that alcohol causes to trigger pancreatitis.
However, most scientists say alcohol molecules disturbs the pancreatic cells. It makes the patient feel excruciating pain and trouble in their life. Pancreatitis in itself is a very painful disease but if ignored, it can be the cause of even greater illness- diabetes. This is because with constant damage to the pancreas the ability to make insulin decreases drastically. This is the main cause of diabetes. Reducing alcohol consumption has a significant impact on keeping pancreas healthy.
6. Immune System Dysfunction
Chronic drinking can badly affect the body’s immune system. Damaged immune system due to alcohol addiction can increase the risk of diseases like pneumonia and tuberculosis. Alcohol addiction affects every aspect of a healthy body; worst affected being red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets.
When the alcohol consumed reaches a dangerous amount, the white blood cell count decreases. This can cause a lot of trouble in the immune system of the body. The factor that causes this drop is when white blood cells are trapped in the spleen. The production of these cells reduces drastically. As the consumption increases for a long time, the body’s immune system becomes weaker. This allows a lot of infectious diseases to enter and cause havoc.
Patients of such dysfunction are at a higher risk of contracting pneumonia, tuberculosis, HIV and other similar infections.
Alcohol addiction also leads to serious effects on various aspects of mental functioning. The most commonly triggered disorder is Dementia. It can cause immense trouble by affecting the memory and the ability of an individual to learn. A teenager with chronic drinking disorder is at risk of developing osteoporosis along with a loss in bone mass.
The risk of fracture increases after diagnosis of Osteoporosis, which may even lead to a vertebra being damaged. Alcohol decreases the amount of Vitamin D and calcium present in the body which weakens the bone structure. The proximal femur of the hip is the most prone to fractures once osteoporosis sets in.