Alcohol Abuse is a major cause of preventable liver disease worldwide, and alcoholic liver disease is the main alcohol-related chronic medical illness. Whereby, millions of men and women of all ages, from adolescents to the elderly, engage in unhealthy drinking.
In fact, Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) reportedly most often affects young men (aged 18–24 years) of lower socioeconomic status. Globally, alcohol consumption is the seventh leading risk factor for both death and the burden of disease and injury. In short, except for tobacco, alcohol accounts for a higher burden of disease than any other drug.
Important to realize, if your pattern of drinking results in repeated significant distress and problems functioning in your daily life, you likely have alcohol use disorder. Not to mention, alcohol abuse can range from mild to severe. However, even a mild disorder can escalate and lead to serious problems, so early treatment is important.
Surprisingly, Drug & Substance Abuse is wiping out a huge number of the World population at an alarming rate. In fact, an estimated 4.1 million Kenyans aged 12 and over report that they currently use illicit drugs. This means 10 percent of the Kenyan population admits using drugs & substances like alcohol abuse.
What do you Mean by Alcohol Abuse?
Alcohol Abuse encompasses a spectrum of unhealthy alcohol drinking behaviors. In that case, ranging from binge drinking to alcohol dependence. And in extreme cases, resulting in health problems for individuals and large scale social problems such as alcohol-related crimes.
Alcohol Use Disorder (which includes a level that’s sometimes called alcoholism) is a pattern of alcohol use that involves problems controlling your drinking. Meaning,
- you’re being preoccupied with alcohol,
- continuing to use alcohol even when it causes problems,
- having to drink more to get the same effect, or
- having withdrawal symptoms when you rapidly decrease or stop drinking.
With this in mind, therefore, unhealthy alcohol use includes any alcohol use that puts your health or safety at risk. Or even, causes other alcohol-related problems like binge drinking — a pattern of drinking where a male consumes five or more drinks within two hours. While a female downs at least four drinks within two hours.
Binge drinking causes significant health and safety risks.
What’s Considered 1 Drink?
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines one standard drink as any one of these:
- 12 ounces (355 milliliters) of regular beer (about 5 percent alcohol)
- 8 to 9 ounces (237 to 266 milliliters) of malt liquor (about 7 percent alcohol)
- 5 ounces (148 milliliters) of unfortified wine (about 12 percent alcohol)
- 1.5 ounces (44 milliliters) of 80-proof hard liquor (about 40 percent alcohol)
Genetic, psychological, social and environmental factors can impact how drinking alcohol affects your body and behavior.
What’re the Risk factors of Alcohol Abuse?
Theories suggest that for certain people drinking has a different and stronger impact that can lead to an alcohol use disorder.
Over time, drinking too much alcohol may change the normal function of the areas of your brain. Especially, those associated with the experience of pleasure, judgment and the ability to exercise control over your behavior. This may result in craving alcohol to try to restore good feelings or reduce negative ones.
Alcohol use may begin in the teens, but alcohol abuse occurs more frequently in the 20s and 30s. Even though it can start at any age.
Risk factors that contribute to alcohol abuse include:
- Steady drinking over time. Drinking too much on a regular basis for an extended period or binge drinking on a regular basis can lead to alcohol-related problems or alcohol use disorder.
- Starting at an early age. People who begin drinking — especially binge drinking — at an early age are at a higher risk of alcohol use disorder.
- Family history. The risk of alcohol use disorder is higher for people who have a parent or other close relative who has problems with alcohol. This may be influenced by genetic factors.
- Depression and other mental health problems. It’s common for people with a mental health disorder such as anxiety, depression, schizophrenia or bipolar disorder to have problems with alcohol or other substances.
- History of trauma. People with a history of emotional or other trauma are at increased risk of alcohol use disorder.
- Having bariatric surgery. Some research studies indicate that having bariatric surgery may increase the risk of developing an alcohol use disorder or relapsing after recovering from alcohol use disorder.
- Social and cultural factors. Having friends or a close partner who drinks regularly could increase your risk of alcohol use disorder. The glamorous way that drinking is sometimes portrayed in the media also may send the message that it’s OK to drink too much. For young people, the influence of parents, peers and other role models can impact risk.
What’re the Effects of Alcohol Abuse?
How alcohol impact your body starts from the moment you take your first sip. While an occasional glass of wine with dinner isn’t a cause for concern, the cumulative effects of drinking wine, beer, or spirits can take its toll.
On one hand, alcohol depresses your central nervous system. In some people, the initial reaction may be stimulation. But as you continue to drink, you become sedated. Again, too much alcohol affects your speech, muscle coordination and vital centers of your brain.
A heavy drinking binge may even cause a life-threatening coma or death. This is of particular concern when you’re taking certain medications that also depress the brain’s function.
Read Also: Health Risks of Chronic Heavy Drinking
On the other hand, excessive drinking can reduce your judgment skills and lower inhibitions, leading to poor choices and dangerous situations or behaviors. Not forgetting, drinking too much alcohol on a single occasion or over time can cause various health problems.
What’re the Impacts of Alcohol Abuse?
Basically, a glass a day may do little damage to your overall health. But, if the habit grows or if you find yourself having a hard time stopping after just one glass, the cumulative effects can add up.
Women who drink too much may stop menstruating. That puts them at a greater risk for infertility. Equally, women who drink heavily during pregnancy have a higher risk of premature delivery, miscarriage, or stillbirth.
Again, women who drink alcohol while pregnant put their unborn child at risk of Fetal alcohol syndrome disorders (FASD).
Here are more health impacts of alcohol abuse to your body;
Sexual and reproductive health: You may think drinking alcohol can lower your inhibitions and help you have more fun in bed. But the reality is quite different. Men who drink too much are more likely to experience erectile dysfunction. Heavy drinking can also prevent sex hormone production and lower your libido.
Sugar levels: The pancreas helps regulate your body’s insulin use and response to glucose. When your pancreas and liver aren’t functioning properly, you run the risk of experiencing low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia. A damaged pancreas may also prevent the body from producing enough insulin to utilize sugar. This can lead to hyperglycemia or too much sugar in the blood.
Central nervous system: One of the easiest ways to understand alcohol’s impact on your body is by understanding how it affects your central nervous system. Slurred speech is one of the first signs you’ve had too much to drink. For one thing, alcohol can reduce communication between your brain and your body.
Digestive and endocrine glands: Drinking too much alcohol can cause abnormal activation of digestive enzymes produced by the pancreas. Whereas, a buildup of these enzymes can lead to inflammation known as pancreatitis. Also, drinking can damage the tissues in your digestive tract and prevent your intestines from digesting food and absorbing nutrients and vitamins.
Read Also: The Different Types of Psychoactive Drugs
Inflammatory damage: The liver is an organ that helps break down and remove harmful substances from your body, including alcohol. Long-term alcohol use interferes with this process. It also increases your risk of chronic liver inflammation and liver disease. The scarring caused by this inflammation is known as cirrhosis.
Circulatory system: Alcohol can affect your heart and lungs. People who are chronic drinkers of alcohol have a higher risk of heart-related issues than people who do not drink. Women who drink are more likely to develop heart disease than men who drink.
Immune, skeletal and muscle systems: Drinking heavily reduces your body’s natural immune system. This makes it more difficult for your body to fight off invading germs and viruses. Also, long-term alcohol use may prevent your body from keeping your bones strong. This habit may cause thinner bones and increase your risk for fractures if you fall. Or even, with fractures that heal more slowly.
What’s the Meaning of Alcohol Dependency?
Some people who drink heavily may develop a physical and emotional dependency on alcohol. Alcohol withdrawal can be difficult and life-threatening. You often need professional help to break an alcohol addiction.
As a result, many people seek medical detoxification to get sober. It’s the safest way to ensure you break the physical addiction. Depending on the risk for withdrawal symptoms, detoxification can be managed on either an outpatient or inpatient basis.
When do you See a Doctor?
If you feel that you sometimes drink too much alcohol, or your drinking is causing problems, or your family is concerned about your drinking, talk with your doctor.
Other ways to get help include talking with a mental health professional. Or even, seeking help from a support group such as Alcoholics Anonymous – SAPTA in Nairobi. Among other similar types of self-help groups.
Because denial is common, you may not feel like you have a problem with drinking. You might not recognize how much you drink or how many problems in your life are related to alcohol use. Listen to relatives, friends or co-workers when they ask you to examine your drinking habits or to seek help.
Consider talking with someone who has had a problem drinking, but has stopped. Unfortunately, many people with alcohol use disorder hesitate to get treatment. Because they don’t recognize they have a problem.
Luckily, an intervention from loved ones can help some people recognize and accept that they need professional help. If you’re concerned about someone who drinks too much, ask a professional experienced in alcohol treatment for advice on how to approach that person.
I hope the above-revised guide is helpful towards limiting your levels of alcohol abuse or even those of your friends. However, for more additional research questions, general contributions, and suggestions, please Share with Us.
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