Alcohol is classified as a drug, a depressant. This means it slows down the vital functions of the body.
- It is the most popular recreational drug in the world.
It is sometimes referred to as ethanol. It is found in all alcoholic beverages. It is synonymous with the term ethanol.
It gets absorbed into the bloodstream through blood vessels in the stomach and intestine walls. After a few minutes of drinking, it travels from the stomach to the brain where it starts slowing the action and reaction of the nerve cells.
- About 20% of it is absorbed through the lining of the stomach while the rest is absorbed through the lining of the small intestines.
The blood carries it to the liver, where it is eliminated from the bloodstream by a process known as metabolization. There it is converted into non-toxic substance.
The liver can however only metabolize a small amount at a time and the rest circulates the body. The intensity of how it affects an individual is related directly with the amount they consumed.
- Beer: brewing and fermentation of grains. It has a content of between 4% and 6%
- Wine: it is made by use of fermented fruits mostly grapes and has a content of between 9% and 16%
- Spirits: they are a product of both distillation and fermentation. They have a content above 20%
The effects range from a hangover to death from poisoning. Some short term effects include;
- Slurred speech
- Distorted hearing and vision
- Decreased coordination and perception
- Vomiting, which is the body’s defense from additional intake of alcohol
- Memory lapse, where the victim does not remember incidents that occurred while under the influence
The above are just a number of the short-term effects. Binge drinking and continued use in large amounts is associated with several health problems.
Bingeing is the practice of consuming large amounts in one session. It is defined as five or more drinks at one time for a man and four or more for a woman. One binge drinks usually results in getting intoxicated.
- The cost of excessive alcohol use in the United States reached $249 billion in 2010, about $2.05 per drink.
- Unintentional injuries such as drowning, falls and car crashes.
- High blood pressure
- stroke and other heart related diseases
- Nerve damage
- Liver damage; (Fatty liver, cirrhosis & hepatitis)
- Permanent damage to the brain
- Gastritis, which is the inflammation of stomach walls
- Mouth and throat cancer
Statistics show individuals whose first encounter with drinking was before 15 years of age are 7 times more likely to develop an alcoholism when compared to those who took alcohol after the age of 21.
According to a recent study, 28 people in the US die daily in motor vehicle crashes that involve an alcohol impaired driver.
Alcoholism is the addiction to consumption of alcohol. It has four symptoms;
- loss of control
- physical dependence
Serious dependence can lead to life-threatening, withdrawal symptoms such as convulsions just eight to twelve hours after their last drink.
- Alcohol abuse is the most common of all addictions.
However, the fact drinking is so socially accepted, it often leads to what is known as “denial”. If it is left untreated, alcoholism has severe consequences just like any other addiction.
Craving is one of the warning signs. Another is the inability to stop drinking even if it has caused extreme social and personal harm. It has become such a menace in the society that many songs have been written about it. Songs include;
- Captain Jack by Billy Joel
- Rehab by Amy Winehouse
- Hurt by Johnny Cash
- No Children by The Mountain Goats
- You Are Not My Go by Keith Urban
- Save Me by Shinedown
No matter how severe, it can be successfully treated. Research has shown that one third of all alcoholics that seek treatment have no symptoms one year after treatment while many others reduce their drinking.
- Only 8% of all adults with an alcohol problem seek treatment.
Thanks to advances in the field there are many treatment options available today.
There are some medications that are prescribed by a health professional to help reduce a patient’s drinking or to prevent their relapse. They can either be used alone or in combination with counseling. Currently there are three approved medication to help addicts.
Mutual Support Groups
These include alcoholics anonymous and non 12-step programs. They provide peer support for people looking to quit or to cut back their drinking. They offer an added layer of support that patients need.
Alcohol treatment centers offer the patient a place where they can focus solely on getting better without distractions. The alcohol rehab centers offer both long term and short-term treatment options. Patients go through detoxification and counseling. When a patient has successfully completed their treatment they have a full understanding of their problem. The patient can choose between outpatient and inpatient treatment depending on their responsibilities and flexibility.
Their main aim is to change the drinking behavior of the patient through counseling. Behavioral treatment seeks to develop skills that the patient needs to stop drinking. It also seeks to build a strong social support system while working to set goals that are attainable. The patient also learns how to cope or avoid triggers that may cause a relapse. There are different types of behavioral treatments. They are;
- Cognitive behavioral therapy
- Motivational enhancement therapy
- Marital and family counseling
- Brief interventions