Alcohol is one of the most readily available drugs and comes packaged in a variety of different shapes and sizes. It has been around for hundreds of years and has taken on many different forms throughout the centuries. Today we mainly see it as beer, wine and distilled spirits (liquor). The abuse of alcohol, also known as alcoholism, has been around for the same amount of time. Alcoholism is defined by an “increased tolerance of and physical dependence on alcohol.” This affects an individual’s ability to determine a safe consumption level as well as impeding their ability to physically be able to stop drinking. Alcoholism has numerous adverse effects on an individual’s physical, mental and social health. Long term abuse can have devastating consequences.
How is a drinking problem defined and who is at risk? The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) defines binge drinking as the amount of alcohol it takes for an individual’s blood alcohol content (BAC) to reach 0.08. In most adults this would be reached by consuming five drinks in a two hour period for men and four drinks in that same time period for woman. According to the NIAAA, men may be at a greater risk for alcohol-related problems if their alcohol consumption exceeds 14 drinks per week, or four drinks per day. Women may be at risk if they have more than seven drinks per week, or three drinks per day. A standard drink is classified as one 12-ounce bottle of beer, one 5-ounce glass of wine or 1.5-ounces of distilled spirits (liquor).
The physical complications caused by alcohol abuse are plentiful. There are a wide range of immunological defects such as generalized skeletal fragility. When coupled with higher tendencies for accidental injury the results are an increased susceptibility to bone fractures and falls. Alcoholic ketoacidosis, or a buildup of ketones in the bloodstream causing your blood supply to become acidic, is another complication that can occur in individuals who chronically abuse alcohol or have a recent history of binge drinking paired with not eating. One of the most devastating physical complications of alcoholism is the affects it has on the liver. Alcoholic hepatitis is the beginning stage of impaired liver function. This is often followed by cirrhosis of the liver, an irreversible build up a scar tissue on your liver, which is terminal often results in death.
Alcoholism has many adverse effects on mental health and can cause problems such as; psychological health deterioration, psychiatric disorders, an increased risk of suicidal tendencies and brain damage. Severe cognitive problems are common in individuals who abuse alcohol. Approximately 10% of all dementia cases are related to alcohol consumption, making it the second leading cause of dementia. Approximately 25% of alcoholics suffer from some type of psychiatric disturbance, with severe anxiety and depression being the two most prevalent. Psychiatric disorders manifest differently depending on gender. Many alcoholics suffer from a co-occurring but undiagnosed psychiatric disorder and use alcohol to self-medicate. Women who have suffer from alcoholism often have an undiagnosed psychiatric disorder such a major depression, anxiety, panic disorder, bulimia, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or borderline personality disorder. Women with alcoholism are more likely to have suffered a history of physical or sexual assault, abuse or domestic violence. Men on the other hand more often suffer from an undiagnosed narcissistic or anti-social personality disorder, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, impulse control or attention deficit/hyperactivity disorders. Unfortunately psychiatric symptoms can sometimes worsen during the withdrawal phase of recovery, but typically improve and disappear with continued abstinence. On the other hand, psychosis, confusion and organic brain syndrome can be caused by alcohol abuse and can mimic a psychiatric disorder which can lead to misdiagnosis.
Social skills are significantly impaired in people suffering from alcoholism due to the neurotoxic effects of alcohol on the brain, especially the prefrontal cortex. Areas of impairment include difficulty in perceiving facial emotions, prosody perception problems and theory of mind deficits. The ability to understand and perceive humor is also impaired in those who abuse alcohol.
The effects that long term alcohol abuse has on the body are devastating. Long term usage can cause a number of physical symptoms such as pancreatitis, epilepsy, polyneuropathy, alcoholic dementia, heart disease, nutritional deficiencies, peptic ulcers, sexual dysfunction, central and peripheral nervous system damage, cancer and fatality if not properly treated. Women develop long-term complications of alcohol dependence more rapidly than men. Additionally, they have a higher mortality rate from alcoholism then men do. Sustained alcohol abuse in women has been found to have negative effects on reproductive functioning in women including anovulation, decreased ovarian mass, problems or irregularity of the menstrual cycle and early menopause.
If you or someone you love has a problem with alcohol, call our professionals at Sobriety Resources (855)289-2640 today to experience the freedom of sobriety.