The Negative Effects of Alcohol

What is alcohol?

Alcohol is a sedative hypnotic drug that depresses the central nervous system, making you feel more relaxed. Most adults drink alcohol moderately and on a social basis and derive a lot of pleasure from doing so. However, about one in five men and one in seven women regularly drink more than the Department of Health suggests is strictly safe for good health. Roughly 18 million Americans have an alcohol problem.

Short-term effects of alcohol

The short-term effects of alcohol are dependent on the amount consumed and can vary enormously from person to person and from one situation to another. Here are a few of the side effects:

  • Slurred speech
  • Drowsiness
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of coordination
  • Upset Stomach
  • Unsteadiness when standing or walking
  • Headaches
  • Impaired attention and judgment
  • Distorted hearing
  • Distorted vision
  • Loss of inhibition
  • Unconsciousness
  • Sleep
  • Blackouts
  • Memory lapses
  • Anemia

what-does-alcohol-do-featureRelatively low doses of alcohol relax the user, make them more talkative and animated. Larger doses lead to uncoordinated movement, impaired decision-making and sedation.

The depressive effects of alcohol on normal brain function – especially those causing impaired judgment – are the main reasons it’s always best to avoid alcohol when driving and never to exceed the limit.

Long-term effects of alcohol

The cumulative effects of excessive alcohol consumption, especially when associated with a poor diet, affect every part of the body. The two main sites of damage are the liver and the nervous system.

The liver may become progressively damaged through a condition known as cirrhosis, which may lead to liver failure, liver cancer and death. The nervous system may be damaged at many levels. Damage to the brain can interfere with intellectual function, and increase the risk of anxiety and depression, confusion and dementia.

Damage to the peripheral nervous system can lead to loss of balance, impotence, numbness of the feet and hands, tremor and blindness.

Alcoholism is also implicated in diabetes, inflammation of the pancreas, internal bleeding, weakening of the heart, high blood pressure and stroke. Alcohol intake during pregnancy is harmful to an unborn baby.

Here are some other long-term effects:

  • Unintentional injuries (falls, burns, auto accidents)
  • Intentional injuries (sexual assault, domestic violence, attacks)
  • Broken relationships
  • High blood pressure
  • Alcohol poisoning
  • Sexual problems
  • Nerve damage
  • Brain damage
  • Cancer

Symptoms of alcohol addiction

When someone becomes dependent or addicted to alcohol, they:

  • Develop a strong sense of compulsion to drink
  • May drink shortly after waking to reduce feelings of alcohol withdrawal
  • Develop a reduced capacity to control how often and how much they use
  • Organize their lifestyle around drinking
  • Often have withdrawal symptoms when they stop drinking
  • Worry they won’t get enough alcohol when they start to run low
  • Often can’t control how much they drink
  • Give up other activities to spend more time drinking
  • Need to drink more and more to get the same effect

 

Drinking and driving

One main problem of becoming addicted to alcohol is the tendency to drink and drive. The more often someone drinks, the higher the chances are for them to get behind the wheel while drunk. Often times they are so used to drinking that they don’t think they’re really drunk. Or they think that they’re so used to being drunk that they can handle it.

In the United States, there are almost 4 drunk-driving fatalities every day. That’s not just 4 people who have lost their lives, it’s hundreds of lives impacted and innocent people lose their children, parents, siblings, spouses, or other loved ones.

To avoid drinking and driving, arrange for a designated driver. Or take advantage of public transportation. Make sure you have the number of a local taxi before you go out for the night. Also, be aware that the morning after a heavy night of drinking can be just as dangerous.

Are you addicted to alcohol?

Alcohol QuizHere is a short questionnaire to evaluate your use of alcohol. The Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test, or AUDIT, has been developed by the World Health Organisation and is used by doctors to assess the extent to which a patient is likely to need to make some changes in their drinking to avoid health problems.

The AUDIT questionnaire

1. How often do you have a drink containing alcohol?

  • Never (0)
  • Monthly or Less (1)
  • 2-4 times a month (2)
  • 2-3 times a week (3)
  • 4 or more times a week (4)

 

2. How many drinks containing alcohol do you have on a typical day when you are drinking? 

  • 1 or 2 (0)
  • 3 or 4 (1)
  • 5 or 6 (2)
  • 7-9 (3)
  • 10 or more (4)

 

3. How often do you have 6 or more drinks on an occasion when you are drinking?

  • Never (0)
  • Less than monthly (1)
  • Monthly (2)
  • Weekly (3)
  • Daily or almost daily (4)

 

4. How often during the past year have you found that you were not able to stop drinking once you had started? 

  • Never (0)
  • Less than monthly (1)
  • Monthly (2)
  • Weekly (3)
  • Daily or almost daily (4)

 

5. How often during the past year have you failed to do what was normally expected of you because of drinking? 

  • Never (0)
  • Less than monthly (1)
  • Monthly (2)
  • Weekly (3)
  • Daily or almost daily (4)

 

6. How often during the past year have you needed a first drink in the morning to get yourself going after a heavy drinking session? 

  • Never (0)
  • Less than monthly (1)
  • Monthly (2)
  • Weekly (3)
  • Daily or almost daily (4)

 

7. How often during the past year have you had a feeling of guilt or remorse after drinking? 

  • Never (0)
  • Less than monthly (1)
  • Monthly (2)
  • Weekly (3)
  • Daily or almost daily (4)

 

8. How often during the past year have you been unable to remember what happened the night before because you had been drinking?

  • Never (0)
  • Less than monthly (1)
  • Monthly (2)
  • Weekly (3)
  • Daily or almost daily (4)

 

9. Have you or has someone else been injured as a result of your drinking?

  • No (0)
  • Yes, but not in the past year (2)
  • Yes, during the past year (4)

 

10. Has a relative, friend, or a doctor or other health care worker been concerned about your drinking or suggested you cut down? 

  • No (0)
  • Yes, but not in the past year (2)
  • Yes, during the past year (4)

 

How did you do?

If you scored eight or more, it’s time to consult professional help. Check out the rest of our website for more information on how to get help.

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