Alcohol abuse is a major problem in our society. Where did it all start and what is it actually made of? Pharmacologically, ethyl alcohol is a water soluble liquid that is produced by primarily two methods. Fermentation is the oldest method of producing ethyl alcohol. The fermentation of fruits or grains will produce wines and beers. The highest concentration of ethyl alcohol obtained from this process is about 12% or 24 proof. The second method is distillation. Distillation can produce up to a 95% or 190 proof concentration of ethyl alcohol. This process is used to produce liquors and whiskeys.
Physiological Effects of Alcohol
Alcohol starts affecting the body immediately upon consumption with the severity being determined by body size and sex, the type and proof of alcohol, how quickly it is consumed, and what other drugs have been taken with it. Physically, Alcohol affects nearly every organ of the body with the only exception being the ear. Mentally, these effects include delusion, denial, loss of memory, loss of control, inability to predict outcome, euphoria, impaired judgment, feeling of decreased inhibition, decreased fear, increased risk taking behavior, and aggressive humor.
Short-Term Effects of Alcohol
- Alteration of sensation and perception
- Lowered inhibitions, feeling of no fear
- Increased urine output
- Elevated heartbeat
- Lowered motor coordination
Long-Term Effects of Alcoholism
- Mouth—oral lesions run risk of becoming cancerous
- Bronchi (wind pipes)—alcoholics who also smoke run a 15 times greater chance of contracting cancer than non- smokers and non-drinkers.
- Stomach—excessive overflow of hydrochloric acid deteriorates the stomach lining and can cause hemorrhage and ulcerations (Alcoholic Gastritis can be fatal)
- Duodenum (small intestine)—2/3 of alcohol is absorbed here; ulcers here can damage nerves so badly that pain is no longer felt; therefore, more alcohol is consumed and damage to intestine intensifies.
- Kidneys—inflammation and possibility of waste accumulating in body when urinary tract is blocked.
- Liver—alcoholism takes its greatest toll on the liver which, when healthy, is responsible for several essential body functions. Liver disease is the number one cause of death in alcoholics. Alcohol causes excessive fat in the liver which prohibits the liver from functioning properly. Inflammation of the liver, Cirrhosis of the liver (swollen, scarred, or dead tissue), Jaundice—bile enters the bloodstream when the liver doesn’t work.
- Alcoholic diabetes—pancreas’ ability to produce insulin is affected.
- Circulatory System—alcoholics have an increased risk of high blood pressure, strokes, and arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) which may eventually weaken the heart muscle walls. The heart won’t pump enough blood, and this causes breathing difficulties and irregular rhythm of the heart which can eventually be fatal. It is estimated that 30% of all high blood pressure is a result of alcohol consumption.
- Nervous System: alcohol alters brain cells which causes blackouts, memory loss, loss of control, slowed reflexes, poor vision, and slurred speech.
- Skeletal System: calcium depletion causes brittle bones, fractures, and back pain. Alcoholism also destroys the white blood cells found in the bones which leaves the body more receptive to anemia, diseases, and slow-healing wounds.
- Muscular System: muscles lose tone, which results in less energy and flabby appearance.
- Reproductive Systems: Male—testicles may shrink; impotence. Female—the ovary may atrophy.
- Alcoholism and Pregnancy—alcoholic mothers run the risk of having more difficult labor, spontaneous abortions, and having babies with birth defects (Fetal Alcohol Effects, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome) including under weight and size, small eyes and heads, upturned noses, and mental retardation. Alcoholic mothers who nurse pass alcohol to their babies through their milk.
More Information about Alcohol
In addition to the previous information, we have provided the following pages to be of help to you about alcoholism:
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