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How Alcohol Can Affect You

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When an individual is alcohol dependent this means that he or she has no control over his or her drinking.

Indeed, after having the first drink, the alcoholic is essentially powerless to stop drinking.

A person who is addicted to alcohol has grown so used to drinking that he or she simply "needs" to have a regular supply of alcohol in order to "feel right" or to function on a daily basis.

Unfortunately, the negative effects of alcohol addiction can be psychological, physical, or both.

This is due to the fact that alcohol dependency can be physical and/or psychological.

Physical Addiction, Dependence, and Tolerance

Physical addiction occurs when an individual's body actually becomes dependent on a particular substance.

It also means that a person develops a tolerance to that particular substance, meaning that the user requires a larger dose than before to get the same "buzz" or "high."

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When an individual who is physically addicted stops using a substance such as drugs, cigarettes, or alcohol, he or she may experience withdrawal symptoms.

Withdrawal is defined as any psychological or physical disturbance experienced by a person when deprived of the drug. Withdrawal symptoms vary from drug to drug.

The seriousness of withdrawal symptoms is highly dependant on the drug or drugs that were abused by the individual.

Whereas withdrawal symptoms for many individuals, are similar to having the flu, typical withdrawal symptoms include sweating, diarrhea, muscle aches, mood swings, craving for drugs or alcohol, depression, and shaking.

Some Bottom Line Information About Psychological Addiction

Psychological addiction occurs when the cravings for a drug are psychological or emotional.

People who are psychologically addicted feel overcome by the desire to have a drug.

These feelings are so strong that in many instances psychologically and physically addicted individuals will do almost anything for their next "fix" including lying, stealing, and in some instances, killing.

Frequently people abuse alcohol or drugs in order to have "fun" or to get a "buzz."

Many individuals, in fact, report that having a few drinks makes them feel more comfortable in social situations.

The danger, however is this. Repeated drug or alcohol abuse can result in addiction.

When a person is addicted, he or she no longer takes drugs or alcohol to have fun or to get high.

Rather, the addicted person needs the drugs or alcohol in order to function on a daily basis.

Many times, the addicted individual's everyday life centers around satisfying the need to take the particular substance on which they are hooked.

It is truly unfortunate that the "fun" and the "buzz" that many individuals experience when drinking often motivates them to consume more each time they drink and to drink more frequently.

At some point, the line between alcohol abuse and alcoholism gets blurred as the person gradually becomes more reliant on alcohol until he or she simply needs to drink in order to function.

Similar to silent killers such as high cholesterol and high blood pressure, realizing the effects of alcoholism, regrettably, may come too little too late.

The Effects of Alcohol Addiction

Some problems, such as driving impairment, negative interactions with medications, and interpersonal relationship problems can manifest themselves after drinking over a relatively short period of time.

Other problems, however, can develop more gradually over time and may become noticeable only after long-term excessive drinking.

It is also important to point out that women may develop alcohol-related health problems after ingesting less alcohol than men over a shorter time period.

Due to the fact that alcohol affects many organs in the body, long-term excessive drinking puts a person at risk for developing critical health problems.

In a word, the long term effects of alcohol abuse can lead to a gradual breakdown of different organs and systems in the body that can result in serious, if not fatal, health issues.

Alcohol-Related Liver Disease

More than 2 million American people suffer from alcohol-related liver disease. Some drinkers develop alcoholic hepatitis (i.e., inflammation of the liver) as a result of long-term excessive drinking.

The symptoms of alcoholic hepatitis include the following: abdominal pain, jaundice (abnormal yellowing of the urine, skin, and the eyeballs) and fever.

If the person continues drinking, alcoholic hepatitis can be fatal. If the person stops drinking, on the other hand, alcoholic hepatitis is often reversible.

Approximately 10 to 20 percent of heavy drinkers develop cirrhosis of the liver (i.e., scarring of the liver). Alcoholic cirrhosis can be fatal if the person continues to drink.

Even though cirrhosis is irreversible, if the affected person stops drinking, his or her chances of survival can improve greatly.

Although some people may eventually need a liver transplant as a last resort, many people with cirrhosis who quit drinking alcoholic beverages may receive treatment and may never require liver transplantation.

Alcohol-Related Heart Disease

Drinking in moderation can actually have beneficial effects on the heart, especially with people who are at the greatest risk for heart attacks, such as women after menopause and men over the age of 45.

Long-term excessive drinking, however, increases the risk for some kinds of stroke, heart disease, and high blood pressure.

Alcohol-Related Cancer

Long-term heavy drinking increases the risk of developing certain types of cancer, especially cancer of the throat, kidneys, esophagus, liver, voice box, and the mouth.

Furthermore, women who drink two or more drinks per day slightly increase their risk for developing breast cancer.

Finally, chronic, excessive drinking may also increase the risk for developing cancer of the rectum and the colon.

Alcohol-Related Pancreatitis

The pancreas helps regulate the body's blood sugar levels by producing insulin.

In addition, the pancreas is instrumental in digesting the food people eat.

Long-term excessive drinking can lead to pancreatitis (i.e.., inflammation of the pancreas).

Pancreatitis is associated with excessive weight loss and extreme abdominal pain and can lead to death.

Based on the above, it can be determined that excessive drinking can often result in physical damage, can increase the risk of getting some diseases, and can make other diseases worse.

The moral of the story: if you want to avoid unnecessary health problems later in life, drink in moderation or not at all.

Other Long Term Effects of Alcoholism

In addition to the diseases outlined above, excessive drinking over time is also associated with the following:

  • Loss of brain cells

  • Nerve damage

  • Epilepsy

  • Irritated stomach lining and bleeding from stomach ulcers

Excessive drinking has also been linked to the following:

  • Infertility

  • Skin problems

  • Obesity

  • Muscle disease

  • Vitamin deficiency

  • Sexual problems

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Conclusion: How Alcohol Can Affect You

Based on an analysis of the addiction information about how alcohol can affect you outlined above, it can be determined that heavy drinking can frequently result in physical damage, can increase the risk of getting various diseases, and can make other diseases worse.

The moral of the story is this: if you want to avoid unnecessary alcohol-related health problems later in life, drink in moderation or not at all.

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