The Dangers of Alcohol

Drinking alcohol can reduce feelings of stress and anxiety. It can be fun to have a drink while out with friends or during a nice meal. When consumed responsibly and in moderation, there is nothing wrong with drinking alcohol. However, alcohol is like any other drug in that it can be very dangerous when abused. The more alcohol somebody consumes, the higher their blood alcohol content will be. Higher alcohol content leads to greater changes in the brain. The result is intoxication, or drunkenness.

Intoxication can result in slurred speech, poor coordination, and slowed reaction time. People can become confused or disoriented, and often act totally out of character. Intoxication can cause a person to become aggressive or violent, and often increase reckless and irresponsible behavior. The rate of intoxication varies widely, and is dependent on factors such as gender, weight, amount consumed, duration of consumption, and health. In general, intoxication corresponds directly with your blood alcohol content (BAC). The higher the BAC, the more intoxicated, or drunk, you will be. Intoxication can result in a hangover. This toxic result of alcohol use includes symptoms such as headaches, tiredness, and light sensitivity, and typically subsides over time.

When excessive amounts of alcohol are consumed over a short period of time, alcohol poisoning can occur. Drinking too much too quickly can affect breathing, heart rat, and gag reflex. Vomiting is usually the first sign. Other symptoms include confusion, slowed respiratory rate, irregular breathing, low blood sugar, low body temperature, seizures, and unconsciousness. Depending on the dose and duration of consumption, alcohol poisoning can result in coma or even death.

One of the most common causes of alcohol poisoning is binge drinking. Binge drinking consists of rapidly downing five or more drinks in a row. It is dangerous because of the fast rise in blood alcohol content of the drinker. Alcohol poisoning can also occur by accidentally drinking household products that contain alcohol. This is of particular concern among infants.

Alcohol poisoning is a serious medical condition. If you suspect someone has alcohol poisoning, seek immediate medical attention. Alcohol poisoning is manageable in most cases. Treatment consists of providing breathing support and supplying intravenous fluids until the alcohol is out of the body.

Chronic and abusive alcohol can have long term effects, some of which can be quite severe.

Dementia: Excessive drinking has been linked to dementia. It is believed that 10% - 24% of dementia cases are brought on by alcohol consumption.

Cancer: Alcohol consumption has been linked to seven types of cancer. These include mouth cancer, laryngeal cancer, pharyngeal cancer, esophageal cancer, breast cancer, bowel cancer, and liver cancer. A global study found that 3.6% of all cancer cases worldwide were caused by drinking alcohol. The risk of developing cancer increases when one consumes as little as three drinks a day.

Liver Disease: The human liver is the most responsible organ for metabolizing alcohol in the body. Excessive, long-term drinking can result in alcoholic liver disease (ALD). The most common forms of ALD are fatty liver, alcoholic hepatitis, and cirrhosis. Fatty liver occurs after mild alcohol use and is reversible with abstinence. Alcoholic hepatitis is the inflammation of the liver due to alcohol. It occurs in only a small percentage of heavy drinkers, but can be brought on by moderate or binge drinking as well. This can lead to liver cirrhosis in cases where liver cells are damaged beyond the point of repair. The survival rate for cirrhosis is good for those who stop drinking, and very poor for those who don't.

Alcoholism: Alcoholism is a broad term for problems with alcohol, and generally refers to the compulsive consumption of alcoholic beverages. Alcoholism can be similar to other drug dependencies. Alcoholics drink despite the the negative consequences associated with their relationships, health, and social standing. In medicine, it is considered a disease, and is treatable with a wide array of psychological and physiological options. People with alcoholism are often called alcoholics.