Effects of Alcohol Abuse
Author: Shernide Delva
Six Americans die from alcohol poisoning each day on average. Alcohol Abuse is defined as a “pattern of drinking that result in one or more of the following situations within a 12-month period.” Alcohol Abuse can cause negative side effects to a person’s life like:
- Loss of control once drinking begins.
- Failure to fulfill major responsibilities like work, school, or family.
- Drinking in dangerous situations such as driving.
- Alcohol-related legal problems: DUIs, or physically hurting someone due to drinking.
- Continuing to drink despite ongoing relationship problems that are caused or worsened by drinking.
- Increase in expression of anger and other emotions especially in inappropriate settings.
If drinking has affected your life in any of the above ways, you may be suffering from alcohol abuse. Alcohol abuse consumption can begin to show some serious medical symptoms. Continuing to abuse alcohol can lead to alcoholism.
Long-term alcohol abuse can be dangerous to an alcoholic’s physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health. In addition, alcoholism can cause irreversible damage to alcoholics:
- Stomach (Intestines)
In addition, alcoholism can lead to irreversible damage to a person’s mental health with conditions like:
- High Blood Pressure
- Sexual Problems
- Osteoporosis (prevalent in women)
- Stomach Problems
Unfortunately, alcoholics attribute these complications to other health conditions because they attempt to avoid ownership of the consequence of their drinking.
Alcohol affects different regions of the brain in different ways.
- Cerebral cortex: This part of the brain is responsible for processing and consciousness. Alcohol depresses this part of the brain making a person less inhibited. It slows down the processing of information from the senses and thought processes making it difficult to think clearly.
- Cerebellum: This part of the brain affects movement and balance. That is why alcohol abuse leads to impaired movement resulting in staggering, off-balance swagger and “falling-down drunk”
- Hypothalamus and pituitary: This part of the brain is responsible for automatic brain function and hormone release. Alcohol depresses the nerve centers in the hypothalamus that control sexual arousal and performance. Although sexual desire might increase, sexual performance decreases.
- Medulla: This part of the brain handles automatic functions like breathing, consciousness, and body temperature. Alcohol induces sleepiness in this area and lowers body temperature which can be life threatening.
A new study shows the effect alcohol abuse had on the brain. Although we have known for a while that alcohol has negative effects on the brain, new studies uses technology to understand the effects alcohol has on white brain matter. Damage occurs to the white brain matter of the brain after long term alcohol abuse.
Frontal white matter is the pathways that connect the frontal lobes to the rest of the brain. The frontal cortex is responsible for integrating all the other parts fo the brain important to behavior and cognitive function. These frontal pathways drive the ability to learn and change new patterns and behaviors. The more you drink the more damage you do to your brain.
In addition to white matter, gray matter is affected by heavy alcohol abuse. Gray matter is a part of the central nervous system. Gray matter is responsible for processing information from our sensory organs to other gray regions of the brain. Damage to gray matter reduces a personals memory, planning, prioritizing and impulses.
When your brain is intoxicated, it does not function properly. There are withdrawal systems that occur from alcohol addiction such as:
- “Black Outs” –forgetting what happened during the drinking episode
- Sweating, especially in the palms or face
- Loss of Appetite
- Nausea and Vomiting
The longer a person abuses alcohol, the worse their control and judgment becomes. Over time, long term alcohol abuse reduces the chances of successful recovery. Heavy drinking hurts the ability for the brain to function and heal. The time to get help is now.
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