Everyone enjoys a drink or two every now and then. However, many don’t know the effects alcohol has on the body, especially when taken in large proportions. One popular bone of contention today is whether alcohol is good for the body or not. Some say it has many health benefits, others think otherwise. Which is it really?
There is also the issue of drunk-driving, which has claimed several lives in our society today. Many people are addicted to alcohol, constituting a menace to themselves and society. What’s more, is that many don’t even know they’re addicted.
All these are issues that need to be tackled, which is exactly what this article will do. Read on to find out the effects of alcohol on the body and tips on overcoming alcohol addiction.
Alcohol itself is not outrightly bad for the body; in fact, scientists believe it has some benefits to the heart. What is a problem, however, is alcohol misuse, which is when you are addicted to alcohol or drink it irresponsibly. One of the indications of irresponsible drinking is drinking more than the recommended amount.
The recommended amount for both men and women is not more than 14 units of alcohol a week, with one unit being 10ml or eight grams of pure alcohol. In more practical terms, that’s about half a pint of regular-strength beer or one little (25ml) shot of spirits.
Isolated incidents of drinking more than 14 units of alcohol will not harm your body, but when this becomes a regular occurrence, many problems start to creep in. The 14 units should also be spread out as much as possible. Don’t take 14 units of alcohol at once. Don’t even think of it.
Another indication of irresponsible drinking is drinking when pregnant or as an underage.
Effects of alcohol consumption
There are short-term and long-term effects of alcohol consumption. The short-term effects of alcohol consumption are tied to the amount of alcohol the person consumes and the tolerance of the person to alcohol. Men generally have a higher tolerance for alcohol than women. The same applies to heavy drinkers, who have a higher tolerance than light drinkers. Having a higher tolerance means the person can take more alcohol before the effects start to kick in.
As earlier mentioned, the short-term effects of alcohol consumption are typically dose-dependent. Taking one to two units of alcohol will increase heart rate and cause dilation of blood vessels. Many people don’t feel uncomfortable at this stage.
Noticeable effects are first felt after taking four units of alcohol. The person starts to lose coordination and may stagger. The effects on the brain become pronounced, and the person may make reckless decisions. These effects only get worse as alcohol intake increases. Above eight units, visual and speaking impairments start to kick in. The person reacts also reacts much slower. At this stage, there is a high probability of the person having a hangover.
These effects continue to worsen with increased intake. Above twelve units, many of the body’s functions are critically affected, and the person may collapse and die.
At any stage above four units, the person is at high risk of injury and should not operate heavy machinery. The person’s decision-making is also clouded, which may result in unwanted pregnancy or some life-changing decisions. At this stage, the person may also get violent.
Other effects like diarrhea, profuse sweating, vomiting, gastro-intestinal upsets, stress, poor sleep, and shaking can also set in.
Long-term effects result from the continual misuse of alcohol. Continual, in this sense, is regular drinking for more than ten years. Alcohol can negatively impact many organs in the body. The organs most prone to damage are the liver, heart, pancreas, and brain. The risk of conditions like dementia, depression and anxiety, osteoporosis, and ulcers also increases as with the risk for cancers, like bowel cancer, liver cancer, and breast cancer. Reproductive ability also takes a hit.
That’s just the health effects, though. Prolonged drinking can cause poverty and other financial problems, job, and relationship problems, amidst others.
Drinking alcohol cannot be considered safe, even when between the recommended limits. In such situations, it is considered ‘low-risk.’ So, this implies that some of the long-term effects of alcohol misuse may be seen even in people that regularly drink less than 14 units a week.
Coping with alcohol addiction
For someone addicted or dependent on alcohol, the first thing to do is seek professional help. Don’t try to force yourself to stop as withdrawal symptoms may kick in, which in many cases, is just as severe as the effects of alcohol misuse.
You may be given some medications, directed to therapy, or by gradual detoxification. It may even be all of the three. But it starts with you making the personal decision to stop drinking.
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