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Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism

It is quite common to celebrate, socialize, or relax by drinking alcoholic beverages. Drinking in a harmful way or becoming dependent on it can result in alcohol abuse.

How Much Is Too Much?

The National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines the following as one standard drink/unit:

To keep away from drinking, men should not regularly drink more than 14 drinks/units a week and women more than seven drinks/units. 8gm/10ml of pure alcohol is considered one unit/drink. It is equivalent to:

  • A small shot of about 25ml of spirits (ABV 40%)
  • Half a pint of beer/cider/pager having low to normal strength (ABV 30%)

Lowering the Risk of Drinking Alcohol

  1. It is better to spread them evenly if you drink more or equal to 14 drinks weekly.
  2. Don’t take more than three drinks/units in a day.

If you are expecting a child or planning a pregnancy, stop drinking alcohol altogether. Alcohol may affect your baby’s health.

There is a rise in Ill effects on health by frequent and binge drinking.

Binge Drinking

The National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism says that binge drinking is a drinking pattern that brings blood alcohol concentration to 0.08gm/dl. The increased alcohol concentration generally occurs after having four drinks for females and five drinks for males in 2 hours or after some time. Heavy alcohol use is defined as having binge drinking for five or more days in the last month. It is also known as “alcohol dependence.”

You are suffering from alcohol dependence if:

  • You crave to drink.
  • Not able to control yourself to drink.
  • Your body experiences physical body symptoms if you don’t drink (withdrawal symptoms).
  • You need to drink more to have the same effect every subsequent time over some time. This phenomenon is called tolerance.
  • You are drinking alcohol repeatedly, even though it results in physical, social, or family problems, and you are aware.
  • Spending more time drinking alcohol than in hobbies and social activities.
  • Having alcoholic drinks in unsafe conditions. E.g., swimming or driving.

Risks of alcohol abuse

Short Term Risk

  1. Road accidents result in injuries and hospitalization.
  2. Expression of aggressive behavior.
  3. Forced and unprotected sex may lead to sexually transmitted diseases or unplanned pregnancy.
  4. Altered senses and loss of consciousness.

Alcohol Poisoning

It occurs if the blood level of alcohol becomes high over a short period. Technically, it occurs when blood alcohol concentration is more than 25-80 mg/dl. Mental and behavioral changes may occur due to alcohol poisoning. These include: –

  1. Poor judgment and slurred speech.
  2. Impaired memory and periods of “blackout.”
  3. You are conscious but unresponsive.
  4. You breathe abnormally (very slow).

It is more severe if:

  • Breathing might cease.
  • The vomitus may choke if inhaled into the windpipe, resulting in a dangerous infection.
  • Dehydration.
  • Seizures.
  • Coma and death.
Continuous alcohol abuse may result in severe effects on various organs of the body .
Continuous alcohol abuse may result in severe effects on various organs of the body.

Treatment for Alcohol Intoxication

It is a medical emergency. If you find anyone with alcohol intoxication, call medical help. In the meantime, if the patient is conscious:

  1. Let him drink water.
  2. Let the patient rest.
  3. Don’t give them tea or coffee, as it will increase dehydration.
  4. Talk with the patient to prevent him from sleeping.

What Happens When You Drink Alcohol?

When you drink, it is absorbed into the blood and goes to the liver. In the liver, the alcohol is converted into acetaldehyde and then to acetic acid. The body uses it as fuel. The liver has a limited capacity to detox per hour. If you drink too fast, the blood concentration of alcohol increases suddenly. Alcohol and its metabolic breakdown products have toxic effects on the body.

 Long Term Risks

Continuous alcohol abuse may result in severe effects on various organs of the body, resulting in:

  • Stroke.
  • Liver disease and liver cancer.
  • Pancreatitis.
  • High blood pressure and heart disease.
  • Bowel, breast, or mouth cancer.

Long-term use may result in vitamin B12 deficiency and injury to nerves. Vitamin B12 deficiency may result in hand tremors.

Withdrawal Symptoms

If you drink persistently for years, your body will experience some symptoms if you try to abstain. They include: –

  • Profuse sweating.
  • Hallucinations: It is seeing an image that doesn’t exist in reality.
  • Anxiety and depression.
  • Sleep difficulty.

These symptoms make it challenging to give up drinking. You will tend to drink for the relief of withdrawal symptoms.

Getting Help

  • Have a strong will to abstain from drinking. Give up slowly over a period.
  • If you wish to give up drinking and need help, contact your primary care or family doctor. Your friends and family may help. Besides, the following organizations may help: –
  • Alcoholics Anonymous {}.
  • Women for Sobriety {}.
  • Recovery.Org {}.

Various Options to Treat Alcohol Misuse:

  • Counseling: These include some psychological therapies, e.g., cognitive-behavioral therapy.
  • Detoxification: Slowly, this will help you to decrease the amount of alcohol you drink. Some medications may be given for the treatment of withdrawal symptoms. Medicine may also be given to reduce the urge to drink; this includes drugs like acamprosate and naltrexone.
  • Rehabilitation: It is of 2 types:
    • Inpatient Rehab– You need to be admitted to a faculty for a while, and there is an intensive treatment. This period may vary from 1 to 3 months.
    • Outpatient Rehab– You may live normally at home while undergoing a recovery program.


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