Alcohol is a substance that has continually been abused over the years. Efforts to completely discourage its use have been challenged by among other reasons, several unfounded studies that reveal that it has some positive health benefits which research has proved as not true. The fact of its addictive nature also makes its users unable to stop using it once they are trapped into it. With all the studies at our disposal, conclusive research has revealed that continuous alcohol always has negative results on our health. In fact, most studies reveal that alcohol use has diverse effects on almost all organs of our bodies. According to various findings on the negative impacts of alcohol on human health, researchers have insisted on moderate drinking for those consumers of alcohol who are already addicted as they undergo programs to rehabilitate them and help them finally stop consuming alcohol (Bandera, 2001). This is because it may not be easy for someone who has been using large quantities of alcohol for some time to always discipline himself/herself to moderate drinking or even stop the habit altogether.
Complications associated with alcohol use are many and others are still being discovered through continuous studies. Some of these complications include; mental and behavioral disorders, degeneration of the nervous system, alcohogastritisis, alcohol polyneuropathy, liver diseases, cardiomyopathy, chronic hepatitis, liver fibrosis, cirrhosis and chronic pancreatitis. These diseases mostly affect the important organs of our bodies like the heart, liver, pancreas, brain, nerves and abdomen. The effects may not always be experienced immediately as the effects follow a slightly slower pace, which makes its users ignorant of the effects. The paper is going to take a critical study of the diseases and find out how they alter the functioning of various organs in the body of the user.
Excess consumption of this substance can lead to cardiomyopathy, a disease commonly known as holiday heart syndrome. In this case, the myocardium which is the main heart muscle is adversely affected and cannot perform its functions appropriately. Cardiomyopathy may either be extrinsic or intrinsic. The development of anemia is also another serious consequence of alcohol which may develop through the intoxication on megakaryocytes or thrombocytopenia.
The studies made from laboratory experiments reveal that regular consumption of alcohol may increase the production of endothelial cells and the rate of responsiveness to nitric acid which is a small molecule that is made in blood vessels. This vessel helps to relax the blood vessels that are constricted which in turn improves the flow of blood through the organs such as the heart.
This is a condition that affects esophagus by tearing the lining in an area where it connects with the stomach. This disease is characterized by the victim vomiting blood and passing of sticky stool that is black that follows vomiting or coughing. The condition has been attributed to consumption of alcohol as many people who consume alcohol also tend to vomit and if this happens frequently, it causes the tearing. The condition is treated through stopping of vomiting when the condition is diagnosed and definitely by stopping consumption of alcohol. (Galea, 2004)
This condition is caused by consumption of alcohol and it involves damage of the nervous system. The effect is at the peripheral through the interference caused by the alcohol as it works through interfering of the nervous system. It interferes with transmission of information from the brain through the spinal cord to the rest of the body parts. Some of the symptoms include temporary numbness as well as prickling sensations and the victim being sensitive to touch. The condition can be treated through stopping consumption of alcohol as this helps in reducing emotional effects but at advanced level of the disease, more advanced treatment is required.
Alcohol and the nervous system
The nervous system has a close connection with the brain. When alcohol is taken in excess, it will interfere with the chemistry of the brain which will cause it to shrink thus interfering with its growth. Cognitive decline and dementia are brain disorders caused by excess consumption of alcohol which has an impact on the mental health of the individual.
Essential tremor which is neurological disorder is also a consequence of alcohol abuse. The recognizable symptom of this disorder is the shaking of hands caused by involuntary movements during eating and writing. Some tremors may also be seen on the head, jaw and the voice. These movements are always experienced by individuals who have been under the influence of alcohol for sometime. A patient may have to undergo surgery to correct this problem (Cherpitel, 2005).
Wernicke-korsakoff syndrome is an adverse effect of alcohol characterized by deficiency of thiamine. Patients with this disease will experiences complications associated with thiamine deficiency such as induced cell that involves alterations in the blood veins causing barrier. It is usually characterized by the state of confusion, amnesia and executive dysfunction.
In a study that was aimed at screening the alterations that are experienced in gene expression in the mesolimbic system of the human brain under the influence of alcohol, it was discovered that the chronic consumption of alcohol will alter the expressions of mitochondrion genes in some regions of the brain. This alteration will ultimately lead to the dysfunction of the mitochondrion that will result in memory loss and interfere with the individual’s ability to pronounce some words.
Alcohol and psychology
Research has shown that, the higher percentages of people that are depressed are heavy drinkers. Life has its own challenges that at times exert a lot of pressure on an individual. Drinking has therefore been taken as a temporal remedy to this situation which is a great misconception as turning to alcohol only complicates the issues that one is experiencing. Such people who believe in this misconception argue that, when one consumes alcohol, effects of all the troubles disappear and one feels strong enough to do and be what he/she could not in the normal circumstances. As much as this may appear true due to the biological and psychological changes in behavior of people who are under the influence of alcohol, the advantages are short lived and the worse part comes when they become sober and realize they still have the same troubles and weaknesses to themselves (Peter, 1973). They get depressed with this realization which makes them crave for more in order to escape the realities of life. This is according to a study that was conducted that reveals that, continuous intake of alcohol increases the craving for it. Alcohols are also associated with the antisocial behavior especially in children. Children who start abusing alcohol at an earlier age may feel slightly odd from their fellows which may in turn makes them feel the need of isolating themselves. Psychosis symptoms like anxiety and panic are common in alcohol abusers which may lead to sleep disorders. This is because of the feeling within these individuals that something is not right, and the desire to find a solution may make them nervous and unsettled. Due to the addictive nature of the drug, it may have adverse effects on the patients who may go through stressful moments in an effort to stop drinking. It comes a time when the abusers of alcohol experience adverse effects and feel the need to completely discontinue drinking; the adjustment process is not always easy and makes them feel sorry for their situation. This has led to the high causes of suicidal deaths.
Alcohol in digestion and weight
Alcohol intake increases the risk of chronic gastritis which is a stomach inflammation disease. Alcohol will erode the gastric mucosa which is the main protective membrane of the stomach. The membrane protects the stomach wall from being digested and from other internal injuries. This can also lead to other diseases such as pancreatitis, hepatitis and cirrhosis. Depending on the individual, alcohol may either lead to weight gain or loss. This is because of the fact that, alcohol increases the metabolic rate, thus burning more calories (Bondy, 1999). When the calories are burned, there will be a reduction in the weight of an individual. This reduction may also increase the appetite of the individuals and thus an increase in the craving for food. When such cravings are obeyed, the individual will gradually gain weight and when they are disobeyed, the victim is likely to suffer from malnutrition.
Alcohol and the liver
Continuous abuse of alcohol has been the leading cause of liver diseases such as cirrhosis, hepatitis and fatty liver.
Cirrhosis is a chronic liver disease caused due to the replacement of the liver tissues by the regenerative nodules and fibrous scar tissues (Mie, 1970). During its initial stages, the liver enlarges and gradually decreases in its later stages, the color of the liver becomes yellow due to steatosis. Cirrhosis could be portal or post-necrotic depending on the size of the nodules. Microscopically, it can also, be defined by the presence of hepatocytes nodules, fibrosis and the deposition of connective tissues. This disease leads to complete dysfunction of the liver and can only be corrected by the implantation of a new liver
Fatty liver develops when large vacuoles of triglyceride accumulate in the cells of the liver through the process of steatosis which may cause cancer. It is mostly the cause of obesity to adults who frequently take alcohol. The fat droplets may be dispersed throughout the hepatocytes. This disease may cause injury to the liver at its severe stages.
Alcohol hepatitis is the inflation of the liver due to excess alcohol intake. The liver enlarges due to the deposit of fluid in the abdomen ascites. Some of the common symptoms of the infection include; joint aches, vomiting, malaise and defecation. It is caused by a virus, (HCV) which is an enveloped RNA capable of mutating. Treatment of these complications is limited and can only be eliminated by the complete discontinuation of alcohol intake. In their chronic stages, the diseases may develop into liver cancer and the main remedy is liver transplant.
Alcohol and the urinary system
According to several researches, the risk of Kidney stones can be reduced if the victim stops consuming alcohol. Studies have claimed that, diuretic effects of alcohol will lead to dehydration that is responsible for kidney stones. Risks of suffering from Diabetes have also been found minimal among people who do not consume alcohol. Excessive intake of alcohol on the other hand has been found to increase the rate of type 2 diabetes especially in women. The intake of alcohol increases the sensitivity rate of insulin which is a clear explanation of the relationship that exists between alcohol and diabetes.
Alcohol and cancer
Alcohol has been classified by the world trade organization as a group 1carcinogen. Carcinogen is a substance that is known to stimulate the development of cancerous cells. It has been found that, the beverages of alcohol are carcinogenic to human cells. Acetaldehyde, a substance that is produced when the body is breaking down ethanol, in high concentrations may damage the healthy DNA cells (Schottenfeld, 1998).They also react with polyamines, which are compounds that occur naturally to promote the growth of cells, and create a dangerous mutagenic DNA base.
Patients with type c cirrhosis will experience a double volume growth of tumor with continued intake of alcohol. This is due to the fact that, alcohol contributes in the fueling the growth factor that is responsible for blood vessel development in tumors (Longnecker, 1994). The more blood that enters these tumors, the more will be the rate of their growth. Another study also revealed that, alcohol accelerates the rate of cancer growth by speeding the loss of body fat and consequently depressing the immune activity. A body with a weak immune system is vulnerable to all kind of complications. Some of the common cancers associated with alcohol include; cancer of the mouth, esophagus, larynx, pharynx, breast cancer, colorectal cancer, cancer of the liver, astrocytoma, bile duct cancer, bladder cancer, central nervous system cancers, cervical cancer, endometrial cancer, ependymoma, cancer of the fallopian tube, cancer of the gall bladder, leukemia, lung cancer, hairy cell cancer and many more (Wadsworth, 1997).
Alcohol is therefore responsible for the increased rate of cancer cases. For the patients who already suffer from cancer, alcohol will aggregate the level at which they manifest leading to chronic stages that may ultimately cause death. Treatment of cancer has remained to be a challenge in the medical field and only chemotherapy means are used to prolong the lives of the sufferers. It is there fore clear that a reduction in the use of alcohol will go a long way in reducing the cases of cancer.
Treatment of alcoholism
Alcoholism is a problem that needs to be addressed. With the negative effects it has continued to impact on the users, especially socially, remedies have continued to be researched to help those who wish to overcome the addiction. Some oral medications like disulfiram, acamprosate, and naltrexone are being improved for them to be used to treat alcohol dependence. Disulfiram is aimed at discouraging drinking by making the patient feel sick after taking alcohol, acamprosate reduces the symptoms such as anxiety and insomnia that are experienced when a person abstains from alcohol for sometime. Naltrexone is a form of injection that can act in along term basis that can act as a remedy to alcoholics. Naltrexone works in the brain of a person who has stopped using alcohol to reduce the possibility of him craving for it. When these medicines are properly used, they can reduce the level of alcohol dependence; achieve complete abstinence from the drug and a void a relapse of the same (Bandera, 2001). There are also some drugs that are available in medical stores that help reduce the manifestations of alcohol related symptoms such as sweating, shakiness and nausea. These drugs have to be taken as a continuous dose whenever the patient takes alcohol.
Despite the availability of these medicines, there is no guaranteed medical remedy that can completely cure alcoholics. The complications that come with alcoholism are numerous and studies reveal that, the cases may even grow in number unless well taken care of. There is always a possibility of one going back to drink even when they have made enough efforts to completely stop.
Guidance, canceling and rehabilitation are also some major efforts that are being employed to help the victims of alcoholism. Through the various programs initiated by either the government or non governmental organizations, they try to provide them with an environment that will ensure that they have no access to the substance (Rutgers, 1984).The chancellors on the other hand talk to the victim to find out the reason that led them into alcohol with the aim of dealing with the root cause to find a permanent solution. These programs have had an impact only to those who are serious a bout stopping it. For others they only manage when they are within the walls of the centers but once they are out, they go back to their old habits. (Galea, 2004)
Several studies have indicated the positive influences that can be achieved on the health of humans when alcohol consumption is completely stopped. It may be a good report to the frequent consumers of this substance, yet it can not be an encouragement to them that do not use it. Some facts that are not always clarified in the midst of encouraging people to completely stop taking of alcohol is that, it is one of the most addictive drugs in the world. A little amount of alcohol may never be enough to people who have used it for a long time. There is always a craving for more after its consumption. It may equally be hard to convince people on what amount of alcohol is moderate (Wadsworth1997). The term moderate may have different definitions to different people and that is why the problem continues to persist day after day.
It is also important to note that, most people who abuse alcohol also abuse other dangerous substances as well as engaging in other anti-social behavior such as unprotected extramarital sex. Smoking is a habit that is closely associated with alcoholism. Taking alcohol whether in moderation or not along other harmful substances will intensify the effects of the mentioned complications.
We find that, as much as alcohol has been claimed to have its own benefits in boosting our immune system when taken in appropriate quantities, the negative effects greatly outweigh the benefits. It is therefore not right to advice especially those that are not under the influence of alcohol to start using the substance with the hope that it will reduce the risk at which they suffer from some illnesses. Many people who have dared to follow this advice have found themselves in a state that is not reversible and have to deal with the painful consequences that come with it (Peter, 1973). The best thing for us to do to a void such incidences is to educate the society on the negative effect of alcohol. They should be taken through programs for those who are already using the alcohol and advise them on other measures that can boost their immune system. For them that manage moderate drinking, let them hold on to the moderation procedure as they tend towards stopping the habit and for the addicts, they can only be advised to start on the program towards being rehabilitated in effort to stop the behavior.
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