12th Class Biology Drugs, Drug Dependence, Mental Health Alcoholism

Alcoholism

Category : 12th Class

Regular consumption of alcohol either in low concentration (beer, wine, etc.) or in high concentration (brandy, whisky, rum, gin, Vodka, etc.) causes dependency on alcohol which is called alcoholism. The person who has become a habitual drinker is called an alcoholic.

Ethyl alcohol is consumed as fermented beverages with low content of alcohol (beer, wine, toddy) and as distilled beverages with a relatively high alcohol percentage (brandy, rum, whisky, gin, vodka). This alcohol is rapidly absorbed from the wall of stomach and enters the blood stream within minutes of ingestion. In the liver alcohol is converted into a more toxic substance - acetaldehyde.

The organ which is most affected by alcohol, is Liver.

Intoxication begins from the first sip of drink containing alcohol but early signs are not visible. With the increase in its dose the body loses its control and, gradually, the individual loses his consciousness and in extreme cases death may occur. People who get into the habit of drinking begin with a small dose, but soon many of them become addicted and they start consuming alcohol frequently and in large quantities. When they come to realize that they have become the victims of the hazards of alcohol, then it is too late for them to give up the habit.

Research studies have revealed that the people who resort to drinking offer one or more of the following reasons: (1) Social pressure, (2) Feeling of independence, (3) Liking of the taste, (4) Desire of excitement, (5) Desire to escape from such realities of life as disappointments and failures, and (6) hardships and monotony of everyday life.

When a person drinks alcohol, it passes to the stomach. Some amount of alcohol is also carried to the small intestine. Alcohol is quickly absorbed in the stomach and upper part of small intestine and is transferred to the blood. This blood carries alcohol to the liver. Liver synthesises fat from alcohol. The excess fat reduces the formation of glycogen, enzymes and structural proteins. The liver is an important centre of carbohydrate, fat and protein metabolism. But due to excess of fat in the liver makes the liver only a store house of fat. From the liver alcohol follows the following route through blood. Liver\[\to \]heart\[\to \]lungs\[\to \]heart\[\to \]various body parts (tissues). Its oxidation starts so that a some amount of energy is produced which gives false impression of warmth in the skin.

Many people think that alcohol is a stimulant. But alcohol is not a stimulant. Actually alcohol acts as sedative (lessens functional activity), analgesic (relieves pain) and anaesthetic (causes loss of sensation).

Effects of Alcohol : It has been proved that the intake of alcohol affects individual health, family life and ultimately creates several community and social problems.

(1) Effects on Individual Health

(i) Effect on Nervous System : Many people drink alcohol for some “stimulation”, but in reality it depresses the nervous system, thus acting as a sedative, analgesic and anaesthetic agent. It reduces the efficiency of every tissue of the body. In a chronic alcoholic the axons of the nerve are inflamed, thus causing neuritis. The prolonged effect of alcohol on the nervous system causes various mental and physical symptoms.

(ii) Effect on Heart : Alcohol no doubt provides more energy and produces heat in the body, but, at the same time, it dilates the blood vessels. Thus, the heat generated is quickly lost. Due to constant dilation, the arterial walls soon become brittle and rigid. Such a change in the property of blood vessels and deposition of alcoholic fat affect the working of the heart.

(iii) Effect on Stomach : A small quantity with low concentration of alcohol stimulates the secretion of gastric juice. But an increased quantity with higher concentration has the opposite effects. Alcohol affects the lining of the stomach and causes inflammation. In most cases, the drinkers (specially those who drink on an empty/stomach) become the victims of gastritis.

(iv) Effect on Liver : The most important organ which is damaged by alcohol is the liver. The liver is the storehouse of glycogen but alcohol causes the storage of fat in the liver. It causes fatty liver syndrome. Gradually, the liver hardens and dries up as its cells are replaced by a fibrous tissue. This kind of liver degeneration is called cirrhosis. Once the liver is damaged, it affects the other organs of the body also.

(v) Effect on Kidneys : Kidneys are overworked in eliminating the excess water often taken with alcohol.

(vi) Effect on immunity : The users of alcohol neglect their health and soon the body loses its resistance to infections. The alcoholics are in most cases victims of malnutrition and are easily susceptible to disease like pneumonia.

(vii) Effect on level of sugar in blood : Lowering of blood level. (Hypoglycemia)

(2) Effect on the Family : The consumption of alcohol not only creates problems to the drinker but directly or indirectly affects the family and community life. Alcoholic drinks are costly and most drinkers, because of their selfish habit, deprive their children and other members of the family of the basic needs. Thus, they create health and other problems.

(3) Effect on Society (Community) : The drinking of alcohol is invariably associated with social crimes and dissolution of moral and cultural inhibitions. Violence and other corrupt practices in the community are often directly or indirectly due to the consumption of alcohol. The intake of alcohol increases the rate of industrial accidents and decreases production. Traffic accidents are often due to drunken drivers. Illegal activities like production and selling of illicit liquor increases antisocial activities.

Driving and drinking do not go together : It is due to the following facts :

(1) Alcohol affects judgement : A person’s ability to judge distance is distorted.

(2) Alcohol affects coordination : Coordination of the limbs, the head and the eyes are impaired affecting the driver’s control of the car.

(3) Alcohol affects alertness : A driver becomes less watchful and fails to observe objects outside his vehicle.

(4) Alcohol affects vision : Vision becomes blurred and unsteady. Often the field of vision is reduced (Tunnel Vision).

(5) Alcohol increases reaction time : The driver takes more time to react to unexpected situations, e.g., a child running across a street.

(6) Alcohol affects behaviour : Intoxicated drivers become rash, careless and erratic. They tend to speed and take risks.

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