What is Alcohol
- Alcohol is seen by many as a more socially acceptable drug, but that’s not to say it’s any less powerful than other drugs. Technically speaking, alcohol is classed as a depressant drug, meaning that it slows down vital body functions—resulting in slurred speech, unsteady movement, disturbed perceptions and an inability to react quickly.
- Alcohol is absorbed into the bloodstream via small blood vessels in the walls of the stomach and small intestine. Within minutes of drinking, it travels from the stomach to the brain, where it quickly produces its effects, slowing the action of nerve cells. It is also carried by the bloodstream to the liver, which eliminates the alcohol from the blood through a process called “metabolizing,” where it is converted to a nontoxic substance. The liver can only metabolize a certain amount at a time, leaving the excess circulating throughout the body. Thus the intensity of the effect on the body is directly related to the amount consumed. When the amount of alcohol in the blood exceeds a certain level, the respiratory (breathing) system slows down markedly, and can cause a coma or death, because oxygen no longer reaches the brain.
- Alcohol alters the brain’s function by interacting with many different chemical messengers in the brain (neurotransmitters). Specifically, It affects the balance between “inhibitory” and “excitatory” neurotransmitters. Short-term alcohol use increases inhibitory neurotransmitters and suppresses excitatory neurotransmitters. In the short term, alcohol has a “depressant” effect. It causes the slowed-down and sluggish speech and movement patterns associated with being drunk. At the same time, alcohol increases pleasurable feelings such as euphoria and a sense of being rewarded. Long-term alcohol use forces the brain to try to restore balance by decreasing inhibitory neurotransmitter activity and increasing excitatory neurotransmissitter levels. This leads to tolerance: meaning increasing amounts of alcohol are required to produce a pleasurable high. Over the long term, tolerance towards alcohol can lead to the development of the disease of addiction.
- Alcohol comes in a whole range of different drinks. Spirits usually contain a higher level of alcohol to wine or beer. While cocktail drinks may not seem it, they usually contain more alcohol by volume than beer or wine. Fermented drinks, such as beer and wine, contain from 2% to 20%. Distilled drinks, or liquor, contain from 40% to 50% or more.
Effects & Risks of Alcohol
- When a person has become addicted to alcoholic drinks and tries to stop drinking, withdrawal symptoms occur because the brain is trying to adjust itself and function normally without it. The brain responds with depression, anxiety, and stress (the emotional equivalents of physical pain), which are the result of the brain’s chemical imbalances due to regular intake. These negative withdrawal symptoms are some of the reasons why alcoholics find it hard to control or stop their drinking.
- Alcohol can affect the body in so many ways that researchers have a hard time determining exactly what its consequences are. Alcoholics tend to suffer from an amalgamation of health problems such heart attack, heart failure, diabetes, lung disease, liver dysfunction and or stroke.
- Alcohol overdose or poisoning can lead to death. This is a particular danger for adolescents who binge drink. However, alcohol overdose doesn’t only occur from any one heavy drinking incident, but may also occur from a constant infusion of alcohol in the bloodstream and liver. Delirium tremens is a very serious form of alcohol withdrawal with symptoms that involve mental and nervous system distortions, which in some cases can be fatal. Over time, excessive alcohol use can lead to the development of chronic diseases, neurological impairments and social problems.
- Alcoholics who need surgery have an increased risk of postoperative complications, including infections, bleeding, reduced heart and lung functions, and problems with wound healing. Alcohol withdrawal symptoms after surgery may further stress the patient and delay recuperation.