Alcohol, a central nervous system depressant, is a major health concern globally. Alcohol has significant cultural and societal importance around the world. Whether it be parties, different celebrations, happy gatherings, or a post-funeral reception, alcohol is always the star of the event. But, being such a prevalent part of society comes with some negativity. So, what is alcohol and why is it so deadly?
What is Alcohol?
Also referred to as ethanol, alcohol is a psychoactive drug. Ethanol is an active ingredient in alcoholic beverages like beer, whiskey, vodka, wine, and hard liquor. Alcohol is one of the oldest recreational substances produced and consumed by humans. Its production dates back to approximately 10,000 years. Alcoholic beverages are legalized in most countries. However, there is a certain age restriction for its consumption in each country. For instance, the most common legal drinking age in the majority of countries is 21 years old. The purpose of age restriction is because of the harmful effects of alcohol on the brain of younger individuals debilitating them in the long run.
The Effects of Alcohol
Alcohol is a very powerful central nervous system depressant. It is a major mood lifter. In fact, a very vast majority of people opt to drink whenever they are stressed out.
Alcohol produces euphoria, sedation, decreased anxiety and increased confidence making the person more social. Alcohol impairs the cognitive functions making the person have a poor memory and short attention span.
Alcohol causes classic characteristics of drunkenness (alcohol intoxication). A drunk person is likely to get injured owing to lack of coordination caused by alcohol. How quickly a person gets drunk depends on the persons age, gender, body mass index (BMI), etc. As you keep consuming more and more alcohol (increasing the blood alcohol content), the symptoms of alcohol intoxication progress ultimately leading to death. There are six stages of alcohol intoxication:
Why is Alcohol so Addictive?
Alcohol primarily affects the brain by increasing the levels of the neurotransmitter GABA which is an inhibitory neurotransmitter. Increasing the levels of this, alcohol depresses the activity of the brain producing its effects. This widely used drug also affects a lot of neurotransmitter systems like glutamate, glycine, acetylcholine, and serotonin. Serotonin makes the person elated compelling people to consume it more and more frequently. The euphoric effects of alcohol are related to the release of dopamine in the reward pathways of the brain. All this contributes to making a person addicted.
What Does Alcohol Addiction Look Like?
Alcohol withdrawal: this occurs when you cut down on your drinks. Symptoms can be very mild or very severe and can include multiple bodily & mental responses. Treating alcohol addiction or alcoholism can be extremely demanding but with professional help and massive support from friends and family, it can be done. Finding a drug rehab center near you is the first step to getting better.
Finding Treatment For Alcoholism
Finding help from alcoholism may require you to enter an alcohol rehab program. However, with the right motivation, you can do anything you wish to. But, finding help and maintaining sobriety is not always easy. It’s important that you are honest with yourself, and make the simple decision to reach out to a professional.
Below are some quick answers to frequently asked questions about Alcoholism.
Other physical and harmful effects of alcohol include:
- Episodic hypoglycemia (drop in blood glucose levels every now and then)
- Osteoporosis and osteomalacia
- Obesity or emaciation
- Gout and much more.
Chronic alcoholism can lead to significant consequences for society. A few of these include:
- Below par work performance
- Harsh and violent behavior of individuals towards family or friends. Including, domestic violence, martial rape, etc.
- Accidental damage
- Road accidents, because of driving while drunk. In fact, drunk driving is a major cause of road accidents worldwide.
- Crime, mainly petty offenses. Also, sexual offenses and violent ones like murder.
- Emotional and conduct problem in the alcoholic’s children.
- Expensive healthcare. Alcohol is a cause of a lot of physical illnesses and therefore is a major cause of hospital admissions in alcohol legal countries.
Alcohol has a very high tolerance. This means the person requires more and more of the booze to feel the same desired effect. Alcohol dependence is when a person is physically or psychologically dependent on alcohol.
Alcohol dependence syndrome: (ICD-10) this is a chronic condition in which the person continuously craves alcoholic beverages and is unable to withdraw from them. This causes impairment for that individual socially and occupationally.
Alcohol is most commonly used recreationally in the form of beverages. In addition to this, alcohol is used as a disinfectant, an antiseptic, and an antidote.
The amount of alcohol in a user’s body can be quantified by the so-called body alcohol content or BAC. BAC has importance medically and legally. BAC is given as weight of ethanol per unit volume of blood. Alcohol provides 7 calories per gram of its consumption. This means, as shown in the chart below, that intoxication can be determined by levels of BAC.