Friday, April 30, 2010

Understanding Alcoholism

A condition characterized by an uncontrollable urge to drink, a tolerance to increasing quantities of ALCOHOL, blackout episodes, and withdrawal symptoms during abstinence. Alcoholics frequently deny that they have a problem.
The costs of alcoholism to society are enormous. Excessive alcohol is involved in one out of 10 deaths in America and typically shortens the life span by 10 to 12 years. Alcoholism contributes to accidental death, crime, violence, and abuse. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, half of all fatalities due to automobile accidents have occurred in crashes in which the driver or pedestrian had been drinking. Estimates of the total cost of alcoholism to society range from $65 billion to $117 billion. Alcohol abuse occurs among young people as well as the elderly, encompasses people of all social and economic backgrounds, and women as well as men. Children of alcoholics are more likely to abuse alcohol and drugs. Individuals may be born susceptible to alcoholism due to imbalanced body chemistry; however, the social environment obviously plays an important role.
Alcoholism leads to disturbances of the GASTROINTESTINAL TRACT: Excessive ethanol directly or indirectly increases chronic intestinal inflammation associated with MALABSORPTION, comprised digestion, and “leaky gut,” in which the intestine more readily absorbs toxins and potentially harmful substances from food and microorganisms that the body recognizes as foreign (antigens). This can set the stage for FOOD INTOLERANCE and systemic effects. Alcohol affects the LIVER, where altered GLUCOSE and GLYCOGEN METABOLISM, fat formation, and fat export can lead to fatty deposits (FATTY LIVER). The ability of the liver to detoxify other potentially damaging materials can also be compromised.
The alcoholic individual faces profound health consequences in terms of MALNUTRITION, heart failure, high blood pressure, damage to pancreas, liver, stomach and brain, and increased risk of CANCER of the mouth and esophagus. Even moderate alcohol intake can cause birth defects if the mother drinks during pregnancy.
Alcoholism is treatable; however, recovery depends on the person’s willingness to accept help. Individualized recovery programs work best and may incorporate family counseling, psychotherapy, support groups, rehabilitation programs, education, behavior modification, vocational guidance, and exercise. Nutritional and medical treatment is often recommended to remedy nutritional deficiencies and alcohol-related disorders and to speed detoxification. A number of clinics treat alcoholism by incorporating lifestyle changes affecting DIET and EXERCISE, while eliminating CAFFEINE and nicotine. Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) can provide a very strong support system for recovery.

Understanding alcohol-drug interactions

ALCOHOL interacts with many medications. Drinking alcohol can alter the way the body metabolizes drugs. As an example, the LIVER adapts to alcohol consumption by increasing its battery of drug-destroying ENZYMES. Because a heavy drinker may metabolize a sedative rapidly, its effects could wear off sooner than in a non-drinker, leaving the heavy drinker undersedated. Patients should read prescription labels carefully before drinking, and inform dentists, physicians, pharmacists, and other health care providers if they drink.
Interactions include:
Analgesics Non-prescription pain killers, such as Tylenol, that contain acetaminophen can damage the liver of those who consume several drinks a day. ASPIRIN together with alcohol increases stomach bleeding.
Antidepressants Monoamine oxidase inhibitors,
AMPHETAMINES, and tricyclic antidepressants such as imipramine cause severe reactions and increased sedation, if taken with alcohol. Taking any one of several antidepressant drugs called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), including Prozac, Paxil, and Zoloft, can increase the effects of alcohol, including drowsiness and impaired motor skills.
Antihistamines Drinking after taking drugs like benadryl can lead to excessive drowsiness. Arthritis Medications Indocin and other drugs prescribed for arthritis taken with alcohol can irritate the gastrointestinal tract and may cause dizziness.
Barbiturates Alcohol should never be combined with drugs like amytal or phenobarbital, which is the most hazardous combination. The additive effects of taking the depressants can lead to respiratory failure and coma.
Diabetic Medications Individuals taking Diabinese, Orinase, and other sulfonureas to treat diabetes will probably not be able to tolerate alcohol because these drugs can make the user ill after drinking alcoholic beverages.
Niacin Large doses of niacin taken with alcohol can reduce blood pressure excessively. Prescription Pain Killers Codeine and narcotics combined with alcohol cause increased sedation. Sedatives and Tranquilizers Combining alcohol and tranquilizers such as Valium and Thorazine can lead to oversedation and extreme drowsiness.

Bad Effects of Alcohol Consumption

Possible consequences of excessive alcohol consumption including the following:
Birth Defects and Mental Retardation in Infants Drinking during pregnancy can lead to.
Addiction Alcoholism is one of the most common addictions.
Intoxication Excessive alcohol can lead to a progressive deterioration of mental functioning.
Alcohol is a depressant and slows down the nervous system, especially the brain. While moderate drinking can be relaxing, being intoxicated means the control centers are blocked, which can lead to memory lapses, decreased coordination, loss of inhibitions, confusion, mood swings, and depression. Most individuals will be adversely affected when the alcohol content of the blood rises above a threshold value. Legal intoxication in the United States is often defined as having a blood alcohol content ranging from 0.01 percent to 0.02 percent, depending upon the state. (Normally, the alcohol content of the blood is negligible.) Drunk drivers contribute significantly to traffic fatalities in the United States. Aggravated High Blood Pressure Excessive alcohol consumption can worsen hypertension. Increased Risk of Disease Alcohol injures the liver (CIRRHOSIS), the pancreas (PANCREATITIS), and the brain. It causes intestinal inflammation, interferes with nutrient uptake and may increase uptake of toxins. Heavy drinkers have increased risk of heart failure, and alcohol causes a dangerous enlargement of the heart. For this reason some researchers do not recommend that anyone past the age of 50 drink alcoholic beverages. Alcohol increases the risk of cancer of the esophagus, mouth, larynx, liver, and breast. Women who drink two to five alcoholic drinks a day increase their risk of invasive breast cancer 30 percent to 40 percent, according to the American Medical Association. Invasive cancer is the type most likely to spread to other TISSUES or organs.
Surplus Calories One gram of ethanol provides seven CALORIES, almost as much as FAT. One beer is equivalent to 150 calories. One shot (1.5 fl. oz.) of 80 proof gin, vodka, or rye whiskey contributes about 110 calories that supply no other nutritional value. Alcohol even increases the body’s need for vitamins.
Exposure to Sulfites Wine contains SULFITE, which can cause reactions in sensitive people.