Alcoholism: a national disgrace


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alcohol-1Very few people in the United States have not experienced a family member, relative or close friend who have succumbed to the ravages of alcoholism; it is that prevalent. Prohibition didn't work nor does "just saying no." Alcohol is a drug in the fullest sense of the word and should not be considered anything else. Consider the following statistics from the CDC:

>% of adults 18 years of age and over who were current regular drinkers (at least 12 drinks in the past year): 52%

>% of adults 18 years of age and over who were current infrequent drinkers (1-11 drinks in the past year): 13%

> Overall, alcohol abuse kills on the average, 75,000 Americans every year and shortens the lives of these people and others by an average of 30 years!! To put this in perspective, in 2008, about 18,000 souls died of AIDS.

>Excessive alcohol consumption is the 3rd leading cause of preventable death in the United States after tobacco use and poor eating/exercise habits.

> The CDC stated that 34,833 people died in 2001 from cirrhosis of the liver, cancer and other diseases linked to drinking too much alcohol.

alcohol-2>Another 40,933 died from car crashes and other accidents caused by being drunk.

Researchers considered any man who averaged more than two drinks per day or more than four drinks per occasion to be an excessive drinker. For women it was more than one drink per day or more than three drinks per occasion.

Men accounted for 72% of the excessive drinking deaths in 2001, and those 21 and younger made up 6% of the death toll.

Light or moderate drinking is well known to benefit the health of some people but heavy drinking increases the risk of high blood pressure, heart disorders, some cancers and liver disease.


Definition: (from the Mayo Clinic)
Alcoholism is a chronic disease in which your body becomes dependent on alcohol. When you have alcoholism, you lose control over your drinking. You may not be able to control when you drink, how much you drink, or how long you drink on each occasion. If you have alcoholism, you continue to drink even though you know it's causing problems with your relationships, health, work or finances.

It's possible to have a problem with alcohol but not have all the symptoms of alcoholism. This is known as "alcohol abuse," which means you drink too much and it causes problems in your life although you aren't completely dependent on alcohol. If you have alcoholism or you abuse alcohol, you may not be able to cut back or quit without help. A number of approaches are available to help you recover from alcoholism, including medications, counseling and self-help groups.

Alcoholism symptoms include:

-Being unable to limit the amount of alcohol you drink
-Feeling a strong need or compulsion to drink
-Developing tolerance to alcohol so that you need an increasing amounts to feel its effects
-Having legal problems or problems with relationships, employment or finances due to drinking
-Drinking alone or in secret
-Experiencing physical withdrawal symptoms - such as nausea, sweating and shaking - when you don't drink
-Not remembering conversations or commitments, sometimes referred to as "blacking out"
-Making a ritual of having drinks at certain times and becoming annoyed when this ritual is disturbed or questioned
-Losing interest in activities and hobbies that used to bring you pleasure
-Irritability when your usual drinking time nears, especially if alcohol isn't available
-Keeping alcohol in unlikely places at home, at work or in your car
-Gulping drinks, ordering doubles, becoming intoxicated intentionally to feel good or drinking to feel "normal"
>People who abuse alcohol may have many of the same signs and symptoms as people who have full-blown alcoholism. However, if you abuse alcohol but aren't completely addicted to it, you may not feel as much of a compulsion to drink. You may not have physical withdrawal symptoms when you don't drink. But alcohol abuse can still cause serious problems. As with alcoholism, you may not be able to quit drinking without help.

If you've ever wondered whether your drinking crosses the line into alcohol abuse or dependence, ask yourself these questions:

If you're a man, do you ever have five or more drinks in a day? One standard drink is equivalent to 12 ounces (354.9 milliliters) of beer, 5 ounces (147.9 milliliters) of wine or 1.5 ounces (44.4 milliliters) of 80-proof spirits.
If you're a woman, do you ever have four or more drinks in a day?
Do you need a drink as soon as you get up?
Do you feel guilty about your drinking?
Do you think you need to cut back on how much you drink?
Are you annoyed when other people comment on or criticize your drinking habits?
If you answered yes to even one of these questions, you may have a problem with alcohol.


When to see a doctor:
If you feel that you don't have control over your drinking, talk with your doctor. See your doctor even if you don't think you have alcoholism, but you're concerned that you might be drinking too much or that alcohol may be causing problems in your life. Other ways to get help include talking with a mental health provider or seeking help from a support group such as Alcoholics Anonymous. Millions of addicts have sought help from AA and millions are STILL going to this wonderful organization. AA can be found in every city and town in the United States. If you area an alcoholic or addict of any kind, please do find the local AA meeting and get yourself over to it.

Because denial is a frequent characteristic of alcohol abuse and alcoholism, you may not feel like you need treatment. You might not recognize how much you drink or how many problems in your life are related to alcohol use. Listen to family members, friends or co-workers when they ask you to examine your drinking habits or to seek help.

Alcohol addiction - physical dependence on alcohol - occurs gradually. Over time, drinking too much changes the balance of chemicals in your brain associated with the pleasurable aspects of drinking alcohol. Excessive, long-term drinking can affect the balance of these chemicals, causing your body to crave alcohol to restore good feelings or to avoid negative feelings.

Risk factors for alcoholism include:

We've already discussed some of these issues but they bear repeating.

-Steady drinking over time. Drinking too much on a regular basis for an extended period can produce a physical dependence on alcohol.
-Age. People who begin drinking at an early age are at a higher risk of alcohol dependence or abuse.
-Sex. Men are more likely to become dependent on alcohol than are women. However, women are at greater risk of developing some medical complications linked to drinking, such as liver disease.
-Family history. The risk of alcoholism is higher for people who have a parent who abused alcohol.
-Depression and other mental health problems. It's common for people with a mental health disorder such as anxiety or depression to abuse alcohol or other substances.
-Social and cultural factors. Having friends or a close partner who drinks regularly could increase your risk of alcoholism. The glamorous way that drinking is sometimes portrayed in the media may also send the message that it's OK to drink excessively.

Alcohol depresses your central nervous system. In some people, the initial reaction may be stimulation. But as you continue to drink, you become sedated. Alcohol lowers your inhibitions and affects your thoughts, emotions and judgment. Too much alcohol affects your speech and muscle coordination and affects vital centers of your brain. A heavy drinking binge may even cause a life-threatening coma.

>Excessive drinking can cause a number of problems. Some of these include:

-Reduced judgment and lowered inhibitions, leading to poor choices and dangerous situations or behaviors
-Motor vehicle accidents and other types of accidents
-Domestic problems
-Poor performance at work or school
-A higher likelihood of committing violent crimes

Health problems caused by excessive drinking can include:

Liver disorders. Drinking heavily can cause alcoholic hepatitis, an inflammation of the liver. After years of drinking, hepatitis may lead to the irreversible and progressive destruction and scarring of liver tissue (cirrhosis).
Digestive problems. Alcohol can result in inflammation of the lining of the stomach (gastritis) and can interfere with absorption of B vitamins and other nutrients. Heavy drinking can also damage your pancreas, which produces the hormones that regulate your metabolism and the enzymes that help digest fats, proteins and carbohydrates.
Heart problems. Excessive drinking can lead to high blood pressure and increases your risk of heart failure or stroke.
Diabetes complications. Alcohol interferes with the release of glucose from your liver and can increase the risk of low blood sugar (hypoglycemia). This is dangerous if you have diabetes and are already taking insulin to lower your blood sugar level.
Sexual function and menstruation. Alcohol abuse can cause erectile dysfunction in men. In women, it can interrupt menstruation.
Eye problems. Over time, excessive alcohol use can cause weakness and paralysis of your eye muscles.
Birth defects. Alcohol use during pregnancy may cause fetal alcohol syndrome, resulting in giving birth to a child who has physical and developmental problems.
Bone loss. Alcohol may interfere with the production of new bone. This can lead to thinning bones (osteoporosis) and an increased risk of fractures.
Neurological complications. Excessive drinking can affect your nervous system, causing numbness of your hands and feet, disordered thinking, dementia, and short-term memory loss.
Increased risk of cancer. Chronic alcohol abuse has been linked to a higher risk of numerous cancers, including mouth, throat, liver, colon and breast cancer.

Alcohol use leads to serious consequences for many teens. Alcohol-related motor vehicle accidents are a major cause of teen deaths. Alcohol is also often a cause in other teenage deaths, including drowning, suicides and homicides. Teens who drink are more likely to become sexually active, have sex more frequently and engage in risky, unprotected sex than are teens who don't drink.

Please people, if you even think you may have an alcohol problem or know someone who does, get help as soon as possible.



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