Effects of alcohol misuse

 
Risks:


The liver can process approximately 1 unit of alcohol per hour: it starts processing the alcohol around 20 minutes after the first drink. A person drinking above 24 units a day, every day, for any extended length of time would be likely to fulfil the clinical (medical) definition of alcohol dependency. The idea of dependent alcohol use ('alcoholism') as 'disease' or as uncontrollable most likely originates here, because the minute blood/alcohol levels drop below a certain point, resisting the need to 'top-up' will be extremely difficult for the drinker to do. Therefore, the message (from family, friends and concerned others) often given to a dependent alcohol user.

 

"Why can't you just stop?" - can easily miss the point of how difficult and potentially dangerous this may actually be; conversely, the message that suddenly stopping use of alcohol is too dangerous to do without medical intervention can, if not explained properly, lead to the drinker continuing with high levels of consumption without appreciating that a gradual reduction and slow detoxification is - in the right circumstances - a viable option.

 

The number of alcohol units in popular drinks

 

The 10 most common symptoms of alcohol withdrawal are:

 
  • Depression

  • Anxiety

  • Irritability

  • Tiredness

  • Craving

  • Restlessness

  • Insomnia

  • Confusion

  • Sweating

  • Physical weakness

 

The contra-indications (restlessness, anxiety, depression, insomnia) of alcohol can easily reinforce a person's belief that drinking more will reduce those experiences, when it's just as likely that more will be contributing to those very symptoms.

 

Withdrawal from long-term or heavy alcohol use is one of the most severe drug withdrawal states (far more serious than that provoked by heroin, for instance) and can, in certain circumstances, be fatal.

 

Harm minimisation:

Rules and rituals appear to protect individuals and groups from some of the more negative effects of alcohol use by establishing a framework that mediates, and therefore helps control, its use. These can and should be (re) introduced and can include:

  • Not using on consecutive days

  • Not using because angry, depressed or anxious

  • Having a 'not-before-a-specific-time rule'

  • Not drinking on an empty stomach

  • Alternating alcoholic drinks with water or soft drinks

  • Switching from a high to a lower unit alcoholic drink

  • Partially diluting the drink of choice

  • Separating alcohol use from cocaine, heroin or tranquiliser use where practical or possible

 

Effects on the body

Brain damage

  • Alcohol interferes with the brain's communication pathways, and can affect the way the brain looks and works. Binge drinking can cause blackouts, memory loss and anxiety. Heart - Drinking a lot over a long time or too much on a single occasion can damage the heart, causing problems including the liver, pancreas and immune system and can also be a cause of cancer.

 

What are the long term effects of alcohol?

  • Binge drinking and continued alcohol use in large amounts are associated with many health problems, including: ... High blood pressure, stroke, and other heart-related diseases. Liver disease. Drinking too much can also lead to weight gain, or obesity. Long-term drinking can result in permanent brain damage, serious mental health problems and alcohol dependence or alcoholism.

 

Alcohol is a depressant

  • Although classified as a depressant, the amount of alcohol consumed determines the type of effect. Most people drink for the stimulant effect, such as a beer or glass of wine taken to “loosen up.” But if a person consumes more than the body can handle, they then experience alcohol's depressant effect.

 

Why do I feel depressed the next day after drinking alcohol?

  • Though scientists are unsure about what exactly causes these emotional symptoms, it is known that drinking an excessive amount of alcohol can cause an imbalance of chemicals and nutrients in the body, which in turn can lead to anxiety and depression.

 

Why does alcohol cause anxiety?

  • This is because drinking excessively induces the symptoms of anxiety, and it can even trigger panic attacks. This is because of the effects that alcohol has on the body – it is a toxin that can cause havoc to proper physical and mental functioning.

 

Can alcohol cause anxiety and panic attacks?

  • Dizziness and Rapid Heartbeat While drinking (and sometimes after drinking), alcohol can cause sensations of dizziness, rapid heartbeat, heart palpitations, and other symptoms that are known to trigger panic attacks, especially in those with health anxiety.

 

Digestion problems

  • Alcohol can wreak havoc on your digestive system, from your mouth all the way to your colon. ... Alcohol abuse can damage the salivary glands and irritate the mouth and tongue, leading to gum disease, tooth decay, and even tooth loss. Heavy drinking can cause ulcers in the oesophagus, acid reflux, and heartburn.

 
© 2015 Sussex Alcohol Counselling Service