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Alcohol abuse is an individual problem and it is characterized by heavy drinking. In some instances, abuse of alcohol can cause death due to the damages caused to the liver, brain or pancreas among other body organs. Besides the several short-term harmful effects of alcohol abuse, it can also affect a person's personal life and emotional stability. The load of alcohol abuse is not only borne by the user but also their family and friends. This also often affects society as a whole.
Alcohol abuse affects an individual's brain and central nervous system. Being a depressant, alcohol slows down a person's central nervous system and can relieve pain, cause drowsiness and induce sleep. The drinker experiences loss of inhibition and mild euphoria since alcohol impairs the part of the brain that controls emotions and behavior. Alcohol impairs judgment, behavior, memory, concentration and coordination. Alcohol impairs a person's problem solving abilities, shortens attention span and induces extreme emotional outbursts and mood swings.
Alcohol acts as a tranquilizer on the central nervous system, which depresses the brain nerve cells, dulling, damaging and altering their ability to react appropriately. If taken in large doses, alcohol can cause sleep, respiratory failure, anesthesia, coma and death. Another harmful effect of alcohol abuse on the nervous system is that is impairs and distorts visual ability and hearing (impacts ability to differentiate between sounds and make out the direction they are from); dulled taste and smell (reducing the craving to eat); altered sense space and time, and loss of ache perception.
Alcohol abuse impairs fine motor skills as well as slowing reactions. It also causes tingling and numbness in the legs and arms caused by nerve damage from reduction of thiamine (Vitamin B1). When severe, it can harm other nerve endings, leading to staggering. Long term drinking might result in lasting brain damage ('wet brain' or Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome), serious mental disorders as well as addiction to alcohol.
Alcohol abuse is also harmful to the liver. Persistent heavy drinking might cause alcoholic hepatitis (destruction and inflammation of liver cells), and results to cirrhosis (irreversible scarring, lesions, and destruction of the cells of the liver). It impairs the ability of the liver to remove yellow pigment, which makes the skin appear yellow (jaundice). When the liver is damaged, it causes swelling in the extremities. There is a possibility of increased bleeding tendencies because the making of blood-clotting factors decreases. Besides, the liver accumulates fat and this can cause liver failure, coma and death.
Alcohol also has many harmful effects to the heart. It can directly damage the heart tissue, making it to dilate, which reduces ability to pump and raised risk of congestive cardiovascular failure. Alcohol use also boosts the risk of high blood pressure, which has a number of health detriments, particularly on heart function. This puts one in a risk of suffering heart attack and stroke. Chronic alcohol use inhibits production of both white and red blood cells.
Chronic alcohol abuse affects the gastrointestinal system. Alcohol irritates and damages the esophagus lining, induces vomiting, pain, hemorrhaging and difficulty swallowing. It can also contribute to throat cancer. The irritation of the lining of the stomach can cause inflammation, bleeding lesions, peptic ulcers and cancer. Minute blood loss might deplete the iron stores of the body, causing lack of energy, irritability, dizziness and headaches.
The pancreas is stressed as it has to create insulin for processing the sugar in alcohol, which creates a risk of pancreatitis. Alcohol causes irritation to the colon and the intestinal tract lining, which could lead to soreness, ulcers and cancers of intestines and colon. Alcohol impairs the ability of the small intestines to process vitamins and nutrients.
Heavy drinking negatively affects the reproductive system. Sexual functioning may be impaired leading to infertility and impotency. Females who drink heavily have a great risk of getting breast cancer, menstrual irregularities and early menopause. Drinking during pregnancy increases the chance to deliver a baby with disorders or even still birth. In men, it might lead to atrophy of testes, enlargement of breasts and sterility.
Chronic drinking negatively affects the lungs, muscles and bones. The lungs suffer lowered resistant to infection. Very high amounts of alcohol might cause breathing to stop, which results to death. Chronic drinking makes people's muscles weaker, painful and tender due to lower phosphate. Alcohol also interferes with the ability of the body to absorb calcium, resulting to weak, brittle, soft and thinner bones.
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