Medical Effects of Alcohol

15 Feb Medical Effects of Alcohol

Alcohol is legal, in the United States, but is nevertheless a psychoactive drug. Initially, the sought-after effects are reduced inhibition, relaxation, and a feeling of euphoria. Alcohol causes these effects by depressing the central nervous system. At the same time, however there are immediate negative effects such as slurred speech, co-ordination problems, poor judgment, insomnia, hangover, and blackouts (Rassool, 2008).

If enough is consumed in a short enough period of time, an individual can die suddenly from alcohol poisoning. Another cause of death, for chronic drinkers, is going through withdrawal without proper medical attention. Of course the accidental death rate, especially relating to driving, is much higher for those who drink alcohol than those who do not (Rassool, 2008).

In women, alcohol has been linked to menstrual disorders and infertility. Perhaps one of the most tragic effects of alcohol, however, is what can happen to the fetus, should a woman drink during pregnancy. Fetal alcohol syndrome causes brain damage, growth retardation, facial abnormalities and heart and eye disorders (Rassool, 2008).

Fetal alcohol syndrome has also been linked with genital deformities, behavioral problems, and speech impairments. This syndrome is the most common cause for non-genetic mental handicap, even though it is utterly preventable (Rassool, 2008).

Wernicke’s Encephalopathy is a condition in which the regular abuse of alcohol damages the digestive system’s ability to absorb key nutrients from food. This, added to the fact that many alcoholics eat a poor diet, can lead to nutrient deficiencies and even brain damage (Rassool, 2008).

Psychological effects of alcohol include anger, anxiety, amnesia (memory problems), suicide attempts, depression, impaired relationships and insomnia. Alcoholics are also far more likely than non-alcoholics to be involved in assault, burglary, domestic violence, child abuse and neglect, conflict, homicide, theft, and unwanted pregnancy (Rassool, 2008).

Over time, the alcohol damages the liver, the pancreas (causing pancreatitis) and the heart. Many alcoholics die of heart attacks and liver disease. However, while hypertension and arrhythmia may go unnoticed for a time, obesity and diabetes are quite often evident with a chronic drinker. The risk for cancer is also significantly increased (Rassool, 2008).

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can vary depending on the amount and frequency of alcohol use and include milder symptoms such as shakiness, anxiety, irritability, rapid mood swings, depression, fatigue, and bad dreams. Moderate symptoms include insomnia, nausea and vomiting, headache, sweating, rapid heart rate, dilated pupils, hand tremor, and paleness (Rassool, 2008).

Delirium tremens is an often deadly withdrawal syndrome that can occur in heavy drinkers and appears as confusion, agitation, disorientation, hallucinations, convulsions, fever, suicidal behavior, anger, and paranoia. Delirium tremens must be treated immediately. It is recommended that alcoholics receive medical detoxification and professional addiction treatment (Rassool, 2008).

For more information contact a Utah Drug Rehab center near you. Utah Drug Rehab centers are great at answering questions and helping those who might be struggling with any form of drug abuse.
Rassool, H. (2008). Alcohol and Drug Misuse; A Handbook for Students and Health Professionals. NY, USA: Routledge.

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