Effects of Alcohol Abuse
The Personal Consequences:
- Family breakup
- Career loss
- Monetary loss
- Physical breakdown
- Mental breakdown
- Death (of the abuser or a victim, such as in drunken driving
The Financial Costs:
The average cost of a DUI (Driving Under the Influence) or
DWI (Driving While Intoxicated) conviction is $4,000 - $6,000.
Zero tolerance laws are now in effect in most states.
In New York:
The New York Police Department will confiscate the vehicles
of intoxicated drivers arrested for DWI. When an individual is
arrested for DWI, the City applies civil forfeiture proceedings
against the vehicle, which is considered the instrument of a
crime, and the car is immediately impounded. If the individual
is convicted, their vehicle becomes the property of the City,
and will later be sold at public auction or used for law enforcement
The legal Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) is 0.10%.
New York is one of the states that uses the Per Se law, which
means that as long as you exceed the legal BAC you will be arrested
even if you don't show signs of intoxication.
If you're a minor, you can lose your driver's license immediately
and for up to 3 years any time you are caught with alcohol, even
when you aren't in a vehicle.
The Physical Harm:
Alcohol causes the stomach to produce excess
stomach acid. This can lead to gastritis, a painful inflammation
of the mucous lining of the stomach. Gastritis causes bleeding
and leads to stomach ulcers.
Damage To The Esophagus
The esophagus is the tube that carries
food from the mouth to the stomach. Alcohol is known to cause
cancer of the esophagus, a rapidly growing cancer which is usually
fatal. It causes difficulty in swallowing, and a feeling of blockage
in the chest. Alcohol can also cause varicose veins of the esophagus,
which can burst if the person vigorously coughs or vomits. Burst
veins can cause a person to bleed to death.
The pancreas produces insulin and digestive
enzymes. Chronic pancreatitis is a very painful inflammation
which interferes with enzyme production and results in poor nutrition.
The liver has a central role in digestion and
helps rid the body of poisonous substances. Alcohol damages this
organ in several ways:
Fatty liver occurs because the body uses calories from alcohol
as its energy source, instead of using the fat deposited in the
body. This condition is usually reversible when alcohol use is
Liver inflammation involves the death of liver
cells. It can cause jaundice, a yellowish coloring of the skin.
Untreated, liver inflammation can cause death or lead to cirrhosis.
Cirrhosis occurs when liver cells die and are replaced
by scar tissue. Symptoms include weakness, fatigue, weight loss,
and loss of interest in sex. Cirrhosis can be treated, but if
drinking continues to cause liver damage, it may be fatal.
Prolonged drinking damages the nerves that allow
you to control your muscles and sense pain, temperature, pressure
and position of your body.
Korsakoff's Syndrome is the result of long years of hard drinking
and affects the thalamus and hippocampus. The thalamus is a central
relay point in the brain for information going from the body
to the brain. The hippocampus is involved in memory. When these
structures are damaged, the drinker has almost no memory of recent
events, and has great difficulty learning new material.
Wernike's Disease is an even more serious brain damage, with
severe muscle incoordination and mental confusion. It is probably
related to the vitamin-B deficiency alcoholics tend to suffer.
The cerebellum controls muscle movement and coordination.
The vitamin-B deficiency caused by drinking alcohol damages the
cerebellum so that the person shuffles, stumbles, and shakes.
Alcohol abusers may have hallucinations - seeing or hearing
things that are not really there.
Alcohol can poison the heart muscle and cause
congestive heart failure in which the heart cannot pump blood
efficiently. Alcohol can also cause an irregular heartbeat, and
chest pain from restricted blood flow to the heart. Further,
alcohol causes high blood pressure, which can lead to a stroke.
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
The alcohol a pregnant woman drinks
reaches her baby and stays there until the mother's body processes
it. Because of this, alcohol use by a pregnant woman carries
the risk of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. FAS is a group of abnormalities
ranging from mild to severe mental retardation, to deformities
such as a small skull, small eyes, misshapen ears, joint defects
and facial deformities. Low birth weight, failure to thrive,
and heart defects also occur. Growing up, FAS babies have difficulty
focusing their attention. Since no safe level of alcohol use
has been established for pregnancy, women should not use alcohol
at all when pregnant.
Accidents: Because alcohol reduces coordination and impairs
judgment, accidents are more likely. This is particularly true
when someone drinks and drives.
Behavior: Alcohol loosens inhibitions, so that a drinker may
become more aggressive and destructive.
Malnutrition: Weight loss and malnutrition can occur from
long-term alcohol use. Alcoholics tend to neglect a balanced
diet, so Vitamin-B deficiencies, which cause nerve damage, heart
damage, poor memory and fatigue, are especially likely.
Sexual Performance: Alcohol often cancels a man's ability
to have and maintain an erection.
The "DTs": Delirium Tremens occurs during withdrawal
from alcohol. It involves seizures, anxiety attacks, sweating,
confusion, sleeplessness, profound depression and hallucinations.
It can last up to 10 days, and may be fatal if the person is
not under the care of a physician.
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