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Health Services

ALCOHOL

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 accidents)

 

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 purposes.

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:

Stomach Damage
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.

Pancreatic Damage
The pancreas produces insulin and digestive enzymes. Chronic pancreatitis is a very painful inflammation which interferes with enzyme production and results in poor nutrition.

Liver Damage
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 stopped.

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.

Brain Damage
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.

Heart Damage
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.

 

Other Dangers:

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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