Alcohol Use – Excessive & Moderate Drinking, Short Term & Long Term Health Risks

Alcohol Use Excessive & Moderate Drinking Health Risks: Alcohol Use Disorder or Alcoholism is a serious condition which is characterised by excessive drinking of alcohol. This condition affects the mental and physical state of the person and of those around them. Anyone can become susceptible to alcohol abuse but it is usually seen in people who are facing some kind of stress in their life.

Excessive drinking of alcohol can damage all the organs of the person’s body but it particularly has a negative effect on the pancreas, liver, heart and immune system of the person. If a person tries to stop drinking immediately then they experience a number of withdrawal symptoms. Prolonged exposure to alcohol builds the tolerance of the person towards it meaning that the person will need to drink more alcohol.

Alcohol Use Disorder is characterised by binge drinking so that the person may achieve the same effect. This is a serious condition which can affect the well being of the person and of those around them. Alcohol Use Disorder is treated with rehabilitation and counselling of the patient while medications are given to deal with the withdrawal symptoms.

Alcohol Use

Alcohol is a chemical which works as a Central Nervous System depressant meaning it inhibits the ability of the person to think clearly. It also blocks the inhibitory centre of the brain which stops us from doing or making some decisions which can be harmful to us.

However when a person drinks alcohol this centre is depressed and stops working properly leading the person to do some of things which he normally would not do. This means that the person will not be able to limit their alcohol intake and hence will indulge in binge drinking. Excessive amounts of alcohol can lead to damage to the liver to a fatal extent and also in the heart, brain and other organs.

If Alcohol Use Disorder is not treated promptly then it can even lead to the death of the person due to the complications of Alcohol Use Disorder. The article given below will give you all the details regarding Alcohol Use Disorder, symptoms, who is at the risk of developing Alcohol Use Disorder and what are the short term and long term health risks and how to treat Alcohol Use Disorder.

Excessive and Moderate Drinking

Drinking on a moderate level is not harmful for the body and does not lead to severe consequences. Excessive drinking has been defined by many institutions and it is as follows.

  • For Men- A man is said to be a heavy drinker when he consumes more than 6 drinks in a day of any type of alcohol.
  • For Women- A woman is said to be a heavy drinker when she consumes more than 5 drinks of any type of alcohol in a day.

A moderate amount of drinking is defined according to various types of alcohol. A standard drink could be any of the following.

  • 355 mL of regular beer (5% alcohol)
  • 237 to 266 mL of malt liquor (7% alcohol)
  • 148 mL of wine (12% alcohol)
  • 44 mL of hard liquor or distilled spirits (40% alcohol)

Drinking alcohol in above-mentioned quantities is considered as moderate drinking and it does not lead to the long term effects of excessive drinking.

Alcohol Use - Excessive & Moderate Drinking, Short Term & Long Term Health Risks

Symptoms of Alcohol Use

Alcohol Use Disorder can be mild, moderate or severe depending on the amount of symptoms that the person experiences. The person should look out for the following symptoms in themselves and get help if they notice more than 3 symptoms in themselves.

  1. The person will not be able to limit the amount of alcohol that they drink in one day.
  2. Feeling strong cravings for alcohol that can lead to aggressive behaviour.
  3. Failing at school, work and relationships.
  4. Always trying to cut down on alcohol but unable to do so.
  5. Driving or swimming while being intoxicated.
  6. Developing a tolerance to alcohol so that the person needs to drink more alcohol in order to achieve the same effect.
  7. Giving up their social life and obligation to drink more alcohol.
  8. Continuing to drink alcohol even though they know that it is affecting their physical, mental and social health.
  9. The person may even experience Alcohol intoxication. In this condition there is too much alcohol in the bloodstream. This can lead to loss of coordination, slurred speech, inappropriate behaviour, blackouts and poor judgement. Extreme levels of Alcohol in the blood can even lead to coma, permanent brain damage and even death.
  10. When a person tries to suddenly stop taking alcohol they will experience Alcohol Withdrawal symptoms. These can lead to increased heart rate, rapid and shallow breathing, restlessness, hallucinations, nausea, vomiting, irritation and agitation and often seizures. These symptoms can be extremely severe and can even disrupt the normal functioning of the person.

Risk Factors of Alcohol Use

There are many factors that influence a person to develop Alcohol Use Disorder. If you have any of the factors given below then you are at an increased risk of being addicted to Alcohol-

  1. Start drinking at an early age- A person who has started drinking at an early age does not know how to limit their alcohol intake properly and are at a risk to develop Alcohol Use Disorder.
  2. Family History- The risk of developing Alcohol Use Disorder is more in people who have a family member who is suffering from this condition.
  3. Regular drinking- People who drink alcohol at regular intervals are also at a risk to develop an addiction to alcohol if they do not control their habits.
  4. Mental problems- People suffering from mental problems such as depression, anxiety or bipolar disorder are more susceptible to develop Alcohol Use Disorder. They use alcohol as an escape from their problems.
  5. Peer Pressure- Many teenagers develop an addiction to alcohol after they are forced by their peers to try it once. These youngsters can easily lose control and can indulge in Alcohol Abuse.
  6. Stress- People who are under a lot of pressure due to their work or from their relationships are more susceptible to develop an addiction to alcohol.
  7. Trauma- Persons who have suffered a lot of physical or mental trauma can also lean towards alcohol in order to avoid feeling their pain and trauma.
  8. Problems with work and relationships- If a person is having problems in their work or in their relationships then they may start drinking alcohol which can become an addiction as they start liking the state of intoxication.

Diagnosis of Alcohol Use

Alcohol Use Disorder can be diagnosed by either the affected person or a professional doctor. The diagnosis is made on the basis of the history of the person and tests are conducted to check for any damage to the organs of the person.

  1. Physical Test- Your doctor will first perform a physical test to look for the signs of Alcohol abuse in your body. Liver damage may present as jaundice which can easily be checked through the eyes of the person.
  2. Ask about your drinking habits- Your doctor will then ask about your drinking habits such as how often do you drink in a day, in a week and in a month and what kind of alcohol do you drink. Your doctor will also consult your family and friends too. 
  3. Lab tests- Your doctor will run blood tests and urine tests in order to check for any abnormality in the functioning of your body. Liver tests will also be conducted in order to check for liver cirrhosis.
  4. Imaging tests- Your doctor will also perform imaging tests such as X-rays, CT scans and MRI scans in order to get a better look at the structure of your organs such as your liver, your heart and your brain. Prolonged alcohol exposure is known to cause atrophy in the structure of the brain.
  5. Psychological evaluation- Your doctor will also perform a psychological evaluation of your mental state in order to look for the cause of Alcohol Use Disorder. This can help the doctor to pinpoint any signs of depression, anxiety and stress which could cause you to have Alcohol Use Disorder.

Short Term Health Risks

Alcohol Use Disorder can lead to various short term and long term health risks. Many of the common short term effects of Alcohol Use Disorder are given below.

  1. Increased feeling of self confidence- The patient will experience increased self confidence and a good mood which can make them do unreasonable things such driving while drinking. This can endanger your life and the lives of others.
  2. Pancreatitis- Alcohol Use Disorder can lead to inflammation of your pancreas. This can cause problems in your digestion and other functions of your pancreas. Thus it can also lead to an increased amount of sugar in your blood.
  3. Liver Problems- Prolonged Alcohol use can damage your liver and cause the tissues to degenerate. This can cause serious problems in your digestion and other bodily functions.
  4. Stupor- Persons who have been taking alcohol in excessive amounts can find themselves in a state of stupor. In this state the person will experience poor sense of judgement, nausea, vomiting and blackouts in which the person does not remember anything that happened.
  5. Respiratory depression- Respiratory depression is a state in which the person has an extremely low respiratory rate. This can be life threatening if the respiratory rate becomes too low. 
  6. Coma- If the person has too much alcohol in their bloodstream then it can lead to damage to the brain cells and tissue which can cause the person to fall into a coma.
  7. Increased use of alcohol- The person will not be able to control their urges and will start seeking more alcohol in order to stay in the intoxicated state. This can cause damage to the body of the person.
  8. Bleeding in Gastrointestinal tract- The person will also experience bleeding from their gastrointestinal tract which can come out through their coughing. The person should immediately visit their doctor to get themselves checked.

Long Term Health Risks

Alcohol Use Disorder has many long term effects on the body of the person if they do not limit their alcohol intake. The major health risks associated with Alcohol Use Disorder are given below.

  1. Liver Cirrhosis- Liver Cirrhosis is a serious complication which is common in patients with alcohol addiction. Liver cirrhosis means that the liver of the person is deteriorating and is unable to perform its functions. Severe cases of Liver Cirrhosis are treated with a liver transplant.
  2. Heart damage- Heart damage is a common occurrence in people with Alcohol Use Disorder. Alcohol can damage the tissues of your heart and can even lead to a heart attack.
  3. Diabetic complications- Alcohol intake can also induce diabetic complications such as hypoglycemia as it interferes with the release of glucose from your liver. Insulin also lowers the amount of glucose in your blood thus putting your life at risk.
  4. Sexual dysfunction- Alcohol also interferes with the normal functioning of the reproductive systems. Men tend to have erectile dysfunction and women tend to have irregular periods.
  5. Digestive problems- Alcohol causes a disruption in the normal functioning of the digestive system. The patient can experience bleeding in their digestive tract, ulcers in their oesophagus, inflammation in the lining of the stomach. This also interferes with the absorption of some nutrients such as Vitamin B.
  6. Birth defects- Pregnant women who drink on a regular basis give birth to babies with birth defects such as missing limbs, congenital heart disorders and developmental disorders. Alcohol use can also lead to miscarriage in women.
  7. Weak immunity- Alcohol Use Disorder tends to weaken the immunity of the person and make them susceptible to common infections. These infections can also lead to serious problems and complications in the patients.
  8. Increased risk of cancer- Long term Alcohol use is known to be a risk factor for developing cancer. Cancer of Digestive tract, mouth, lungs, liver and breast cancer have been linked to an excessive use of alcohol.
  9. Neurological complications- Excessive amount of alcohol can cause a number of neurological problems in the patient such as depression, mental confusion, incoordination, anxiety, dementia and even short term memory loss.
  10. Drug interaction with alcohol- If you are on any kind of medication then alcohol can interfere with the action of your medication or it can react with it to produce toxic substances which can harm your body.

Treatment of Alcohol Use

Treatment plans are designed based on the severity of the Alcohol Use Disorder and the needs of the patient. Alcohol Use Disorder can be used by intervention of family members along with professional help. Treatment can include the following methods-

  1. Detoxification and complete withdrawal- The first stage of treatment includes forming a detoxification program to get rid of the toxins of alcohol and then limiting the amount of alcohol that you take everyday. The amount of alcohol is lowered at regular intervals so that you do not experience any severe withdrawal symptoms and to decrease your dependency on alcohol.
  2. Psychological Counselling- The person also undergoes psychological counselling to deal with all the underlying mental issues caused by Alcohol Use Disorder. This also helps the individual to understand their problem and motivates them to get better.
  3. Medications- Oral and intravenous medications may be administered to prevent the person from drinking. The drug which is commonly used for this purpose is Disulfiram. If you drink alcohol when you are on this medication then it produces severe bodily reactions such as headaches, nausea and vomiting. Naltrexone and Acamprosate are also used to treat Alcohol Use Disorder. Vivitrol is a medication which is administered intravenously and works similar to Naltrexone.
  4. Support of family members- A person can recover more quickly if he receives the support of their family and loved ones. This makes them feel that they are not alone and can get over their addiction.
  5. Treatment of medical complications- The individual will also receive treatment for all the alcohol induced complications such as liver damage so that the life of the person is not in any danger.  
  6. Development of healthy habits- The affected person should try to develop new habits and hobbies which do not include alcohol. This will take their mind off the urge to drink alcohol and also help to boost their confidence.
  7. Work on yourself- The person should try to improve their personality and develop new hobbies in order to improve their confidence and lifestyle. This can help them to gain a new outlook towards life and thus change their feelings towards it.
  8. Yoga- Yoga can help the person to relax and gain more focus and concentration. Yoga has a lot of physical and psychological benefits which can improve the overall health of the individual. 
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FAQs Related to Alcohol Use

What is Alcohol Use Disorder?

Alcohol Use Disorder is when a person is not able to limit their alcohol intake and indulges in excessive drinking. This is a severe disorder which can affect the person and those around them.

Is Alcohol Use Disorder curable?

Alcohol Use Disorder can be cured only if the patient is willing to be treated. The treatment is long and requires the efforts of both the affected individual and the family of the individual.

Is Alcohol Use Disorder harmful?

Alcohol Use Disorder is extremely harmful to the person and can lead to the development of severe complications in the person. If it is not treated in time then it can even lead to the death of the individual.

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