Monday, 18 February 2013

Health Issues and Alcoholism....



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The video just gives you an idea of impairment of judgement and effects on brain read through the blog and go through  the effects of Alcohol  Dependency...

Health Issues and Alcoholism

A recent study in the United Kingdom examined 20 drugs and found that overall alcohol was the most harmful drug, followed by heroin, and then crack. The findings considered both individual and societal harm. When a person abuses alcohol or drugs, the ramifications are felt within his or her entire sphere of influence: family, friends, work, school, and community. The cost to society of one single alcoholic can be staggering.
According to the National Council on Alcoholism:
  • ¼ of all emergency room admissions, 1/3 of all suicides, and more than ½ of all homicides are alcohol related
  • Alcoholic drinking contributes to heart disease, cancer and stroke
  • ½ of all traffic fatalities are alcohol related
  • 48-64% of people who die in fires have blood levels indicating intoxication
  • Fetal alcoholism is the leading cause of mental retardation

Impact of Alcohol on the Body

Alcohol dependence and addiction have a profound impact on the whole body.
The physical results of drinking are dependent upon several factors:
  • How much and how often a person drinks
  • The age at which the person begins drinking, and the duration of time drinking
  • Age, level of education, gender, genetic background, and family history of alcoholism
  • General health
Areas of the body affected by alcohol consumption:

(source: http://pathwayscourses.samhsa.gov/aaap/aaap_3_pg7.htm) 

Physical Implications of Alcohol Abuse

Alcohol is rapidly absorbed by the body through the stomach, intestine, and directly through blood into the brain. A small amount of alcohol can alter brain function. Large amounts of alcohol ingested regularly damages the brain, the central nervous system, major organs, circulatory system, skeletal system, immune system, and psychological responses to the environment.

Alcohol and the Brain

When we think about a drunk person, we think about someone who staggers about, someone who stammers and slurs his or her words, or someone whose responsiveness is somewhat compromised.
Alcohol enters the brain and immediately alters the messages the neurotransmitters send to the rest of the body. The faster alcohol is consumed, the higher the blood alcohol level. Because alcohol is soluble in water solutions, it easily crosses the blood brain barrier. Within several minutes, normal neuron responses are diminished allowing the alcohol to manipulate the receptors.  Because the receptors are associated with “pleasure” centers in the brain, the body easily adapts to the manipulation. Yet the desire for pleasure will quickly require more alcohol intake to achieve the initial experience. Soon that pleasurable sensation is gone, though the body continues to seek the stimulus.
Unfortunately, the brain’s ability to process even a very small amount of alcohol will result in alterations of the brain. The more a person drinks, the worse the impact is upon the brain structure and the brain function. Scientists are still exploring the long-term effects of alcohol on brain function. 
Consuming large quantities of alcohol leads to a deficiency of vitamin B1 (thiamine). This vitamin is an essential nutrient for all body tissues. Thiamine deficiency causes some alcoholics to develop Wernicke-Korsakoff, a severe, two-phased syndrome.
Wernicke’s encephalopathy, phase one, includes “mental confusion, paralysis of the nerves that move the eyes, and difficulty with muscle coordination. Such a condition can leave a person confused about finding his or her way out of a room. Even if a person does not suffer from all the characteristics, they may have the syndrome.” (source: NIAAA, Oct. 04, #63)
80% of the people who develop Wenicke’s encephalopathy will eventually develop Korsakoff’s syndrome, phase two. This syndrome is chronic and irreversible. It affects a person’s ability to both learn new information and to recall old information. Furthermore, people suffering from Korsakoff’s syndrome experience forgetfulness and are frustrated easily. (source: NIAAA, Oct.04, #63)

Brain Damage and Alcohol Abuse

The amount of alcohol a person can ingest safely varies from person to person and depends upon genetic, biological, physical, psychological, psychosocial and environmental factors.
After decades of scientific research, the ramifications of chronic alcohol abuse are:
  • Severe alterations in cognitive functioning. Frequent, chronic abuse of alcohol can lead to Wernickes-Korsakoff’s syndrome.
  • Diminished decision making. Alcoholics are unable to appropriately respond to the negative consequences of continued drinking. Also, alcoholics are also described as being “impulsive, inconsiderate, uninhibited, inflexible or ill mannered…As a group, alcoholics share this constellation of behaviors characteristic of frontal lobe dysfunction…”, (source: Alcohol Research & Health, Wntr-Spring, 2010, “Alcohol’s effects on brain and behavior”, Edith V. Sullivan  et al online)
  • Severe alterations in brain matter. Grey matter and white matter, both brain material used for learning and for cognitive functioning are reduced or destroyed by chronic use of alcohol.  Intellectual deficiencies and dementia are the results of long term alcohol abuse.
Alcohol also has the ability to block the formation of “new autobiographical memories…In addition to impairing balance, motor coordination, decision making, and a litany of other functions, alcohol produces detectable memory impairments beginning after just one or two drinks. As the dose increases, so does the magnitude of the memory impairments. Under certain circumstances, alcohol can disrupt or completely block the ability to form memories for events that transpire while a person is intoxicated, a type of impairment known as a blackout.” (source: What Happened? Alcohol, Memory Blackouts, and the Brain” Aaron M. White, Ph.D.,http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arh27-2/186-196.htm)
The impairment can be cumulative, resulting in a loss of memory over time, or it can be immediate, as in the experience of a blackout. Blackouts are the result of acute intoxication: drinking too much, too quickly, and on an empty stomach.

(soruce: http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arh27-2/186-196.htm)
The section of the brain involved in forming memories is located in the hippocampus. As the illustration shows, the medial septum has a direct link to the hippocampus and the frontal lobe, which is involved in the retrieval of memories, decision making, and planning. Thus, the disruption to  neurons in any area of this section of the brain impacts all the sections. Alcohol prevents the formation of new memories. (http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arh27-2/186-196.htm)

Mental Health and Alcoholism

Society accepts drinking as a normal part of everyday living. However, people who have a predisposition to alcoholism, or people who have mental health issues such as depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and personality disorders are more likely to have an alcohol problem. Mental health disorders that exist alongside an alcohol addiction are called a dual diagnosis disorders. Plainly stated, drinking worsens mental health disorders. However, substance related disorders sometimes can manifest acting like mental health disorders
Approximately 37% of alcohol abusers have at least one co-occurring mental disorder (see dual diagnosis). What does this mean to a person who has not yet been diagnosed with a mental health disorder? Unfortunately, when alcohol is combined with any of the mental health disorders, a person’s life will take a downward turn. The use of alcohol does not help resolve the mental health disorder; indeed, it can worsen the mental health disorder. There is a greater chance of a dually diagnosed individual experiencing violent behavior, substance abuse, and problems with work, family and friends.

Other physical complications of alcohol addiction

Liver Damage and Alcohol Addiction

The liver is a vital organ in the body’s ability to absorb, process nutrients and remove a variety of toxins. It also controls the blood’s ability to clot, helps fight off disease, and reduce internal inflammations. Chronic alcohol abuse has a direct and deleterious impact on healthy, normal liver functioning. “Long-term, heavy alcohol use is the leading cause of illness and death from liver disease in the United States. The number of persons with alcoholic liver disease (ALD)…is conservatively estimated at more than 2 million.” (source: Alcohol Research & Health, Winter 2000, “Medical Consequences of Alcohol Abuse” n.a., onlinehttp://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0CXH/is_1_24/ai_72884222/)
Liver disease develops in stages and while most people have heard of cirrhosis of the liver, the process does not begin there. ALD occurs in three stages:
  • Fatty liver (steatosis). This condition occurs with both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinkers. It is easily defined by its name. Fat droplets develop within the liver leading to the organ’s enlargement. This condition has been found to be reversible once a person abstains consistently from alcohol.
  • Alcoholic hepatitis. This second stage is far more severe than fatty liver disease. According to the American College of Gastroenterology, people suffering from alcoholic hepatitis have an enlarged liver and experience:
    • Weakness
    • Fever
    • Loss of appetite
    • Nausea
    • Vomiting
    • Pain in the area of the liver
When the inflammation subsides, scarring in the liver occurs leaving fibroid tissue called fibrosis. There is no reversing the fibrosis condition of the liver.
  • Alcohol Cirrhosis. This is the final stage of liver disease. The fibrosis, or scarring, within the liver leads to “obstruction of blood flow through the liver. This prevents the liver from performing its critical functions of purifying the blood and nutrients absorbed from the intestines.” (source:http://www.acg.gi.org/patients/cgp/cgpvol2.asp#Alcoholic%20Liver)
Thus, liver failure follows.
During the progression of liver disease, the body’s natural defenses produce an increase in cytokines that help fight inflammations. Chronic alcohol abuse induces the steady increase in cytokines. This abnormal production creates other chemical responses within the body which then leads to a scarring and a weakening of the permeability of the intestinal cell wall. The weakened permeability of the intestinal cell wall enables toxins to move freely from the intestine into the liver and back. Alcohol disrupts the filtering mechanism that protects the purity of the blood stream, the digestion of food, and the absorption of protein.
Both men and women alcoholics suffer from cirrhosis and other alcohol-related liver disorders. However, the mortality rate for cirrhosis of the liver is two times higher for men than women. But, women are more susceptible to cirrhosis than men. (Gender and Alcoholism)

(source: http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/cirrhosis_ez/)


Complications of Alcohol-Related Liver Disease

Alcohol-related liver disease usually occurs after years of heavy drinking and the complications can be serious. The lack of normal liver function and its inability to clean the blood supply for the body leaves people with cirrhosis also susceptible to:
Symptoms of Alcohol-Related Liver Disease
  • Bleeding
  • Bloating
  • Waste build-up in blood causing confusion
  • Portal hypertension
  • Enlarged veins in the esophagus and stomach
  • Yellowing of the skin, eyes
(source: National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse, NDDIC)
  • Build up of fluid in the abdomen
  • Bleeding from veins in the esophagus or stomach
  • Enlarged spleen
  • High blood pressure in the liver
  • Brain disorders and coma
  • Kidney failure
Those suffering from cirrhosis can develop “hepatic encephalopathy” which causes altered:
  • Sleep patterns
  • Mood changes
  • Personality changes
  • Shortened attention span
  • Coordination problems
  • Flapping hands
  • Coma
(source: National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse, NDDIC)
The following are the less severe early symptoms of cirrhosis:
  • Feeling tired or weak
  • Loss of appetite
  • Loss of weight

Gastro-Intestinal Complications

Just a small amount of alcohol consumption may negatively impact the entire digestive system. The digestive system includes the mouth (the tongue, the teeth), the parotid gland, the pharynx, the salivary glands, the esophagus, the stomach, the duodenum, small intestine, large intestine, the rectum, and the anal canal.
The digestive system, or the GI system, breaks down food, allows the absorption of nutrients into the bloodstream, and rids the body of waste products. Use of alcohol can lead to:

Symptoms of Gastro-Intestinal Complications from Alcohol

  • Damage to salivary gland
  • Swollen tongue
  • Rotting teeth
  • Gum disease
  • Weakening the lower esophagus sphincter muscle (between the esophagus and the stomach)
  • Vomiting
  • Intestinal bleeding and gastric lesions
  • Diarrhea from impaired small and large intestine muscle movement
  • Malnutrition
  • Heartburn
  • Increase risk of esophageal cancer
  • Absorption of toxins into the blood from the intestine that contributes to liver disease
  • Development of Barrett’s disease (precursor to esophageal cancer)
(source:Alcohol Health & Research World, “Alcohol’s Role in Gastrointestinal Tract Disorders, Christiane Bode, Ph.D., http://pubs.niaa.nih.gov/publications/arh21-1/76.pdf)

Acute Pancreatitis

The pancreas is a gland involved in the proper functioning of the digestive system. It is also responsible for the creation of insulin and enzymes that metabolize carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. When the balance between the cells in the pancreas are disrupted and disorganized, serious side effects can occur. Alcohol use, medication, and gallstones are the three main reasons for pancreatitis. In general, more men suffer from acute pancreatitis due to alcohol abuse than women.
Acute pancreatitis interferes with the absorption of foods with the following symptoms:
  • Abdominal pain
  • Fever
  • Jaundice
  • Listless

Cardiovascular Disease and Alcoholism

The regular consumption of alcohol can lead to a variety of cardiovascular problems. Alcohol, which is quickly absorbed undiluted into the blood stream, increases the level of triglycerides. Increases in the triglycerides can then lead to high blood pressure, heart failure, or stroke. Furthermore, the heart muscles can be adversely affected by the consumption of large amounts of alcohol, causing shortness of breath.
Binge drinking produces atrial fibrillation/flutter, or the heart beating at irregular rhythms, moving from rapid to slow. The disruption in the regular heartbeat deprives the body of the necessary blood and oxygen supply to function properly resulting in the destruction of healthy organs.

Neuropathy (neuromuscular) and Alcoholism

The ability to maintain muscular sensation, muscle strength, tendon reflexes, and the sensation of pain are a direct result of the health and proper functioning of the peripheral nerves. Peripheral neuropathy is a disruption in one or more of the peripheral nerves (part of the spinal nervous system).
Chronic alcohol intake causes neuropathies. Thiamine (part of the B1 complex) is an essential vitamin needed to maintain healthy bodily functions. Alcohol use causes a depletion of thiamine. This deficiency adversely affects the health of the nerves around the spinal cord. Thus, the combination of the thiamine deficiency and the absorption of toxins that build up within an alcoholic’s cells and nerves contribute to alcoholic neuropathy. It is estimated that 25-66% of chronic alcoholics suffer from the development of alcohol neuropathy.
Symptoms of Alcoholic Neuropathy
  • Weakness or atrophy in muscles
  • Numbness in lower extremities and feet
  • Loss of sensation
  • Tingling and burning
  • Organ dysfunction

Other Conditions

Other less known conditions linked to alcohol abuse are:
  • Eight different types of cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Alcohol psychoses
  • Respiratory diseases
  • Hypertension
  • Cardiomyopathy
  • Cerebrovascular disease
The discussions above do not include health conditions that are the direct result of alcohol intoxication, like traffic accidents, accidental death, fetal alcohol syndrome, violence against others, or suicide. 
The effects of alcohol are insidious and thorough. Society continually paints a picture of the benign and playful effects of alcohol. Nothing could be further from the truth, as millions of lives are decimated by alcohol yearly. There is nothing benign about violence, sexual assault, child abuse, or suicide as a result of alcohol abuse.

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