Essay, Research Paper: Alcohol Abuse

Alcohol and Drugs

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Alcohol is liquid distilled product of fermented fruits, grains and vegetables
used as solvent, antiseptic and sedative moderate potential for abuse. Possible
effects are intoxication, sensory alteration, and/or anxiety reduction. Symptoms
of overdose staggering, odor of alcohol on breath, loss of coordination, slurred
speech, dilated pupils, fetal alcohol syndrome (in babies), and/or nerve and
liver damage. Withdrawal Syndrome is first sweating, tremors, then altered
perception, followed by psychosis, fear, and finally auditory hallucinations.
Indications of possible mis-use are confusion, disorientation, loss of motor
nerve control, convulsions, shock, shallow respiration, involuntary defecation,
drowsiness, respiratory depression and possible death. Alcohol is also known as:
Booze, Juice, Brew, Vino, Sauce. You probably know why alcohol is abused some
reasons are relaxation, sociability, and cheap high. But did you know that
alcohol is a depressant that decreases the responses of the central nervous
system. Excessive drinking can cause liver damage and psychotic behavior. As
little as two beers or drinks can impair coordination and thinking. Alcohol is
often used by substance abusers to enhance the effects of other drugs. Alcohol
continues to be the most frequently abused substance among young adults. HERE
ARE SOME STRAIGHT FACTS ABOUT ALCOHOL.... Alcohol abuse is a pattern of problem
drinking that results in health consequences, social, problems, or both.
However, alcohol dependence, or alcoholism, refers to a disease that is
characterized by abnormal alcohol-seeking behavior that leads to impaired
control over drinking. Short-term effects of alcohol use include: -Distorted
vision, hearing, and coordination -Altered perceptions and emotions -Impaired
judgment -Bad breath; hangovers Long-term effects of heavy alcohol use include:
-Loss of appetite -Vitamin deficiencies -Stomach ailments -Skin problems -Sexual
impotence -Liver damage -Heart and central nervous system damage -Memory loss
Here are some quick clues to know if I, or someone close, has a drinking
problem: -Inability to control drinking--it seems that regardless of what you
decide beforehand, you frequently wind up drunk -Using alcohol to escape
problems -A change in personality--turning from Dr. Jekyl to Mr. Hyde -A high
tolerance level--drinking just about everybody under the table
-Blackouts--sometimes not remembering what happened while drinking -Problems at
work or in school as a result of drinking -Concern shown by family and friends
about drinking If you have a drinking problem, or if you suspect you have a
drinking problem, there are many others out there like you, and there is help
available. You could talk to school counselor, a friend, or a parent. Excessive
alcohol consumption causes more than 100,000 deaths annually in the United
States, and although the number shows little sign of declining, the rate per
100,000 population has trended down since the early 1980s. Accidents, mostly due
to drunken driving, accounted for 24 percent of these deaths in 1992.
Alcohol-related homicide and suicide accounted for 11 and 8 percent
respectively. Certain types of cancer that are partly attributable to alcohol,
such as those of the esophagus, larynx, and oral cavity, contributed another 17
percent. About 9 percent is due to alcohol-related stroke. One of the most
important contributors to alcohol-related deaths is a group of 12 ailments
wholly caused by alcohol, among which alcoholic cirrhosis of the liver and
alcohol dependence syndrome are the most important. These 12 ailments together
accounted for 18 percent of the total alcohol-related deaths in 1992. Mortality
due to the 12 causes rises steeply into late middle age range and then declines
markedly, with those 85 and over being at less than one-sixth the risk of 55 to
64-year olds. The most reliable data are for the 12 conditions wholly
attributable to alcohol. The map shows these data for all people 35 and over.
The geographical distribution for men and women follows much the same pattern,
although men are three times as likely to die of one of the 12 alcohol-induced
ailments. The geographical distribution for whites and blacks follows roughly
the same pattern but the rates for blacks are two and half times higher. In the
late nineteenth century blacks, who were then far more abstemious than whites,
were strong supporters of the temperance movement, but the movement in the South
was taken over by whites bent on disenfranchising black people by any means
possible, such as propagating lurid tales of drink-crazed black men raping white
women. Consequently, blacks became less involved in the temperance movement, a
trend that accelerated early in the twentieth century with the great migration
of blacks to the North, where liquor was freely available even during
Prohibition. The geographical pattern of mortality from the 12 conditions wholly
caused by alcohol is partly explained by the average alcohol consumption among
those who drink, which tends to be higher in the Southeast certain areas of the
West and than elsewhere. In New Mexico, Arizona, Alaska, and in many counties in
the Plains and Mountain states, the rates are high, in part, because of heavy
drinking among Native Americans. Another possible contributor to high rates in
the West is lower family and community support than elsewhere, as suggested by
high divorce and suicide rates, low church membership, and the large number of
migrants from other regions. In the South Atlantic states, black males
contribute heavily to the high mortality rates, although white rates there are
above average. One unexplained anomaly is the comparatively low rates in the
area stretching from Kentucky through Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, to
Louisiana, all states with high alcohol consumption among those who drink. There
were at least four cycles of high alcohol consumption in the last 150 years with
peaks in the 1840s, in the 1860s, the first decade of the twentieth century, and
again in the 1970-1981 period. Each of these peaks was probably accompanied by
an increase in alcohol-related deaths, as suggested by the course of liver
cirrhosis mortality, which, since the early twentieth century, has followed
more-or-less the same trend as consumption of beverages alcohol. America is now
in a phase of declining alcohol consumption, so one would expect that the rate
of alcohol-related deaths would continue to decline. Among westernized
countries, America in the early 1990s was somewhat below average in both alcohol
consumption and liver cirrhosis mortality. If you have been arrested for DWI,
you may be court ordered to go to counseling for alcohol abuse. Does that mean
that you're an alcoholic? Sometimes people get the idea that alcohol abuse and
alcoholism are the same thing. They are not. The National Council on Alcoholism
says, "Alcohol Abuse : a problem to solve. Alcoholism: a disease to
conquer." In case you have wondered what the difference is, here's some
help: Alcohol Abuse is the misuse of the substance, alcohol. You know you are
abusing a substance when: -You continue to use it, even though you're having
social or interpersonal problems because of your use. -You still use it even
though it's causing you physical problems. -Using it the way you do is causing
you legal problems. -You don't live up to major responsibilities on the job or
in your family. Alcoholism refers to being addicted, or dependent on alcohol.
You may be dependent on a substance if any three of the following are true: -You
must use larger and larger amounts of it to get high. -You have withdrawal when
you try to stop or cut down. -You use it much more and for longer times than you
really want to. -You can't seem to cut back and feel a strong need or craving
for it. -You spend a lot of your time just getting the substance. -You'd rather
use than work or be with friends and family. -You keep using, no matter what.
The National Council on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism estimates, based on
research, that a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) between .02 and .04 makes
your chances of being in a single-vehicle fatal crash 1.4 times higher than for
someone who has not had a drink. If your BAC is between .05 and .09, you are
11.1 times more likely to be in a fatal single vehicle crash, and 48 times more
likely at a BAC between .10 and .14. If you've got a BAC of .15, your risk of
being in a single-vehicle fatal crash is estimated to be 380 times higher than a
non-drinker's. How much do you have to drink to get a BAC that high? A 160 pound
man will have a BAC of about .04, 1 hour after consuming two 12-ounce beers on
an empty stomach. Your BAC will depend on how much you weigh, how much you
drink, amount of time since your last drink and your gender. Women metabolize
alcohol differently from men, causing women to reach higher BAC's at the same
doses. Recent research is showing that true substance dependence may be caused,
in part, by brain chemistry deficiences. That is one reason that substance
dependence is considered a disease. And, as with other diseases, there is the
possibility of taking medicine to get better. There is now promising evidence
that taking medicine can correct some of the deficiences that may cause drug
dependence. It is beginning to look like a combination of the right medicine
along with talking therapy and behavior therapy, will help us treat this disease
as we have never before been able to. One drug is Naltrexone, sometimes known as
ReVia. Fluoxetine (Prozac) and Desipramine (Norpramin) have also shown promise.
Alcohol abuse is also a serious medical and social problem, but is not the same
as alcoholism. Alcohol abuse is the intentional overuse of alcohol, i.e., to the
point of drunkenness. This includes occasional and celebratory over-drinking.
Not all people who abuse alcohol become alcoholics, but alcohol abuse by itself
can have serious medical effects. Overuse of alcohol is considered to be: -more
than 3-4 drinks per occasion for women -more than 4-5 drinks per occasion for
men. One drink equals one (12-ounce) bottle of beer or winecooler, one (5-ounce)
glass of wine, or one and a half ounces of liquor. Alcohol, probably the oldest
drug known, has been used at least since the earliest societies for which
records exist. Of the numerous types of alcohol, ethyl alcohol is the type
consumed in drinking. In its pure form it is a clear substance with little odor.
People drink alcohol in three main kinds of beverages: BEERS, which are made
from grain through brewing and fermentation and contain from 3% to 8% alcohol;
WINES, which are fermented from fruits such as grapes and contain from 8% to 12%
alcohol naturally, and up to 21% when fortified by adding alcohol; and distilled
beverages (spirits) such as WHISKEY, GIN, and VODKA, which on the average
contain from 40% to 50% alcohol. Drinkers may become addicted to any of these
beverages. Physical Effects of Alcohol The effects of alcohol on the human body
depend on the amount of alcohol in the blood (blood-alcohol concentration). This
varies with the rate of consumption and with the rate at which the drinker's
physical system absorbs and metabolizes alcohol. The higher the alcohol content
of the beverage consumed, the more alcohol will enter the bloodstream. The
amount and type of food in the stomach also affect the absorption rate. Drinking
when the stomach is filled is less intoxicating than when it is empty; the foods
in the stomach, which contain fat and protein, delay alcohol absorption. Body
weight is also a factor; the heavier the person, the slower the absorption of
alcohol. After alcohol passes through the stomach, it is rapidly absorbed
through the walls of the intestines into the bloodstream and carried to the
various organ systems of the body, where it is metabolized. Although small
amounts of alcohol are processed by the kidneys and secreted in the urine, and
other small amounts are processed through the lungs and exhaled in the breath,
most of the alcohol is metabolized by the liver. As the alcohol is metabolized,
it gives off heat. The body metabolizes alcohol at about the rate of
three-fourths of an ounce to one ounce of whiskey an hour. Technically it is
possible to drink at the same rate as the alcohol is being oxidized out of the
body. Most people, however, drink faster than this, and so the concentration of
alcohol in the bloodstream keeps rising. Alcohol begins to impair the brain's
ability to function when the blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) reaches 0.05%,
that is, 0.05 grams of alcohol per 100 cubic centimeters of blood. Most state
traffic laws in the United States presume that a driver with a BAC of 0.10% is
intoxicated. With a concentration of 0.20% (a level obtained from drinking about
10 ounces of whiskey), a person has difficulty controlling the emotions and may
cry or laugh extensively. The person will experience a great deal of difficulty
in attempting to walk and will want to lie down. When the blood-alcohol content
reaches about 0.30%, which can be attained when a person rapidly drinks about a
pint of whiskey, the drinker will have trouble comprehending and may become
unconscious. At levels from 0.35% to 0.50%, the brain centers that control
breathing and heart action are affected; concentrations above 0.50% may cause
death, although a person generally becomes unconscious before absorbing a lethal
dosage. Moderate or temperate use of alcohol is not harmful, but excessive or
heavy drinking is associated with alcoholism and numerous other health problems.
The effects of excessive drinking on major organ systems of the human body are
cumulative and become evident after heavy, continuous drinking or after
intermittent drinking over a period of time that may range from 5 to 30 years.
The parts of the body most affected by heavy drinking are the digestive and
nervous systems. Digestive-system disorders that may be related to heavy
drinking include cancer of the mouth, throat, and esophagus; gastritis; ulcers;
cirrhosis of the liver; and inflammation of the pancreas. Disorders of the
nervous system can include neuritis, lapse of memory (blackouts),
hallucinations, and extreme tremor as found in delirium tremens. Delirium
tremens ("the DTs") may occur when a person stops drinking after a
period of heavy, continuous imbibing. Permanent damage to the brain and central
nervous system may also result, including Korsakoff psychosis and Wernicke's
disease. Recent evidence indicates that pregnant women who drink heavily may
give birth to infants with the FETAL ALCOHOL SYNDROME, which is characterized by
face and body abnormalities and, in some cases, impaired intellectual
facilities. Additionally, the combination of alcohol and drugs, such as commonly
used sleeping pills, tranquilizers, antibiotics, and aspirin, can be fatal, even
when both are taken in nonlethal doses. Many studies have been made of attitudes
toward drinking in different societies. Every culture has its own general ethos
or sense of decorum about the use and role of alcoholic beverages within its
social structure. In some cultures drinking is either forbidden or frowned upon.
The Koran contains prohibitions against drinking, and Muslims are forbidden to
sell or serve alcoholic beverages. Hindus take a negative view of the use of
alcohol; this is reflected in the constitution of India, which requires every
state to work toward the prohibition of alcohol except for medicinal purposes.
Abstinence from alcohol has also been the goal of temperance movements in Europe
and the United States. Some Christian religious groups strongly urge abstinence,
including the Christian Scientists, Mormons, Seventh-Day Adventists,
Pentecostalists, and some Baptists and Methodists. In some ambivalent cultures,
such as the United States and Ireland, the values of those who believe in
abstinence conflict with the values of those who regard moderate drinking as a
way of being hospitable and sociable. This accounts for the plethora of laws and
regulations that restrict the buying of alcoholic beverages. Some psychologists
say that this ambivalence in the culture makes it harder for some people to
develop a stable attitude toward drinking. Some cultures have a permissive
attitude toward drinking, including those of Spain, Portugal, Italy, Japan, and
Israel. The proportion of Jews and Italians who use alcohol is high, but the
rates of alcoholism among them are lower than in Irish and Scandinavian groups.
Some cultures may be said to look too favorably upon drinking, as do the French.
In France the heavy consumption of alcohol has been related to the fact that
many people are engaged in viticulture and in the production and distribution of
alcoholic beverages. Various surveys indicate that subgroups within a society or
culture do not all have the same attitudes toward alcoholic beverages or the
same drinking patterns. Drinking behavior differs significantly among groups of
different age, sex, social class, racial status, ethnic background, occupational
status, religious affiliation, and regional location.
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