Tuesday, May 1, 2007

If you think you have a problem, you probably do...

Alcoholism as a disease process affects the individual, family, and society as a whole. The devastating impact of the disease can be seen in alcohol-related health problems, child and spouse abuse, divorce, job loss, accidents, crime, homelessness, and other losses. Currently, the concept that alcoholism is a disease and an addiction is widely accepted by professionals in the field.

When does drinking alcohol become a problem? The key appears to be a loss of control. Clinically, a person is considered an alcoholic if he/she continues to drink even though alcohol is causing emotional, family, physical, social, and occupational problems.

Alcoholism does not discriminate. It is found in all socioeconomic classes and cultures. The risk is also very high that children of alcoholic families will become alcoholic themselves.

Although alcohol is considered a depressant among drug classes, it has a stimulating effect. This effect is due to a lessening of inhibitions rather than to true physical stimulation. As the dose is increased, progressive depression of brain function occurs. The dose needed to produce the depressant effect depends on such variables as age, weight, sex, level of tolerance, and physical condition. For several reasons, alcohol can damage every cell in the body. First, it is found in all body fluids. Second, used repeatedly it is toxic to body tissues. Third, it is converted to a substance that is even more toxic to the body than its original form.

After ingestion, absorption primarily occurs in the stomach. A certain percentage is eliminated through the lungs and kidneys, and the remainder is broken down in the liver. This is part of the normal process that occurs when a person drinks alcohol. The metabolism of someone who is alcoholic is dramatically different.

Alcohol-related medical problems include liver disease, stomach and intestine damage, gallbladder disease, pancreatitis, high blood pressure, damage to the heart muscle, and disorders of essential body elements including low sodium, potassium and blood sugar as well as disorders of the thyroid gland. Alcohol virtually affects every organ.

Alcohol also affects the immune system, or the body's ability to fight infection. Because alcohol affects our inhibitions, it puts people at extremely high risk for participating in activities that can lead to AIDS, and chronic hepatitis. Alcohol also causes breakdown in the bones and muscles of the body. Kidney disease, numerous skin conditions, decreases in the production of all types of blood cells, cancer of the mouth; as well as voice box, tongue, esophagus, liver, lung, head, and neck problems are possible. As a depressant, excess alcohol intake acts on a variety of brain structures and can be associated with psychosis and dementia. Alcohol contains no nutritional value and excess intake causes vital loss of essential nutrients the body requires for cell repair and function. In addition, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome may occur because during pregnancy, alcohol crosses the placenta to the developing baby, which can result in physical abnormalities and developmental retardation.

Treatment of alcoholism incorporates both short-term and long-term goals. Short-term goals include safe detoxification, control of behavior and suppression of signs of delirium without endangering the person. Long-term goals may include involvement in a drug treatment program and community support groups and lifestyle changes in areas of socialization, leisure-time use, exercise, and nutrition. Some people may need a short term of anti-depressant therapy based upon significant clinical findings.

source: Reno Gazette Journal
article submitted by:
Lyon Council on Alcohol & Other Drugs
2475 Fort Churchill Road
Silver Springs NV 89429
Phone: (775) 577-4633

John Malek, PhD
Board Certified Family Nurse Practitioner

1 comment:

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