Millions of people in the United States struggle with alcohol abuse and dependency. As one begins to find any excuse to drink, they become susceptible to binge drinking and overall cognitive issues.
Only 10% of reported alcohol abusers seek professional help. For the other 90%, the effects of alcohol abuse can not only affect their lives, but also the lives of loved ones and strangers.
When a person’s Blood Alcohol Concentration or BAC reaches 0.08 percent, they are no longer legally capable of getting behind the wheel. For the average person, reaching a BAC level of 0.08 occurs during the first 2-4 drinks.
While a person with a 0.08 BAC is considered to be a legal risk, several crashes occur each year with drivers exhibiting much lower alcohol levels.
According to the United States Department of Transportation, drunk driving accidents claim more than 10,000 lives per year and in 2017, approximately 30 people died from intoxicated crashes every single day.
Losing Your Job to Alcohol
One major area of a person’s life that will be severely affected by excessive drinking is their work life.
Alcoholism effects every individual body in different ways. However, the following are all signs that a coworker is much more than a casual drinker:
- Trouble concentrating
- Loss of coordination
- Mood swings
- Dilated pupils
A high number of absences is another major reason why people lose their jobs from alcohol abuse. Frequently calling out sick makes the drinker seem unreliable, making them a risk as an employee.
"High Functioning Alcoholic" is Not What it Seems
High functioning alcoholic is defined as a person who meets enough criteria to have a substance abuse problem, but is still able to maintain their work, personal life and overall health.
A frequent sign of a high functioning alcoholic is their ability to consume substances throughout the day without ever over drinking. They spend most their time teetering the line between sobriety and falling off the wagon.
Because alcoholics have a specific stereotype of being overtly intoxicated, people that are high functioning can go years without anyone noticing a problem.
In a 2007 study performed at Columbia University, it was concluded that 4% of Americans had what is known as an "alcohol use disorder". This means, roughly 9 million people were categorized as functionally dependent.
Many experts consider the term of a high functioning alcoholic to be misleading because the odds that a person can continue this facade is highly unlikely.
Death From Alcohol Withdrawal
Fatal withdrawal symptoms, such as Delirium tremens, a condition that occurs when one stops drinking can be quite deadly. It leads to seizure, hallucinations, confusion and other complications.
Medical Conditions from Alcoholism
Excessive consumption of alcohol can result in various conditions:
- Liver disorders
- Congenital disabilities
- Cardiovascular problems
- Eye muscle weakness and paralysis
- Short-term memory loss
- Gastrointestinal problems
- Neurological impairment
- Sexual problems
Alcohol Abuse and Liver Damage
When alcohol is consumed, the liver must metabolize it and convert it into a safe substance. The liver can only handle a certain amount of alcohol at once, before it struggles to process it.
In the liver, alcohol metabolization produces acetaldehyde, a toxic enzyme that damages the liver cells and leads to permanent scarring.
Alcohol abuse in the form of heavy and/or regular drinking can lead to alcoholic liver disease, a chronic disease that comes in many forms. Alcohol is the primary cause of liver disease.
The liver is an incredibly important organ and if it cannot perform its duties, its negative influence will spread throughout the body. This will cause multiple organ failures and eventually death.
When a person over drinks, the high possibility of developing pancreatitis can cause many problems. A painful inflammation of the pancreas, pancreatitis often requires hospitalization.
A reported 70% of the cases of pancreatitis affect people who drink on a regular basis.
There are two main types of pancreatitis; acute and chronic. Acute pancreatitis is a sudden and unexpected inflammation of the pancreas. It may be a stand-alone event, recurrent or act as a gateway to chronic pancreatitis.
Chronic pancreatitis is long standing inflammation of the pancreas. Chronic pancreatitis alters the pancreas’ normal functionality and unlike acute pancreatitis, the effects from chronic pancreatitis cannot be reversed.
Immune System Damage
Excessive drinking can weaken the immune system, making the body vulnerable to diseases like pneumonia. Because of the harmful chemicals that leak into the bloodstream, alcohol causes changes to red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. While many young children ignore their parents when they state that eating their vegetables is important, the effects of alcohol reflect the validity of that statement.
Alcoholism can cause a significant drop in the white blood cell count. This happens because the body’s production of white blood cells becomes suppressed. Instead of fighting off infections, the white blood cells become trapped in the spleen.
The spleen is another important organ in the body. Its job is to remove old red blood cells and hold reserves of blood. Holding blood reserves becomes valuable in cases of hemorrhagic shock. The spleen also synthesizes antibodies and removes antibody blood cells through the bloodstream.
Each time a person engages in heavy drinking, it reduces the body’s ability to fight off infections. Continued exposure to heavy amounts of alcohol will negatively affect white blood cell production and function over time.
Malnourishment and Vitamin Deficiency
Because nutrients cannot be broken down properly, they are not sufficiently absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract into the bloodstream.
While the body will still receive a percentage of the nutrients, it will not be sufficient and eventually cause disruptions throughout the body.
Alcohol also has the ability to interrupt the production of red blood cells in bone marrow. If the bone marrow can not produce red blood cells in an effective manner, it could lead to the development of iron deficiency anemia.
With less red blood cells, the body has a lowered ability to carry oxygen. With a loss of oxygen, symptoms such as feeling tired, weakness, shortness of breath or inability to exercise for extended periods of time become prevalent.
Alcohol Related Crime
Just like any kind of drug, alcohol changes the way that a person interacts with others and the world around them. Though alcohol related crime has been a subject of concern for several decades, it has become more noticeable in heavily populated areas.
Apart from DUI’s, other types of crime affected by alcohol include sexual abuse or rape, and child abuse.
Alcohol and Rape
Rape is a crime that is heavily influenced by alcohol. With a reported 60% of all sexual assault and abuse cases occurring while the abuser is intoxicated. There is a clear correlation between alcoholic consumption and indecent behavior.
This could be due to a lack of inhibition a person feels when they have too much to drink. Just as with driving under the influence, alcohol takes away the thought of any consequences of sexual assault on both the victim and the aggressor.
Alcohol and Child Abuse
Another alarming alcohol related crime is child abuse. Statistics show that 13% of all child abuse cases are attributed to excessive consumption of alcohol. While there is no scientific reasoning for the high number, it could again be due to a lack of inhibition.
When a person is under the influence, they tend to react more aggressively than they would if fully sober. As a person reaches a point where they can no longer control their emotions, there is a lack of concern for the wellbeing of their child. Their decisions become irrational and impulsive leading to a situation where their child may be taken away.
Treatment for Alcohol Addiction
While no treatment is universal, a recommended method is detoxing. The goal of detoxing is to stop drinking, which gives your body time to get the alcohol out of your system.
A detox will normally span a couple of days to a few weeks. Detoxing combined with seeking professional help in the form of a counselor or therapist allows the addict to refresh their body and mind. A counselor or therapist can help an addict by providing tools that can help them deal with stress, set goals, and change behaviors.
Finally, joining a group can also help with the rehabilitation process. Being surrounded by a group of people all working towards the same goal is a great way to constantly feel motivated and safe. Groups like Alcoholics Anonymous and SMART Recovery allow people with alcohol use disorder to seek advice while also being held accountable every step of the way.
Making sure to moderate your drinking and seeking help if you feel as though things are getting out of hand are ways to make sure that your road to recovery starts off on the right foot. If you or a loved one feels they may suffer from alcohol use disorder, hope is not lost. Call Northeast Addictions Treatment Center and begin your journey toward a sober and healthy life.