“Alcohol does all kinds of things in the body, and we’re not fully aware of all its effects,” says James C. Garbutt, MD, professor of Psychiatry at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine and a researcher at the university’s Bowles Center for Alcohol Studies. “It’s a pretty complicated little molecule.”
An alcoholic feels satiated by alcohol consumption and therefore neglects consuming a balanced diet thereby developing several vitamin and mineral deficiencies. The chronic alcoholic also tends to neglects carbohydrate-protein-fat balance and in due course turns host to a whole gamut of diseases. Here are some physiological conditions linked to chronic heavy drinking: Anemia, hypertension, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and pancreatitis, cirrhosis, cancer, gout, prone to infectious diseases, and nerve damage. Almost every tissue and organ of the body is adversely affected by alcohol.
Motor behavior such as motor coordination, body balance, speech, and the powers of sensation and perception are all adversely impacted. One may not be able to process stimuli as quickly and as efficiently as s/he could before becoming a chronic alcoholic.
This is one of the most severe forms of damage inflicted upon an individual by alcohol. It requires treatment and management on all levels namely- biological, psychological and social. Chronic alcoholism may result in a number of neurological and psychotic disorders.
- One such disorder is acute alcoholic intoxication wherein alcohol is entering the bloodstream faster than it can be metabolized by the liver which shows symptoms like euphoria, flushed skin, social inhibition, ataxia, impaired decision making ability, nausea and vomiting caused by irritation of gastric mucosa. Hearing is also impaired since alcohol consumption can have an adverse impact on the semicircular canals of the inner ear. High levels of blood borne alcohol will induce coma and subsequently death from the depressive effects of alcohol upon the central nervous system.
- Delirium tremens is another alcohol induced disorder wherein there is a rapid onset of confusion and visible body tremors caused by withdrawal from alcohol. The chronic alcoholic may also see or hear things that others do not, may exhibit irregular heartbeat, excessive sweating, a very high body temperature and occasional seizures too.
- Alcoholic hallucinosis is a rare disorder induced only in chronic alcoholics who have been drinking heavily for several years. It develops around 12-24 hours after the heavy drinking episode is over and can last for a few days. It involves auditory and visual hallucinations (incidents perceived only by an individual and by no one else), that are most commonly accusatory or threatening in nature. It can be detrimental and may also add fuel to the fire in the case of suicidal ideation or thoughts of committing a crime etc.
- Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome– Wernicke encephalopathy and Korsakoff syndrome are different conditions that often occur together. Wernicke’s syndrome, also known as Wernicke encephalopathy, is a neurological disease characterized by the clinical triad of confusion, the inability to coordinate voluntary movement (ataxia), and eye (ocular) abnormalities. Korsakoff’s syndrome is a mental disorder characterized by disproportionate memory loss in relation to other mental aspects. When these two disorders occur together, the term Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome is used. Both are due to brain damage caused by a lack of vitamin B1 (thiamine). Chronic alcohol consumption can cause thiamine deficiency and thus reduced enzyme activity through several mechanisms, including inadequate dietary intake, malabsorption of thiamine from the gastrointestinal tract, and impaired utilization of thiamine in the cells. . Thiamine is an essential cofactor for several enzymes involved in brain cell metabolism that are required for the production of precursors for several important cell components as well as for the generation of the energy–supplying molecule ATP. It is important to note that these adverse effects of alcohol–induced thiamine deficiency, particularly the reduction of transketolase activity, can occur even in alcoholics who do not show any particular symptoms. The cerebellum appears to be particularly sensitive to the effects of thiamine deficiency and is the region most frequently damaged in association with chronic alcohol consumption. This heightened susceptibility is consistent with the cognitive deficits typically associated with alcoholism. These deficits are indicative either of cerebellar damage or of damage to the frontal lobes, which are connected to the cerebellum through neural pathways. Accordingly, reversal of thiamine deficiency—for example, by administering thiamine at pharmacological levels—may not only ameliorate the consequences of cerebellar damage but improve some brain functions typically associated with the frontal lobe. (Peter R. Martin, M.D., Charles K. Singleton, Ph.D., and Susanne Hiller–Sturmhöfel, Ph.D.)
- Vomit inhalation is another alcohol induced condition which claims the lives of many a habitual alcohol consumer. It was also the cause of the famed musician Jimi Hendrix’s death. Hendrix had consumed a bottle of wine and around 9 Dannemann sleeping pills and went to bed. Alcohol induces vomiting, which needs to be expelled out, but due to the effect of the sleeping pills Hendrix remained in a stupor and therefore died by choking on his own vomit at the tender age of 28.
- Alcohol-related dementia presents as a global deterioration in intellectual function with memory not being specifically affected, but it may occur with other forms of dementia, resulting in a wide range of symptoms. Certain individuals with alcohol-related dementia present with damage to the frontal lobes of their brain causing disinhibition, loss of planning and executive functions, and a disregard for the consequences of their behavior. Most presentations of alcohol dementia are somewhere along the spectrum between a global dementia andKorsakoff’s psychosis, and may include symptoms of both. Frank Sinatra has been reported to have said “alcohol may be man’s worst enemy, but the bible says, love your enemy”. Sinatra who was in fact diagnosed with dementia and subsequently died was an ardent lover of Jack Daniels whiskey, so much so that he was buried with a bottle of it.
For more information on stages in alcoholism and it’s long-term iill-effects please check out this link: TRIPPING: FROM RECREATION TO ADDICTION
For information on how to nix the quick fix please check out this link: MISSION: NO QUICK FIX NOVEMBER
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