It is common knowledge that regular consumption of alcohol to excess can result in becoming addicted and can cause various adverse effects. The wide ranging effects of alcohol over-consumption, which can affect not just the individual’s own health but can also adversely affect the person’s family members and acquaintances, and can – in severe cases – lead to a life of crime and even premature death, are researched in the following paragraphs.
- Facts about Alcohol and Drug Abuse.
Excessive alcohol consumption is acknowledged to be a recognized disease. “Facts about Alcohol and Drug Abuse” published by the Florida Institute of Technology reminds us that although we may have the occasional drink with a meal, or during sports events or other leisure pursuits, it can develop into a problem if it evolves into an ongoing pattern. The article also notes that drugs use (including alcohol) in the U.S. is now more prevalent. For example, nine out of ten teenage youngsters have tried alcohol. The article also cites some of the main reasons why people drink, such as perceiving a need to participate in drinking at parties or other social occasions. Alternatively it might be to cope with some form of stress, perhaps associated with a job or school, or stress in a marriage or other domestic relationship, or even stress associated with a physical impairment or illness. It could also be triggered by attempting to compensate for a sense of lowered self-esteem, or to overcome inherent shyness. All of these causes can result in a state of addiction. Also, because alcohol is now readily available with few restrictions and in some respects is considered more socially acceptable in today’s society, it is not difficult for the younger generation in particular to drink on an experimental basis. To emphasize the seriousness of the adverse consequences that can result, the article lists some important facts on the subject:
The age of first-time trying of alcohol in the U.S. averages younger than 13 years, and that after heart disease and cancers, alcohol is the widest-used drug and the third largest cause of death in the U.S.. Between alcohol and drugs, they represent the causes of over half of all suicides and violent crimes and more than 60 percent of emergency admissions to hospital. In addition, over half of all traffic accidents involve alcohol or drugs, which between them are factors in eight out of 10 incidents of domestic violence. In the workplace, approximately 50 percent of all industrial accidents and below par job performances are associated with alcohol or drugs consumption. Alcohol impairs driving too, as evidenced by the statistic that more than 30 percent of all alcohol-linked traffic accidents between 1986 and 1996 involved young people aged 16 to 24, and DWI (Driving While Intoxicated) arrests were highest for drivers aged 21 years. Excessive alcohol use can also affect academic achievement. More than 40 percent of students struggling academically use alcohol. This is also a contributory factor in almost all campus violence.
Effects on Health.
The same Florida Institute of Technology (FIT) article includes sections on the physical and mental effects of alcohol on health. Physical effects are described as an increase in both heart rate and skin temperature, and impairment of muscular control which results in slurred speech, impaired motor skills and lack of coordination. In more severe cases there could also be occurrences of dizziness, problems with vision, vomiting and even loss of consciousness, respiratory failure and death. The first and most obvious effect on mental capacity is a lack of judgment. That can manifest itself in the form of poor and/or rapid decision making and in arriving at decisions that are unrealistic. The subject is also likely to exhibit a lack of attention and an inability to concentrate, as well as uninhibited behaviour. Emotions are likely to be exaggerated, and mental blackouts can occur, with subsequent losses of memory.
Further, the FIT article cautions that there can be a number of longer term effects of alcohol consumption. These can include damage to the body’s organs including the brain, the liver the stomach and the heart, a deterioration of bones and muscles, increasing memory problems and an inability to concentrate, and difficulties in interpersonal relationships, and in coping with the ordinary everyday demands of school or work. In the more serious cases, attempting to stop consuming alcohol can cause withdrawal symptoms such as hallucinations, excessive perspiration and involuntary tremors.
Nemours – a non-profit organization devoted to children’s health, published an article targeted at teenagers, which is simply entitled “Alcohol.” The article explains that because alcohol is a depressant, it affects the body’s central nervous system by slowing it down and blocks messages from reaching the brain. The effect of those messages being blocked is to impair the subject’s “perceptions, emotions, movement, vision, and hearing.” Conversely – according to the article – a very small alcoholic intake can engender feelings of relaxation or reduced anxiety. However, excessive alcohol consumption brings on a state of intoxication, which can cause the affected person to “stagger, lose their coordination, and slur their speech.” As well as being confused and disoriented, the person may become excessively friendly and loquacious, or rather aggressive and angry. The article also notes that because alcohol dramatically slows reaction times, an intoxicated person should not drive.
- Effects on Families.
Hevey (2007) describes how alcoholism can affect family members in such a way that they can begin to feel that they might be responsible for the drinker’s problem. According to her article, circa 43 percent of American adults have been exposed to problems associated with alcoholism in their own family, and around 18 percent grew up with an alcoholic member of their family. Hevey states that by attempting to protect that individual by helping them to hide their problem, the family roles can become dysfunctional, leading to other problems such as hindering the children’s perception of what is or is not appropriate as far as alcohol consumption is concerned. Also, the partner of an alcoholic may take on a role of being in denial or even to become afraid of confronting their partner through a fear of losing them. Eventually, they can begin to feel depressed and perhaps confused and even acquire feelings of their own guilt. There can be family situations in which both domestic partners become alcohol-dependent and are both in denial, refusing to accept they have a problem. On the other hand, a partner who does not have an alcohol problem may develop what is known as co-dependency. In that role they attempt to please others, have a strong need for approval, yet cannot adequately express anger. Furthermore, they are terrified of being abandoned.
The research has shown that excessive alcohol consumption can and does have serious – and in the more severe cases fatal – effects, not just on the individuals involved, but on their family members, friends and acquaintances and school or work colleagues. The major problems for all groups in society – young and old – are health-related, particularly for some high risk sectors including women who are pregnant (and their unborn babies). Not only do alcoholics risk and damage their own health, there are many situations in which they adversely affect the health of others around them. In summary, there are various adverse effects of consuming excessive amounts of alcohol, many of which can have serious consequences, hence alcohol should be consumed in moderation at all times, in order to minimize or avoid harmful consequences.
“Alcohol.” (n.d.). Nemours. Web. 17 February 2014.
“Facts about Alcohol and Drug Abuse.” (n.d.). Florida Institute of Technology. Web. 17 February 2014.
Hevey, Megan. “Alcoholism and its Effects on the Family.” (2007). University of Massachusetts Lowell. Web. 25 February 2014.