Ethanol is the main ingredient in alcohol. It is also the ingredient that makes a person drunk and can be found in grapes and grains after they have been fermented and their sugars digested by yeasts. The ethanol in alcohol can have a number of powerful effects on a person’s mind and body. The use of alcohol can lower inhibitions by reducing shyness allowing them to act more freely, this can result in them doing things that they later regret. This paper will argue that despite the negative cogitations that surround alcohol consumption that there are positive benefits from drinking low to moderate amounts of alcohol.
What is Alcoholism?
According to the Mayo Clinic, Alcoholism or Alcohol Use Disorder is the difficulty controlling one’s drinking or being obsessed with the obtaining and/or consumption of alcohol. A person who is an alcoholic finds themselves having to drink more in order to get the same effect, they will continue drinking even if they realize that alcohol is having a negative effect on their lives. Alcoholics also go through withdrawal symptoms when they lower their normal amount of alcohol consumption.
Some of the symptoms that a person with Alcoholism may display are:
Not being able to control the amount of alcohol one drinks.
Not being able or willing to stop drinking alcohol despite the problems that it is causing in one’s relationships or work
Having to drink more in order to get the same effect
Having symptoms of withdrawal when one does not consume enough alcohol. These symptoms include sweating, nausea and shaking
Not handling one’s responsibilities due to alcohol use
Having a strong desire to drink alcohol
Wanting to cut down on one’s alcohol consumption, but being unable to
Sneaking alcohol or hiding alcohol containers from one’s family members
The Negative Effects of Alcoholism on the individual
Alcohol has a number of negative and positive effects that vary according to individual and the type of alcohol that is consumed. The following are some of the ways that alcohol effects a person’s body. (1) the liver is especially prone to damage from alcohol consumption. This is because the liver acts to remove toxins from the body (Massey, Arteel, 2012). the first sign of alcoholic liver damage is fatty liver, which is identified by the increase of fat inside of the liver cells. Fatty liver is symptomless and reversible (Arteel, Crabb 2012). In worse cases scenarios with heavy drinkers the liver becomes inflamed and then filled with scar tissue as the liver cells die, resulting in cirrhosis of the liver, which is irreversible (Massey, Arteel, 2012). (2) alcohol can have a number of short term and long term negative effects on the brain. This is because the ethanol in alcohol can reduce the communication between brain cells causing delayed reactions. The inability of the cells to communicate properly can result in a person experiencing a blackout. Alcoholism can cause permanently impaired brain function. This can lead to brain shrinkage in middle age as well as dementia (Ding, 2003). (3) Alcohol use can be associated with depression, in that they have a causal relationship. A person who suffers from disorders like anxiety and/ or depression may use alcohol in order to help them function normally for a few hours. This may result in worsening of anxiety and depression symptoms that ultimately cause a vicious cycle. (4) obesity caused by excessive alcohol consumption is dependent of a number of factors. Moderate drinking can result in less weight gain, increased drinking results in a higher amount of weight gain (Wang. 2010). Beer drinkers may have more of a tendency to gain weight, whereas wine drinkers may actually lose weight (Wang, 2012) (5) the relationship between alcohol and cardiovascular disease tends to be a complex one that depends on a number of factors. People who engage in light to moderate drinking can see a decrease in cardiovascular issues, while heavy drinkers can see an increase (Ronskey, et, al, 2011). Low to moderate alcohol consumption can help to decrease blood pressure, reduce the risks of diabetes (Ronskey, et, al, 2011), as well as lower anxiety and stress (Ronskey, et, al, 2011), (6) the risk for type two diabetes is increased with heavy and binge drinking (7) Cancers of the colon, breast, liver, mouth and throat are serious risks for people who consume alcohol. One glass of alcohol a day increases the chance of a person getting mouth and throat cancer by 20%. The risk increases with the amount of alcohol consumed daily. (8) drinking during pregnancy is risky and can result in a variety of birth defects and/ or fetal alcohol syndrome. These can have a negative effect on the child’s behavior, intelligence, growth, and development (9) alcohol abuse is the third leading cause of death in the United States, as it is a major cause of accidents, chronic diseases, social violence and traffic accidents, (10) alcohol use can result in alcohol dependence or alcoholism for people predisposed to having addictive personalities.
Negative effects of Alcoholism on Society
Alcoholism has a negative impact on many aspects of the alcoholic’s life, including their (1) Family, and other interpersonal relationships. The person who abuses alcohol may do so because they are wanting to feel better about themselves. This may have a negative impact on them in regards to increased likelihood to commit acts of domestic violence, physical and verbal abuse caused by increased irritability and poor judgment. Children with an alcoholic in their home tend to feel isolated, depressed and have lower grades (2) Psychological damage to themselves when alcohol is abused for an extended period of time. There tends to be an increase of psychological disorders such as anxiety and depression linked to alcoholism (3) Potential harm to society is a factor when it comes to factors such as violence and violent crimes, absences from work, automobile accidents and risky sexual intercourse.
The Economic Costs
According to the CDC and the Lewin Group alcoholism does not just effect one’s health it also effects the economic wellbeing of a country. In 2006 excessive alcohol use cost the United States $223.5 billion according to the CDC. This averages out to approximately $1.90 a drink. A third of this cost is related to binge drinking. Binge drinking is defined as consuming more than 5 drinks in two hours for men and four drinks in two hours for women. The excessive use of alcoholism is responsible for the deaths of about 88,000 people per year in the United States.
The cost of excessive drink factors in the loss of money from not being able to function properly in the workplace thus causing a loss of productivity and therefore revenue, this is 72% of the total. The next highest amount at 11% is health care issues, issues with the law is about 9% and elevated insurance rates due to crashes are 6% of the total. The CDC and Lewin Group researchers estimated that the cost of excessive drinking was equal to $746 for every person living in the US in 2006 (CDC).
The Benefits of Alcohol
The benefits of alcohol are almost as numerous as the negatives. Alcohol in moderation is beneficial in improving heart health. This is because beer and wine have phenols which are antioxidants that can lower a person’s chance of hypertension. The ethanol helps to fight against Alzheimer’s and dementia by assisting the neurons in the brain resist the breakdown of neural pathways that can lead to dementia and Alzheimer’s. Increases creativity due to lack of inhibitions created by the use of alcohol. Drinking wine in moderation can help a person look younger for a longer length of time due to the antioxidants (phytochemicals and resveratrol) which can increase energy and help to reverse signs of aging. Red wine helps to rid the body of bad cholesterol (LDL).
Alcohol helps people who are shy or socially awkward cope with social situations. A person who uses alcohol for this purpose may need to be careful not to allow the alcohol to become a social crutch. Weight loss according to Lu Wang moderate drinkers, who have been drinking for a long time adapt a way to metabolize alcohol that is different than those that do not drink or drink occasionally. This adaptation on top of the fact that people, especially women tend to eat less carbs when they are drinking leads to weight loss. Helps against diabetes by increasing a hormone that progresses insulin sensitivity. This is done by making it easier for a person’s body to change glucose into energy, which lessens the sugar in a person’s blood effectively reducing the chances of diabetes. Finally, alcohol can help reduce a person’s chances of getting a cold as it helps to build up a person’s resistance against the cold virus. Heavy amounts of alcohol consumption can lead to increased risk of colds.
In conclusion, while heavy alcohol use can have many negative attributes such as alcoholism, which is an incurable disease that effects millions of people and can have lasting negative effects on both the alcoholic and their family. As well as a number of health risks such as liver damage, heart disease, impairment of brain function, weight gain, diabetes, increased depression, and risks for automobile accidents. The low to moderate consumption of alcoholic beverages, especially red wine can have a reduce the risks of a number of diseases such as diabetes, dementia, weight gain, heart disease, and it can help to increase a person’s inhibitions which allows people with anxiety disorders to function better in social situations that they would normally find stressful.
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