Alcohol's effect on the mind and body

Ongoing research confirms that heavy consumption of alcohol negatively affects the body. Whether it is a short term drinking binge or sustained long term drinking, this powerful depressant produces toxic chemicals such as acetaldehyde that is more toxic than the alcohol itself.

When alcohol is consumed in large amounts on a regular basis it will eventually result in liver scarring known as cirrhosis. The liver will become swollen and no longer able to detoxify chemicals in the body. The symptoms of cirrhosis will be jaundice where the skin takes on a sickly yellow tone, liver enlargement, and pain. The liver will eventually shut down and stop functioning. Alcohol will permanently alter the liver cells if the liver is not given enough time to metabolize the alcohol. It needs one hour to metabolize one half ounce of alcohol or ethanol.

Females are twice as vulnerable to liver disease compared to men since their bodies cannot metabolize alcohol in the same way. They have more body fat and since it does not absorb alcohol a higher concentration of alcohol enters the blood stream. Women have less volume of water in their bodies too so they cannot dilute the alcohol to the same extent as men can. Women also have lower amounts of the enzyme dehydrogenase which breaks down the alcohol. This again results in the alcohol entering the bloodstream more quickly for women.

Heart damage is also a consequence of heavy drinking. It is called cardiomyopathy where the heart becomes enlarged and can no longer pump blood efficiently. Not until the disease has reached an advanced stage will there be any apparent symptoms. The symptoms are connected to heart failure at this stage such as swelling of the ankles, legs and feet, breathing difficulties, fatigue and palpitating heart beats.

Alcohol causes impairment of the memory, especially if large amounts are consumed in a short time span. Blackouts happen when too much is consumed too quickly such as binge drinking and the drinker does not remember some or all of previous events. Women tend to black out more quickly than men.

It is generally agreed that moderate drinking constitutes one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men. Anything more than that and it is considered above moderate and putting one’s health at risk. One drink is interpreted as 4-5 oz of wine or 12 ounces of beer.

The ill effects that alcohol has on the mind and body are numerous. Other influencing factors are genetics and the age of the drinker. When drinkers find themselves drinking more than the recommended daily amount they may want to consider cutting back in order not to compromise their health.

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