Unhealthy Obsessions – Alcoholism and “you”

A Kranz (wreath) of Kölsch beer.
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Article by: Scott Hall
This article is dedicated to those who have ever been or are now a victim to Alcoholism’s deadly grip.  Many citizens suffer from Alcoholism and the side effects are not just limited to erratic behavior, slurred speech, the inability to walk or drive.  They affect the physical body as well.  Areas such as the liver, heart, pancreas and brain all take a beating when we consume an excessive amount.  As this article unfolds, not only does this author wish to convey knowledge and give purpose for getting treatment but also hopes that we may learn together as we take a look inside Alcoholism.

            Alcoholism by definition: A primary, chronic disease with genetic, psychosocial, and environmental factors influencing its development and manifestation (thefreedictionary.com). More important than the definition is its source, the American Medical Association or AMA.  The disease of alcoholism may show some of the following characteristics:  A prolonged period of frequent, heavy alcohol use, the inability to control drinking once it has begun, a physical dependence manifested by withdrawal symptoms when the individual stops drinking alcohol, tolerance, the need to use more and more to achieve the same effect, a variety of social/legal problems arising from its use or overuse as well as other symptoms.  These individuals will likely at first be reluctant to accept that they are affected by the disease and may or may not associate health problems with its use.

            Health Problems that can occur as a result of alcohol abuse are very serious.  Items that may arise include: Poor Nutrition Habits, High Blood Pressure, Liver Disease, Muscle Weakness, Heart Rhythm Disturbances, certain types of Cancers including Liver and Breast, Low Blood Sugars, High Blood Fat Contents and a whole host of others.  Men in general are more than twice as likely to be alcohol dependent than women and if you smoke along with alcohol abuse you are more likely to suffer long term health problems associated with drinking excessively.  Along with the health hazards, long term abuse has the potential for marital problems and domestic violence and an increased risk of a DUI (Driving under the Influence).

            “Drink for Thought” Alcohol leaves the container, mixed or not and enters our body.  As it is absorbed into the blood stream and the blood alcohol level rises, so does the brain blood alcohol level.  The Brain is responsible for motor skills and speech functions, minimally.  How we can recognize when the brain is in trouble from high blood alcohol levels: the person may slur their speech, stumble or become poorly coordinated in simple tasks.  The scenario of watching someone trip into a table due to being drunk may sound funny but the deadly action of the alcohol is showing its might over muscle.  Once those levels go higher other symptoms of its deadly effects such as vomiting, slowed breathing or erratic heart rates can occur and even higher amounts cause coma or death. 

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            “The mind is a terrible thing to waste.”  Up to 80 percent of alcoholics suffer from a thiamine deficiency (pubs.niaaa.nih.gov).  Some of those persons will go on to develop brain disorders such as Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome (WKS). This syndrome is broken down into two parts: Wernicke’s encephalopathy (WE) which is short lived and severe, and, Korsakoff’s psychosis (KS) which is long term and debilitating.  Symptoms of Wernicke’s encephalopathy include: Mental confusion, paralysis of the nerves that move the eyes and difficult muscle coordination.  The patient may be too confused to find their way out of a room or have the ability to walk. All three of the symptoms do not have to be present to be diagnosed, as was noted in autopsies performed that showed the patient did have some signs of the disorder.  This is important in early diagnosis as “classic” symptoms may not exist.

Alcohol diagram
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            Symptoms of Korsakoff’s psychosis may include: Being forgetful most all the time, may be quickly frustrated by simple tasks and could have marked difficulty in walking in coordination.  These patients may have problems remembering old information or even layering in new information, have a conversation then forget having those conversations moments later.  The area affected in both cases is the cerebellum of the brain.  This is the area primarily responsible for coordination and movement. Treatments could include restoring or regulating the thiamine deficiency, however, getting the patient to stop consuming alcohol is the more difficult task.

            The first steps to recovery is getting help, even if it means having someone sit down with the person who is believed to have a drinking problem and get them to a professional’s care where they can be medically and psychologically evaluated.  This will be somewhat of a difficult task as the person may not recognize they have a problem and in some cases might actually need a direct intervention.  Alcoholism affects different citizens’ different ways so a variety of treatment centers are available to assist in recovery.  If you can control when you drink, but think you drink too much during the week, you may not need the same care as the person who cannot control themselves and may crave its use. 

            “The Road Ahead” Various treatments mean various things to consider, however, all do take into perspective: 
An Alcoholics Anonymous Regional Service Cente...
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11)      Detoxification and Withdrawal.  This type of treatment may include medications to help control shaking, hallucinations or confusion.  Medications could include mild sedatives and a brief outpatient to short term inpatient hospital stay.  This may take anywhere from 4 to 7 days.
22)      Learning New Skills and Establishing a Treatment Plan.  Behavior modification is crucial to success of overcoming the grip of the alcohol as our bodies tend to associate the “good times” of long term use with certain feelings of euphoria.  Developing new healthier habits to take those places is a good start and following up with a counselor or treatment specialist will help to cope with some of the “missing” element of your life.
33)      Psychological Counseling.  Indeed there are patients who feel as though they cannot cope or live without alcohol.  This may be in part due to some other underlying stresses, work concerns, personal views or family problems that only a Psychologist could help to treat and just might help educate the other members of the family in how to best support the recovering alcoholic.
44)      Oral and Injection Medications.  The battle to help those suffering from the grips of alcoholism, have a series of medicines that will not cure the disease, but make it rather ugly to consume alcohol at all.  Antabuse medications can produce side effects of vomiting, severe nausea and headaches should the person decide to consume alcohol. Medications are also available to control the feel good side effect of drinking and control the cravings; some also do not have the ugly effect of making you sick to your stomach.

English: Most significant possible long-term e...
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                Alcoholism has short term and long term health effects that cover just about every major organ in our bodies.  The effects on the brain increase as the levels of alcohol in our blood increase.  Along with health concerns, social and legal problems can arise from alcohol abuse.  Men and Women are susceptible to its effects and other unhealthy habits make attracting fatal illnesses go up.  Treatments are available to a wide variety of citizens as each person is affected differently by alcohol’s deadly grasp.  Please, if you know someone who is suffering from this deadly disease that is the world’s third largest killer and destroyer of lives, get help.

References, Readings and Treatment Links:

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