Dr Saravana K.
Alcoholism is a pattern of alcohol use that involves problems controlling your drinking, being preoccupied with alcohol, continuing to use alcohol even when it causes problems, having to drink more to get the same effect, or having withdrawal symptoms when you rapidly decrease or stop drinking.
If your pattern of drinking results in repeated significant distress and problems functioning in your daily life, you likely have alcohol use disorder. It can range from mild to severe.
- Being unable to limit the amount of alcohol you drink.
- Wanting to cut down on how much you drink.
- Strong urge to drink alcohol.
- Failing to fulfil major obligations due to repeated alcohol use.
- Giving up or reducing social and work activities and hobbies.
- Using alcohol in situations such as when driving or swimming.
- Developing a tolerance to alcohol so you need more to feel its effect or you have a reduced effect from the same amount.
- Alcohol intoxication results as the amount of alcohol in your blood stream increases causing behaviour problems and mental changes. These may include inappropriate behaviour, unstable moods, impaired judgment, slurred speech, impaired attention or memory, and poor coordination. You can also have periods called “blackouts,” where you don’t remember events. Very high blood alcohol levels can lead to coma or even death.
- Alcohol withdrawal can occur when alcohol use has been heavy and prolonged and is then stopped or greatly reduced. It can occur within several hours to four or five days later. Symptoms include sweating, rapid heartbeat, hand tremors, problems sleeping, nausea and vomiting, hallucinations, restlessness and agitation, anxiety, and occasionally seizures. Symptoms can be severe enough to impair your ability to function at work or in social situations.
Impact on your health
Drinking too much alcohol on a single occasion or over time can cause health problems, including:
- Liver disease. increased fat in the liver, inflammation of the liver (alcoholic hepatitis), and over time, irreversible destruction and scarring of liver tissue (cirrhosis).
- Digestive problems. inflammation of the stomach lining (gastritis), as well as stomach and esophageal ulcers. It also can interfere with absorption of B vitamins and other nutrients. It can damage your pancreas or lead to inflammation of the pancreas.
- Heart problems. Excessive drinking can lead to high blood pressure and increases your risk of an enlarged heart, heart failure or stroke. Even a single binge can cause a serious heart arrhythmia called atrial fibrillation.
- Diabetes complications. Alcohol interferes with the release of glucose from your liver and can increase the risk of low blood sugar.
- Sexual function and menstruation issues.
- Eye problems. Involuntary rapid eye movement (nystagmus) as well as weakness and paralysis of your eye muscles due to a deficiency of thiamine. Thiamine deficiency also can be associated with irreversible dementia, if not promptly treated.
- Alcohol use during pregnancy may cause fetal alcohol syndrome, resulting in giving birth to a child who has physical and developmental problems that last a lifetime.
- Bone damage. This bone loss can lead to thinning bones and an increased risk of fractures. Alcohol can also damage bone marrow, which makes blood cells. This can cause a low platelet count, which may result in bruising and bleeding.
- Neurological complications causing numbness and pain in your hands and feet, disordered thinking, dementia, and short-term memory loss.
- Weakened immune system increasing your risk of various illnesses, especially pneumonia.
- Some medications interact with alcohol, increasing its toxic effects. Drinking while taking these medications can either increase or decrease their effectiveness, or make them dangerous.