There is substantial evidence that alcohol has been an integral part of human societies for hundreds of thousands of years. Over the centuries, alcohol has been used in religious, medical, cultural, and social settings. To most of these societies and most Americans per say, there is general belief that adults can responsibly use alcohol for religious and social purposes. In these terms this is referred to as alcohol use without demonstration of alcoholism or alcohol abuse characteristics. In most cases however, alcohol has been used in excess leading to grave social, legal, health and a myriad of other problems over the years.
In this context, alcohol abuse is referred to as the continued consumption of alcohol even with development of legal, health, or social problems. Moreover, any kind of alcohol consumption by an underage person must be considered a form of alcohol abuse. There a number of characteristics of alcohol abuse which include the following. Number one is the situation where an individual fails to fulfill or perform major home or school responsibilities. The second involves the habit of drinking in potentially dangerous situations for example handling heavy machinery or driving.
The third element is experience of repetitive alcohol related legal complications like intoxicated driving arrests. Fourth is exhibition of continued drinking by a partner despite there being relationship problems that result and are made worse by the act (Ogle, Miller, 2004, p. 13). On the other hand, alcoholism is defined as alcohol addiction or alcohol dependence syndrome. It is a chronic disease that involves inability to quit drinking, tolerance, a strong desire to drink, and the onset of withdrawal symptoms upon denial or unavailability of alcohol.
Alcohol abuse cannot be equated to alcoholism in the sense that an alcohol abuser may not experience the severe withdrawal symptoms or intense cravings upon stopping drinking like is the case of an alcoholic. Withdrawal symptoms are the physical dependence effects that an individual experiences when he or she has withdrawn from alcohol consumption and it varies in intensity among different individuals. As in alcohol abuse, there are specific characteristics that are associated with alcoholism.
However, susceptibility to alcoholism depends on several factors that include psychosocial, environmental, and genetic factors. Although not all alcohol abusers become alcoholic, those with high genetic susceptibility may eventually become alcoholic if they encourage the habit of drinking in environments that are favorable for development of alcoholism. One of the major characteristic of alcoholism is the presence of over drinking control impairment in an individual. The next involves the continued abuse and use of alcohol despite there being adverse and persistent consequences.
The element of tolerance or insatiable desire for increasing alcohol amounts aimed at achieving maximum intoxication also denotes alcoholism as well as the individual’s failure to acknowledge the fact that a problem actually exists. In addition, the presence of withdrawal symptoms also called physical dependence after discontinuation of alcohol use is another prominent feature of alcoholism (York, Welte, Hirsch, 2003, p. 17). On their part, students and young adults have continually received conflicting information concerning alcohol from several sources including; peers, parents, the school, and news media among others.
First, they are told that there are acceptable alcohol consumption quantities that are acceptable on the basis of the positive effects such as good health. Secondly, they hear that until age 21, abstinence is inevitable due to the fact that alcohol is a dangerous drug. At the same time, some media images and advertisements portray alcohol as a source of enjoyable life and a means to successful life. Misinformations combined with these kinds of conflicting messages as well as misunderstanding are mainly the causes of irresponsible decision making among the concerning alcohol use (Michael, Tonigan, Miller, 2006, p.
24). As a result of this, some American statistics indicated (in 1997) an early age, adolescent alcohol consumption. Prior to the conducted survey in the same year, 26% of 8th graders, 40% of 10th graders, and 51% of 12th graders reportedly consumed alcohol within the month before the survey was carried out. On the same note, there were a 16% of the 8th graders who reported to have been involved in binge drinking (group drinking of large amounts of alcohol within a relatively short period of time) within two weeks prior and up to the survey.
Such kind of adolescent alcohol drinking has many debilitating effects involving both safety and health-related problems such as suicide, domestic violence, and auto crashes (Hill, Yuan, 1999, p. 20). In addition, alcohol abuse among the youth may have some relativity linkage to sensation seeking and impulsiveness, and data on youth alcohol consumption indicate that there is a higher likelihood of an individual to develop alcohol related problems by early indulgence.
Those who may involve themselves in this practice before they are 15 years old are estimated to be about four times riskier to be alcohol dependent in their lifetime than those who indulge from age 21. There is therefore agreed conscientiousness that there is greater correlation between the earlier a person starts drinking and the greater his/her alcohol related problems risks. Just like in adults, youth alcohol consumption also has some risk factors. One of these is genetic factors that are based on conclusions derived from human and animal twin studies.
Another involves the childhood behaviors like antisocial behavior, aggressiveness, and impulsiveness. Another magnificent youth drinking risk factor is psychiatric disorders for example depression and the presence of attention deficit and hyperactivity. Furthermore, trauma and child abuse are other significant factors not forgetting that family and peer environments that encourage drinking habits play a major role that influence youth drinking attitudes.
However, in contrast to adult alcohol abuse and alcoholism, youth alcohol abuse is used to imply any form of underage youth alcohol drinking. Youths typically abuse alcohol by indulging in regular and binge drinking, which increases the youths’ risks of developing into an alcoholic later in life. There have been several suggestions to carryout separate research criteria for the youth from the commonly used adult criteria as a concerted effort to distinguish between alcoholism and alcohol in youth (Warner, White, John, 2007, p31).
Before we deliberate in depth about the physical and mental effects of alcohol absorption, it is of paramount importance to consider a few misconceptions that are attributed to alcohol use, alcoholism, and abuse. There is little scientific literature on this subject in middle school textbooks, and much of the information available about the alcohol effects on the cell function of the animal as well as of the human is covered in a health (medical) class and somehow in a driving school class.
Much of the information the youth access is mainly through personal experimentation, peers, the family, and the media. In many instances, this information is composed of folk wisdom, errors, and half-truths, and this does not clearly elaborate what really happens to their bodies and minds when they indulge in alcohol absorption. Students and younger adults must be given the supplement information that will afford them an opportunity to hone individual critical thinking and analysis skills together with an individualistic understanding of alcohol and the risks involved by indulging in it.
When they are thus properly prepared, they can make informed and sound judgments concerning alcohol use in real-life situations. Furthermore, there is need fro them to realize that there are acute or short-term as well as chronic or long-term consequences that are associated with alcohol consumption even if it is just a moderate drinking level. One of the long wrongly held misconceptions about alcohol is that it is a stimulant. This is because it has initial lowered inhibitions and euphoric feelings.
Its correct classification however, is a depressant since its later effects include drowsiness and sedation. When taken in high concentrations, alcohol will induce other severe manifestations such as unconsciousness, coma and later death (Michael, Tonigan, Miller, 2006, p. 29). The second misconception is that alcoholic individuals are morally weak with a high degree of lack of will power. Alcoholism is not just a habit of excessive drinking but is a complex disease with a variety of determining factors including behavioral, social, environmental, and genetic components.
It must therefore be taken as a diagnosable disease based on the physical dependence attribute as opposed to alcohol abuse. Those diagnosed of this disease has the continued craving and use of alcohol since their brains are defected by the drug and reinforced by both negative and positive factors such as the physical, and sometimes severe withdrawal symptoms that are heavy biological forces on them. The other misconception is that alcoholism and alcohol abuse are individual drinkers’ problem, but this is not the case since the two are social problems with extended effects on many aspects of the social life.
They contribute to too many social catastrophes like domestic violence, auto crashes, child neglect and abuse, among many others. They also have notable impact on a country’s economy due to health care treatment, lost productivity, criminal justice administration attendance and the like. There is another misconception that children cannot become alcoholics and this is a wrong attitude putting into consideration that alcohol comprises the most abused drug among the youth populations. Similarly, small amounts of alcohol are perceived as ineffective in mental or bodily impairment.
The Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) legal limit has been put by many United States states at 0. 08% for those who operate motor vehicles. This is not to say that lower BACs do not impair as it is known that as low as 0. 02-0. 04 BACs have caused memory and judgment impairment. An individual’s weight, gender, nutritional state, and exposure to other kinds of drugs are among those factors that vary individual alcoholic effects. On the same note, all alcoholic amounts during a pregnancy are considered too risky (York, Welte, Hirsch, 2003, 43).
Yet a more mythical misconception is that alcohol creates just but some temporary effects. This is wrong because short-term effects such as violence, falls, and auto crash are brief but long-term chronic effects develops and continue persistently. Additionally, the perception that alcohol is good for health is not sufficient to allow carte blanche alcohol drinking. Some situations have however been found ameliorating such as association of decreased heart attack risk to moderate alcohol consumption.
On the other hand, increased cancer and stroke risks can result from absorption of five or more drinks per day. In addition, there are other misconceptions including the theory that behavioral programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous can actually cure alcoholism as well as that there is no need for further research on alcoholism since the public already knows enough concerning alcoholic effects. The list on these misconceptions may be endless varying from one social setting to another and this discussion is limited in detailing all of them.
Physical or behavioral effects of alcohol absorption are usually short-term or acute in nature and they follow the common dose-response relationship that is characteristic of all drugs. This is the relative relationship that the greater the amount of the drug consumed, the greater is the effect that is manipulated by the drug. All human behavior originates from the brain and as a result, it is obvious that behavior must change when one is exposed to alcohol absorption. These changes come by because there are several brain regions that are affected by alcohol.
For example, the cerebellum controls movement, the ventral segmental region controls reward movement, the brainstem controls breathing, and the hippocampus which controls the memory (Ogle, Miller, 2004, p. 19). By use of BACs, prediction of physical alcoholic effects is much easier than prediction of behavioral effects. Some individuals will become much withdrawn while others tend to be more boisterous from additional drinking and loss of inhibition. At the same time, it is not surprising to find others who get dragged to aggressive and anger inclinations that most likely leads to abusive language and ultimately to violence.
Furthermore, excessive alcoholic absorption gets some individuals very depressive and express severe emotional mood swings as well. In addition, all BACs of 0. 30 and above affects heart rate and breathing and these increases the risk for a coma, unconsciousness, and sometimes death is eminently possible. Other physical effects of alcohol absorption include criminal inclinations such as rapes, murder, wife/husband battering, nutritional disorders, auto crashes among many others. There are many body systems that are affected by alcohol consumption.
The river for example, which is the organ charged with metabolism of all ingested poisons (including alcohol) in the body. Excess alcohol is not properly eliminated and this leads to a condition called hypoglycemia or lower levels of blood sugar, fatty liver leading to liver cirrhosis (or hepatitis), hyperlipemia which often cause heart problems, hyperuricemia common in gout and arthritis among others (Ogle, Miller, 2004, p. 22). The gastrointestinal tract is composed of the stomach, pancreas, and large and small intestines. Each of these is affected by excessive alcohol absorption.
In stomach, there is high likelihood of gastritis (intestinal or stomach ulcers) which are caused by increased acidity in the stomach. The pancreas responds by high insulin production due to increased sugar levels and this leads to hypoglycemia whose symptoms include headaches, inability to concentration, anxiety, tremors, dizziness, heart palpitations, upset stomach, cold sweats, and loss of normal coordination. Additionally, diabetes may result in situations where the pancreas completely fails to produce insulin. The central nervous system (or the CNS) is also affected.
It includes the spinal cord, the nerves, and the brain. There are different rates at which different brain parts are affected and this is the reason there are different alternates of stupor and restlessness. Some long-term alcoholic effects on CNS are some irreversible damages, dependency, and tolerance. The most common alcoholic injuries to the brain are augmentation (situational hyper-alertness to otherwise normal conditions as a result of physiologically responding to alcohol, and involve louder sounds, brighter lights, or unnecessarily extreme anger or sadness), confusion, and memory loss.
These however can be controlled by quitting the drink. Alcohol also leads to muscle deterioration and weakness, including those of the heart (Warner, White, John, 2007, p. 37). Sluggish heart (cardiomyopathy) is a common characteristic among alcoholics as well as irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia). Another body system that gets severed by alcoholism is the endocrine system which includes adrenal, pineal, thyroid, and pituitary glands, as well as the testes and ovaries all of which controls the hormone production in the body.
When these glands are sedated by alcohol they tend to underproduction of hormones resulting to hormonal imbalances. In men for example, this results to decreased erection frequency and maintenance, and reduction of penile size in an erection. Females will usually have blocked orgasmic responses and interfered with sexual stimulation processes. They also experience some secondary sexual orientations like decreased body hair and enlarged breasts.
In the extreme cases, infertility can also result in both genders from prolonged alcohol use. FAS-Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is the condition of bearing children with both physical and mental problems by women indulging in alcohol consumption during their pregnancy period. Some of these defects are; heart abnormalities, growth deficiencies, cleft palate, poorly formed organs and bones, retarded intellect, behavior problems, poor coordination, learning disabilities, and marked delay in motor development.
The chance of these birth defects is also enhanced by combination of alcohol use and cigarette smoking (Hill, Yuan, 1999, p. 26). As a matter of fact, there are so many mental and physical effects that are caused by this habit and this categorically calls on all the stakeholders to embark on concerted efforts aimed at bringing this social monster to a standstill for socioeconomic and health wellbeing of the whole globe. References Hill Shirley & Yuan Huixing (1999).
Familial Density of Alcoholism and Onset of Adolescent Drinking. Journal of Studies on Alcohol, Vol. 60; pp. 20, 26 Michael Bogenschutz, Tonigan Scott & Miller William (2006) Examining the Effects of Alcoholism Typology and AA Attendance on Self-Efficacy as a Mechanism of Change. Journal of Studies on Alcohol, Vol. 67; pp. 24, 29 Ogle Richard & Miller William (2004) The Effects of Alcohol Intoxification and Gender on the Social Information Processing of Hostile Provocations Involving Male and Female Provocateurs.
Journal of Studies on Alcohol, Vol. 65; pp. 13, 19, 22 Warner Lynn, White Helene & Johnson Valerie (2007) Alcohol Initiation Experiences and Family History of Alcoholism as Predictors of Problem-Drinking Trajectories. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, Vol. 68; pp. 31, 37 York James, Welte John & Hirsch Judith (2003) Gender Comparison of Alcohol Explore on Drinking Occasions. Journals of Studies on Alcohol, Vol. 64; pp. 17, 43