Get the Facts: The Effects of Alcohol

Get the Facts: The Effects of Alcohol

04/28/14 James Winston

Alcohol or what is referred to also as ethyl or ethanol is a central nervous system depressant. Of course, alcohol comes in a clear absolute liquid form and or blended in wine, beer, liquor (distilled spirits), or liqueur. Alcohol is consumed orally and blended or mixed with other spirits or non-alcoholic substances. Alcohol is legal and regulated by various state laws for purchase eligibility and distribution location. Alcohol can be contained in other products such as mouthwash and cough medicine. Non-beverage isopropyl and methyl alcohols have a history of being used orally by alcoholics and teens, but it is dangerous to use these for consumption.

Obviously, alcohol is used often for how it makes us feel and it results in a feeling of being relaxed or more sociable, but people also report feeling depressed, angry, a loss of control, and drowsiness. These effects differ by the individual. In short, alcohol is a depressant and if used in excess can lower the ability of the brain to control behavior and impair your ability to perform motor skills such as driving. Physically, alcohol lessens the ability for you to move or speak effectively, and begins to initially affect the brain stem which controls speech and smooth muscle movement.

You should know that food and drink does not change the ongoing effects. The effect of alcohol and blood absorption will vary by size of person, capacity, amount of food in stomach, tolerance level, as well as other factors. One should also know that despite folklore, there is no known cure for the next day withdrawal or hangover.

So how can alcohol hurt you? Well the answer is in a variety of ways, as alcohol is a very powerful chemical in the body. It can cause general stomach and intestinal damage, an inability to feel pain, coma, susceptibility to alcohol-related diseases, anxiety, insomnia, socially unacceptable behavior, brain damage, depletion of vitamins and nutrients. In addition, alcohol can decrease sex drive, cause impotence, menstrual problems, and liver and kidney damage. Many people report using alcohol for sleep, and as a depressant, it can and will induce sleep but when it leaves the body it can create anxiety and actually damage the natural sleep cycle. So the question always asked is “How do I know if I am an alcoholic or even have a problem with alcohol?” Some questions to ask yourself include:

  • Are you drinking more and spending more time consuming and obtaining alcohol?
  • Do you use more of the substance to get the same effect?
  • Are you having health changes?
  • Are you spending more money on alcohol?
  • Have you had legal charges brought against you due to use of alcohol?
  • Do you have withdrawal symptoms from alcohol?
  • Do you binge drink and once you start is it difficult to stop?

There are many factors to consider if you are having a problem, but the best way is to have a professional counselor who is trained to assess for alcohol problems complete a formal assessment. Ultimately, you have to accept that you have a problem and know that there is help and a way to live a life without alcohol if you need to.  If you know someone with a problem there is also help. Counseling is commonly the preferred method to advise, educate, and assist family members in learning how to deal with a person with a drinking problem. There is also support for alcoholics which is Alcoholics Anonymous, as well as support for those in a relationship with a person with a substance use issue such as Alanon and Alateen.

Click here to find an AA, Alanon, or Alateen meeting near you.

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