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Alcohol Abuse

No matter what your age, gender, or nationality, you are not free from the risks of drinking.

No matter what your age, gender, or nationality, you are not free from the risks of drinking. Just what does alcohol do to the body? What are the health dangers of over drinking? What is generally considered a safe level of alcohol consumption?

Dangerous for the Mind

Ethanol, the chemical compound present in most alcoholic drinks, is a neurotoxin-that is, a substance that can damage or destroy the nervous system. Someone who is drunk is, in fact, suffering from a form of poisoning. In large quantities ethanol causes coma and death.

The body is able to convert ethanol into harmless substances, but this is not accomplished immediately. If alcohol is consumed at a faster rate than the body can handle it, ethanol builds up in the system and begins to interfere noticeably with brain function.

The stream of information in the brain is thus altered, preventing the brain from functioning normally. That is why when a person drinks too much, he or she develops slurred speech, blurred vision, sluggish movement, weakened behavioral restraints, and inhibitions-all common symptoms of intoxication.

When a person is deprived of alcohol, his brain chemistry is totally destabilized and withdrawal symptoms, such as anxiety, trembling, or even seizures, set in.

While partial recovery is possible with abstinence, some of this damage seems to be irreversible, further affecting memory, and other cognitive functions. Damage to the brain is not just the result of long-term exposure to alcohol. Research seems to indicate that even relatively short periods of alcohol abuse can be harmful.

Liver Disease and Cancer

The liver plays a vital role in metabolizing food, combating infection, regulating blood flow, and removing toxic substances, including alcohol, from the body. Prolonged exposure to alcohol damages the liver in three stages.

While alcohol can cause hepatitis directly, it also appears to lower the body's resistance to hepatitis B and hepatitis C viruses. If unchecked, inflammation causes cells to burst and die. Compounding this damage, alcohol seems to trigger the natural system of programmed cell death called apoptosis.

Alcohol makes the mucous membranes in the mouth more easily penetrated by cancerous substances in tobacco, elevating the risk for smokers. Women who drink daily are at greater risk of breast cancer.

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