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Alcoholism Effects

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Alcoholism and its effects are pervasive as well as damaging.

Alcoholism is truly a debilitating, destructive, and devastating disease that affects not only the alcoholic, but also the following people:

  • The alcoholic's social network, that is his or her family members, friends, other relatives, and coworkers

  • The unfortunate "strangers" who are on the receiving end of a traffic accident or fatality because the alcoholic was driving while under the influence of alcohol

When seen from this viewpoint, alcoholism effects have absolutely nothing to do with health or with anything positive and have everything to do with destruction and ill health.

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Alcoholism Effects in the Four Stages of Alcoholism

Perhaps the most logical way to discuss "alcoholism effects" is to first discuss the classic alcoholic behaviors in the four states of alcoholism.

Then we can look at some of the "social effects" of alcoholism.

And finally, we can focus on outlining the diseases, medical problems, and health conditions that are directly or indirectly caused by alcoholism.

The First Stage of Alcoholism

In the first stage of alcoholism, drinking is no longer a social event but rather becomes an avenue for emotional escape from problems, anxiety, and stress.

More precisely, early in the disease a person starts to depend on the "mood altering" capabilities of alcohol.

Another important aspect of the first stage of alcoholism is that a gradual increase in tolerance develops, meaning that more and more alcohol is needed in order to get "high" or feel a "buzz."

The following characterizes some of the classic alcoholic behaviors and alcoholism effects in the first stage of alcoholism

  • Drinking is not social but an emotional escape from stress and problems

  • Lack of recognition by the person that he or she is in the early stages of a progressive illness

  • Increasing tolerance

  • An ability to drink great amounts of alcohol without any apparent impairment

  • A conscious effort to seek out more drinking opportunities

  • Boasting and a "big shot" complex

  • The use of alcohol as a way to forget problems or to "mellow out"

  • Gross Drinking Behavior - more frequent drinking of greater amounts

The Second Stage of Alcoholism

In the second stage of alcoholism, the need to drink becomes more powerful. Frequently in this stage, the person starts to drink earlier in the day.

As tolerance increases, furthermore, the individual drinks not because of emotional stress relief but rather because of his or her dependence on alcohol.

Also during this stage, the "loss of control" is not yet apparent on a regular basis; it is, nevertheless, starting to become noticed by others such as friends and family members.

The following list represents some of the classic alcoholic behaviors and alcoholism effects in second stage of alcoholism:

  • Denial

  • Increasing tolerance

  • Blaming problems on others and on things external to themselves

  • Increasing physical problems

  • Unsuccessful attempts to stop drinking

  • Drinking because of dependence rather than for stress relief

  • More frequent blackouts

  • Chronic hangovers

  • Feelings of guilt and shame

  • Sporadic loss of control

  • Sneaking extra drinks before social events

The Third Stage of Alcoholism

In the third stage of alcoholism, the loss of control becomes more problematic, meaning that the person is unable to drink according to his or her intentions.

For instance, once the person has had the first drink, he or she can no longer control his or her drinking behavior, even if the intention might have been to have only "a few" drinks.

During this stage of the disease, moreover, the individual usually starts to experience serious relationship, financial, and work-related problems.

In addition, the drinker starts to avoid family and friends and experiences a loss of interest in things that used to be fun or meaningful.

Also typical during this stage are "eye-openers," that is, drinks that are taken whenever the person awakens.

Eye-openers are usually taken to calm the nerves, lessen a hangover, or to quiet the feelings of remorse the drinker experiences during periods of time spent without a drink.

The following characterizes some of the classic alcoholic behaviors and alcoholism effects in the third stage of alcoholism:

  • Loss of control has become a pattern

  • Problems with the law (such as DUIs)

  • Avoidance of family and friends

  • Loss of willpower

  • A decrease in alcohol tolerance

  • Serious financial, relationship, and work-related problems

  • The development of an alibi system - an elaborate system of excuses for their drinking

  • Eye-openers

  • Half-hearted attempts at seeking medical aid

  • Loss of interest in activities that used to be important

  • The start of physical deterioration

  • Neglect of necessities such as food, water, and shelter

  • A decrease in alcohol tolerance

  • Increasing tremors

  • Aggressive and grandiose behavior

  • An increase in failed promises and resolutions to one's self and to others

  • Unreasonable resentments

  • Changes in friendships, such as associating only with friends who drink

  • The development of an alibi system - an elaborate system of excuses for their drinking

  • Problems with the law (such as DUIs)

  • Frequent violent or destructive behavior

The Fourth Stage of Alcoholism

The fourth and final stage of alcoholism is characterized a chronic loss of control.

In the earlier stages of the disease, the person may have been successful in maintaining a job.

Now, however, since drinking starts earlier in the day and typically continues throughout the day, few, if any, full-time employment opportunities can be maintained.

In the earlier stages of the disease, additionally, the alcoholic had a choice whether he or she would take the first drink.

After taking the first drink, the alcoholic usually lost control and, in turn, would continue drinking. In the last stage of alcoholism, however, alcoholics no longer have a choice.

That is, in the final stage of alcoholism, alcoholics must drink in order to function.

The following list symbolizes some of the classic alcoholic behaviors and alcoholism effects in the fourth stage of alcoholism:

  • The realization of being out of control

  • Nameless fears and anxieties such as feelings of impending doom or destruction

  • Moral deterioration

  • Unreasonable resentments and hostility toward others

  • The "DTs"

  • Persistent remorse

  • Devaluation of personal relationships

  • Loss of tolerance for alcohol

  • Vague spiritual desires

  • Impaired thinking

  • Auditory and visual hallucinations

  • An obsession with drinking

  • The possibility of alcoholic psychosis

  • Continual loss of control

  • Benders, or lengthy intoxications

  • The collapse of the alibi system

  • Indefinable fears

  • "The shakes"

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Alcoholism Effects: Social Aspects

Alcoholism not only affects the alcoholic, but it also affects those who are closest the alcoholic, namely his family, friends, other relatives, work associates, and neighbors.

The following list is a sample of the "social effects" of alcoholism:

  • Birth defects such as fetal alcohol syndrome

  • Codependent behavior in others

  • Child abuse

  • Dysfunctional homes

  • Traffic injuries

  • Destroyed relationships

  • Destroyed lives

  • Wife battering

  • Work-related injuries and accidents

  • Broken homes

  • Traffic fatalities on the highways

Medical Conditions Caused by Alcoholism

Alcoholism causes a number of medical problems, health conditions, and diseases.

We will first discuss some of the different kinds of cancer caused by alcoholism and then focus on the non-cancerous illness and ailments that are the effects of this disease.

The Effects of Alcoholism: Cancer

The following is a list of different types of cancer that are directly or indirectly caused by alcoholism:

  • Colon

  • Liver

  • Kidneys

  • Larynx

  • Rectum

  • Esophagus

  • Stomach

  • Throat

The Effects of Alcoholism: Non-Cancerous Medical Conditions

The following is a list non-cancerous medical conditions, diseases, and health problems that are directly or indirectly caused by alcoholism:

  • Sexual problems such as erectile dysfunction and impotence in men

  • Alcohol withdrawal symptoms when the alcoholic stops drinking

  • Pancreatitis

  • Infections

  • Loss of intellectual abilities

  • Alcohol Poisoning

  • Destruction of brain cells

  • Gastritis (inflammation of the stomach)

  • Nervous system damage

  • Coma

  • Kidney and urinary tract infections

  • Korsakoff's syndrome (a memory disorder)

  • Numbness of the feet and hands

  • Dehydration

  • Vitamin D deficiency (which can result in bone fractures)

  • Severe thiamine deficiency

  • Vitamin A deficiency (which can cause night blindness)

  • Inflammation of the digestive system

  • Ulcers from the perforation of the stomach and the intestines

  • Pneumonia

  • Vitamin deficiencies (such as folate, selenium, riboflavin, thiamin, and vitamin B6)

  • Mental confusion

  • Problems with the immune system

  • Kidney failure

  • Impaired learning ability

  • Death (from alcohol poisoning, excessive intoxication, and organ malfunction)

  • Wernicke's disease (a memory disorder)

  • Harm to the fetus while the mother is pregnant

  • Cardiovascular problems such as high blood pressure, cardiomyopathy (damage to the heart muscle), heart failure, and strokes

  • Brain damage

  • Organ and system malfunction

  • Diabetes

  • Cirrhosis of the liver

  • Memory loss

Conclusion: Alcoholism Effects

Alcoholism and its effects are wide-spread as well as detrimental.

Indeed, alcoholism is truly a harmful and unhealthy disease that affects the alcoholic, the alcoholic's social network, and the unwary "strangers" who are involved in a traffic fatality or accident because the alcoholic was driving "under the influence" of alcohol.

Not only this, alcoholism and its effects are manifested in an almost unbelievable number of health conditions and medical problems that are suffered by the alcoholic.

In fact, when first looking at the extreme number of illnesses and ailments caused by alcoholism, one is almost overwhelmed.

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After the situation is looked at in more detail, however, the medical and health-related effects of the disease start to become more understandable.

Stated simply, over time, alcoholism progressively breaks down the proper functioning of the body's main systems and organs.

Consequently, the alcoholic cannot replenish the vitamins, minerals, and other indispensable nutrients the body requires because of improper eating habits and, perhaps more importantly, because his malfunctioning organs do not allow for the proper absorption, metabolism, digestion, and utilization of the nutrients needed for development, repair, and basic system maintenance.

In short, over time, the alcoholic gradually kills himself or herself by his or her own drinking behavior.

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