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What Are the Effects of Drinking Too Much Alcohol?

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  • Written By: Geisha A. Legazpi
  • Edited By: Allegra J. Lingo
  • Last Modified Date: 07 April 2016
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Alcoholic beverages are often enjoyed by a large percentage of the world's population. Small amounts of alcohol can have some beneficial effects on health, but drinking too much alcohol can cause serious health problems in many organ systems, cognitive issues, and can even lead to death

One standard drink contains about 0.42 oz. (12 g) of ethanol, which is equivalent to 12 oz. (340 g) of beer, 4 oz. (113 g) of non-fortified wine, or 1.5 oz. (42.5 g) of an 80-proof liquor. A standard drink per day in an otherwise healthy and non-pregnant individual can benefit the cardiovascular system. More than two standard drinks per day increases the risk for health problems. In the United States, for instance, legal alcohol intoxication defines a blood alcohol concentration of at least 0.08 to 0.10 gram per deciliter (g/dL). The acute effects of alcohol intoxication can be seen at levels as low as 0.02 to 0.03 g/dL.

The acute effects of too much alcohol consumption involve behavioral, cognitive, and psychomotor changes. Decreased inhibitions can be seen after drinking one to two standard drinks. Too much alcohol or binge drinking, rapidly consuming five or more standard drinks, can cause alcohol poisoning. Symptoms of alcohol poisoning include vomiting, confusion, slow and irregular breathing, stupor, seizures, low body temperature, pale or blue-tinged skin, and coma. Individuals who are in a state of coma are at risk for death.

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Drinking too much alcohol on a regular basis decreases the life span by approximately a decade. In addition, too much alcohol is toxic to most organ systems. Long-term heavy drinking of alcohol causes peripheral neuropathy, brain atrophy, and irreversible cognitive changes. Psychiatric syndromes, such as severe anxiety, auditory hallucinations, and/or paranoid delusions, can also be experienced during heavy drinking and subsequent withdrawal. Although alcohol increases the ease of falling asleep, it causes sleep fragmentation with more and longer episodes of awakening.

The major adverse effect of alcohol is liver damage, such as alcoholic hepatitis and hepatic cirrhosis. Development of esophagitis, gastritis, gastric ulcers, esophageal varices, pancreatitis, cerebrovascular diseases, and cancer is also associated with long-term heavy drinking. Heavy drinking can also cause folic acid deficiency, alcoholic myopathy, and abnormality in the blood cells. It also affects the sexual functioning in both men and women by decreasing the erectile capacity in men and by increasing the risk for infertility and spontaneous abortion in women.

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Feryll
Post 3

I think what goes under reported is the number of girls on college campuses who are taken advantage of when they have drunk too much alcohol and are in no position to protect themselves. I have seen hundreds, if not thousands, of girls passed out after and during college parties.

mobilian33
Post 2

Drentel - How do know the old man you mentioned didn't harm anyone else? My father drank too much alcohol all of the time I knew him. He worked most of the time, but we didn't do more than survive. Any extra money went towards his alcohol.

I don't recall him ever assaulting anybody or robbing anybody, but he hurt his family every single day of his life as far as I am concerned. Alcoholics always hurt people. With the exception of drinking, that's what they do best.

Drentel
Post 1

I'm not going to encourage anyone to become an alcoholic. Alcoholism is a serious disease and I have seen what the effects of this condition can do to families and relationships. On the other hand, I'm not going to say that drinking is a bad thing. Every person has to set his or her own limits.

My dad had this old man who worked for him. The man would work 10 to 12 hours a day doing hard physical labor. Before my father took him home, the old man had to be taken to the liquor store to get a bottle of whatever he was drinking at the time.

He worked hard all day, went home and drank

more than his share and then when my father went to pick him up first thing the next morning, the old man was ready to go. Some days he had a hangover, but he made it to work.

Technically, I guess he was an alcoholic, but he was a functioning alcoholic, and he didn't harm anyone else. By the way, he lived to be 92 years old, and he was up and moving about until the day he died.

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