According to Miller (1991), excessive consumption of alcohol to a point whereby this behavior interferes with the normal physiology and social life of a person leading to mental or physical harm is referred to as addiction The abuse of alcohol and its consequent addiction are grave medical conditions whose causes the medical fraternity do not clearly understand. The only thing that is clearly evident about these conditions is their effects. Alcohol addiction generally occurs at all stages of life but the occurrence is mostly marked during the youthful stages of a person.
According to Hinckley (2009), the effects of addiction can manifest themselves in very many ways. Some of these manifestations cannot be clearly noticed by an outside observer. The medical fraternity considers alcoholism as a disease that has no cure. This is so because the physiology of an individual depends on the presence of alcohol in the bloodstream. Though treatable, addiction of alcohol is not curable and addicts live with that condition for the whole of their life (Lescau, 2009). This paper is going to look at some of the physiological effects of alcoholism. Physiological effects of alcoholism
Effects to the liver Alcohol causes Cirrhosis of the liver, a condition characterized by permanent scarring of the liver associated with development of nodules. Alcoholism causes jaundice due to liver damage. As a result of improper handling of bile by the liver, it starts circulating in the bloodstream causing the skin to turn yellowish (Quertemont & Didone, 2006). Effects to the Pancreas Davies (2003), states that alcohol has got a very toxic effect on the pancreas. Alcohol is believed to alter the secretion of pancreatic juices. Increased digestive juices production causes irritation to the pancreas.
The alcohol induced protein concentration increase in the pancreatic juice precipitates is believed to be the disease causing mechanism. This causes acute and chronic pancreatitis. Effects on the gastrointestinal tract According to Distance Learning Center for Addiction Studies (2009), Dyspepsia which is a general feeling of discomfort after eating occurs due to alcoholism. Alcohol inhibits the small intestines from absorbing the nutrients necessary for its proper functioning and also it leads to increased propulsion of food from the small intestines. The end result of these effects is recurrent diarrhea.
Alcoholism also results in Ascites, a condition characterized by accumulation of fluids in the abdominal cavity. This occurs as a result of increase in the size of the liver which greatly compresses the blood vessels thereby causing fluid leakage to the abdominal cavity from the liver (Bullers & Ennis, 2006). Effects to the cardiovascular system Alcohol intoxication causes irregular heart beats in an individual. Alcohol addicts also develop cardiomyopathy. Alcohol inhibits the bone marrow capability of using iron to make hemoglobin. This leads to development of anemia. Alcohol intake also leads to the destruction of platelets.
According to Bullers & Ennis (2006), alcohol also causes peripheral blood vessels dilatation. As a result, the body temperature regulatory mechanism is greatly impaired. It is a disagreement for some researchers to claim that moderate alcohol consumption may help in protecting against some cardiovascular diseases (Lescau, 2009). Excessive consumption of alcohol has been shown to have adverse cardiovascular effects. Effects on the respiratory system Distance Learning Center for Addiction Studies (2009) states that alcohol causes inflammation and irritation of the organs of the respiratory system.
It also increases susceptibility to various forms of respiratory infections. Due to its numbing effect, on the lungs it becomes very hard for them to get secretions out. As a result, the secretions which consist of microorganisms clog in the lung and may lead to development of infections. Musculoskeletal effects According to Distance Learning Center for Addiction Studies (2009), nutritional status of an addict change greatly leading to nutritional deficiency. Muscle wasting occurs due to improper diet consumption. This is referred to as muscle atrophy.
Alcoholic myopathy occurs due to increased secretion of the enzyme serum creatinine and phosphokinase which causes muscle cramps and weakness. Excess alcohol consumption also causes finger clubbing. This is the swelling of the finger tips as a result of alcohol cardiomyopathy which greatly impairs blob circulation to the extremities. Amenorrhea and Impotence Due to its interference with the absorption of calcium in the small intestines it may greatly impair the efficient functioning of the ovaries and thus make some women skip menstruation (Distance Learning Center for Addiction Studies, 2009).
Due to the excessive damage caused by alcohol to the liver it cannot properly assist in the regulation of sex hormones levels. As a result, testosterone levels in men decrease as estrogen levels increase. This may lead to feminization of male features such as enlargement of breasts and loss of facial hair. The toxic effect of alcohol on the testes leads to decreased plasma testosterone levels and shrunken testes. As a result fertility decreases (Distance Learning Center for Addiction Studies, 2009). Effects to the fetus
According to Boggan (2004) ethanol freely mixes with water found in the body. If a pregnant mother takes alcohol it is freely transported to the fetus and the fluids surrounding it through blood circulation. Growth and development are directly influenced by alcohol. The negative effects of alcohol to the mother can also indirectly affect the fetus. These may be things like alteration of nutrition status of the mother thus subjecting the fetus to poor nutrition. Metabolites of alcohol for example acetaldehydes are also very toxic and can cause adverse effects to the fetus (Boggan, 2004).
Increased risks to secondary diseases According to Distance Learning Center for Addiction Studies (2009), Addiction of alcohol increases a person’s risk to acquiring other complications. These may include: grave infections to the liver, sleeping disorders, infections of the esophagus, and Cancer of the mouth. Cancer of the mouth also occurs due to the effect of alcohol on the salivary glands especially the parotid glands that swell greatly. Excess production of saliva occur leading to the blocking of the salivary ducts
Effects of alcohol to the nervous system McCarthy, (1959) states that a large doses of alcohol acts as central nervous system depressant. This is because of its action on inhibitory neurotransmitter systems. Excess alcohol in the brain increases the release of inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA resulting in inhibition of impulses. As a controversy it is claimed that use of alcohol increases euphoria to the consumers whereas others claim that consumers experience a livelier, easy and relaxed lifestyle.
It is also claimed that a consumer is able to talk in an open way to other people whereas in some occasions an addict becomes withdrawn and acts as a social outcast (Distance Learning Center for Addiction Studies, 2009). Conclusion As shown by the paper alcohol consumption has adverse physiological effects which affect almost all the major components of the body. Many of the physiological effects do not manifest themselves on the outside and are very difficult for an outsider to detect. Most of these effects cause internal damage which is more adverse than the external damage.
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