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Take it easy on that bottle.

Q. What are the symptoms of alcoholism. What health problems are alcoholics prone to?

A. Alcoholism, the worst form of the so-called alcohol use disorders, results from the daily (or almost daily) intake of substantial amount of alcohol over a period of months or years. Its signs and symptoms include craving or a strong need or urge to drink; not being able to stop drinking once drinking has begun; alcohol tolerance, which refers to the need to drink greater amounts of alcohol to feel the same effect; and, dependence which refers to a set of symptoms (alcohol withdrawal syndrome) that can occur when the person stops drinking. Alcohol withdrawal syndrome usually begins six to 24 hours after the last drink. Its presentation can vary from mild symptoms such as nausea, sweating, shakiness, anxiety and sleep disturbances to severe and life-threatening ones such as delirium, hallucinations, and autonomic instability.

Alcoholism can lead to a host of health problems. It causes "chronic alcohol brain syndrome" which is characterized by erratic behavior, memory and recall problems, emotional instability and difficulty in maintaining balance. It also contributes to the development of high blood pressure and atherosclerosis or clogging of arteries, two of the major risk factors for heart attack and stroke.

Alcoholism likewise results in fatty liver or alcoholic hepatitis. Both conditions predispose to cirrhosis (where the liver tissue is destroyed and replaced by liver tissue), which in turn, gives rise to esophageal varices (enlarged veins in the esophagus that can rupture and bleed), liver failure and liver cancer. Aside from liver cancer, drinking too much alcohol equally increases a person's risk for cancers of the mouth, esophagus, throat and breast.

Drinking too much alcohol similarly makes the pancreas produce toxic substances that eventually lead to pancreatitis that interferes with proper digestion.

Chronic alcoholism also brings about abnormalities in protein metabolism, blood coagulation and production of some hormones. Furthermore, it weakens the immune system, making the body a much easier target for disease. Chronic drinkers are more liable to contract diseases like pneumonia and tuberculosis than people who do not drink.

In addition to long term medical problems, alcoholism also pose economic and psychosocial complications. Alcoholics spend a great deal of their time drinking, making sure they can get alcohol, and recovering from alcohol's effects that they neglect their job, responsibilities and other activities. Often, they become financially ruined and their interpersonal relationships deteriorate.

People of all ages are therefore well advised to take it easy on that bottle. If they have to drink at all, they should do so in moderation.

Moderate drinking means no more than four drinks on any single day and no more than 14 drinks per week for men, and no more than three drinks on any single day and no more than seven drinks per week for women. A drink consists of 12 oz. of regular beer, 5 oz. of wine or 1 1/2 oz. of distilled spirit (80 proof).

Moderate drinking, should at worse, only result in mild intoxication, which is characterized by loss of inhibition and a sense of warmth and euphoria.

Incidentally, scientific studies show that drinking moderate amounts of alcohol may protect healthy adults from coronary heart disease.


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Title Annotation:Well-being
Publication:Manila Bulletin
Date:Jun 3, 2014
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