Alcohol has been part of the human diet for thousands of years. There is archeological evidence showing that purposely fermented beverages have been around almost as long as recorded history. Alcohol has been used as an antiseptic, in many religious ceremonies, for medicinal purposes, and even for nutritional value. It is also considered by many professionals to be the most abused drug in the world. The following information describes what this drug is, the content of it in various drinks, the effect of it on the body, and the different ways it is abused. There is also information regarding the benefits of seeking treatment when suffering from addiction.
In simplest terms, it is a flammable, colorless liquid that is the intoxicating part of a variety of beverages. It can also be used as fuel. Alcohol is made through a process called fermentation. As a health term, this has been categorized more specifically. It is a depressant that slows down vital functions. The percentage of alcohol in a particular drink varies, depending on the type of alcoholic beverage it is. Beer usually contains 2 to 5 percent while wine has anywhere from 8 to 20 percent. Most hard liquor and distilled drinks have between 40 and 50 percent alcohol. According to many sources, including the Harvard School of Public Health, if used in moderation has been shown to provide many health benefits including improving cardiovascular health, lowering the risk of gallstones and diabetes, and may even help prevent colds. Moderation would be one or two drinks a day.
Alcohol does not need to be digested like food and is quickly absorbed in the body, primarily through the stomach and the small intestine. This is why drinking on an empty stomach can quickly affect an individual. Once the in the bloodstream, it travels to the liver. The liver is the only part of the body that is able to metabolize alcohol in an efficient manner. How quickly each individual reaches a certain alcohol blood level is determined by many factors. Some of those factors include weight, metabolism, how much the person has eaten, and their individual tolerance level.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 52 percent of adults age 18 and over are regular drinkers in the United States. However, many may find it surprising that the United States does not make the top ten list of countries that indulge in the most drinking. According to most lists, it doesn’t even make the top twenty. Interestingly, the countries that consume the most alcohol are almost entirely in eastern and western Europe. With the exception of South Korea, the top 15 are in this one area of the globe, with Moldova, Russia, The Czech Republic, and Hungary boasting the highest rates of alcohol consumption in the world. The United States, however, still suffers from its share of alcohol abuse.
What is defined as abuse versus dependency or alcoholism varies slightly among researchers and professionals. According to the Betty Ford Center, alcohol abuse is defined in simplest terms as drinking too much too often while alcohol dependency is an inability to quit drinking completely. Some signs of abuse include neglecting home and work responsibilities, calling in sick frequently because of too much drinking, and avoiding family and friends or canceling commitments because of a hangover. Other signs include deteriorating personal relationships, risky sexual behavior, and experiencing legal problems because of drinking. Binge drinking is the most common form of alcohol abuse. People who binge drink may go for weeks or months at a time without drinking, and then consume large amounts of alcohol on a single occasion. Binge drinking is defined as having 5 or more drinks on one occasion for men and 4 or more for women.
There are many potential health problems from this type of abuse, but they affect people in different ways, depending on the age and the sex of the individual. Short-term health problems included hangovers after heavy drinking or difficulty sleeping. Long-term effects include the increased risk of at least seven types of cancers, cardiovascular damage, sexual problems, and nutritional deficiencies. There are also mental and emotional consequences of drinking too much over a long period of time. These include a higher risk of depression, anxiety disorders, and memory problems. When teenagers and those in their early twenties abuse it, the effects can be even more devastating than when adults who are older abuse alcohol. This is due to the fact that their bodies and brains are not yet fully developed.
Dependency and addiction is generally defined as an inability to stop drinking. Alcoholism includes symptoms of alcohol abuse plus the physical dependence and inability to quit even if the person wants to quit. Some alcohol abusers never become full blown alcoholics, but they are at increased risk of becoming alcohol dependent. Some individuals who abuse alcohol may gradually become alcoholics through the years while other problem drinkers may slip into alcoholism quickly due to a certain problem or incident. The loss of a relationship, the death of a loved one, or even retirement could be a trigger for more serious drinking. Some signs of alcohol dependency include increased tolerance and withdrawal symptoms when trying to stop or cut back on drinking. Some signs of withdrawal may include increased anxiety, sweating, extreme fatigue, insomnia, and loss of appetite. Those who have become alcoholics will often center their lives around drinking and other individuals who drink. Alcoholics eventually lose all control over their drinking.
When an individual is suffering from this addiction, seeking inpatient treatment offers many advantages. One of the primary differences between inpatient and outpatient treatment is where the patient lives. Living twenty-fours in a treatment center means a patient gets around the clock care for their abuse problems. Remaining at home keeps the individual in the same environment that likely nurtured their dependency. While in a treatment facility, the person has access to therapy and trained professionals on a daily basis. They also have interaction with others who are going through the same struggles. When an individual stays at home, even close family and friends usually don’t understand entirely what the alcoholic is going through.
Staying at an inpatient rehab provides a lot of structure for those recovering from alcohol dependency. There are often a variety of productive activities individuals can engage in to keep them focused and provide a positive distraction. Part of this structure includes regular meals being provided by the staff. Having regular, nutritious meals can help an alcoholic get stronger and recover faster. Sometimes laundry is done for those in an inpatient facility as well. However long an individual stays in treatment, once released, the journey isn’t over. Winning the battle over alcohol addiction is a lifelong process. It requires constant vigilance, which usually includes being involved in a support group of some type.
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