Alcohol and its Effects
Ivy Tech Community College
Alcohol and its Effects
Alcohol can be a very harmful substance. Alcohol can be abused, and people can get addicted to it like any other drug. It can impair coordination and judgment as well as a lot of other things. Alcohol can also have long term effects on the organs in the body. It can affect people psychologically as well as behaviorally. Many deaths that occur each day are caused by alcohol. Consuming alcohol affects a lot of things that people do not realize.
Psychoactive drugs affect the nervous system (Seymour & Smith, 2013). These types of drugs affect consciousness and moods. Types of psychoactive drugs include depressants, stimulants, and hallucinogens (King, 2013). Alcohol is a depressant that affects the central nervous system causing decreased blood pressure and heart rate (Grunberg, Berger, & Hamilton, 2011). Depressants mainly slow down, or depress, the activity in the brain. Alcohol stimulates dopamine neurons in the VTA or the ventral tegmental area of the midbrain (Olsen, 2011). The VTA and the NAc (nucleus accumbens-olfactory tubercle complex) make up the dopamine reward circuit, which reinforces the effects of drugs (Olsen, 2011). This reinforcement makes the user feel good, and they associate alcohol with this pleasurable feeling.
Other areas of the body besides the brain are affected by alcohol consumption. Some major organs it can affect include the heart, stomach, and the liver. Frequent use of alcohol is a major cause of cardiomyopathy, which is a chronic disease of the heart (Manzo-Avalos & Saavedra-Molina, 2010). The muscles of the heart become flaccid and can even degenerate. If the heart muscles are weakened, this means the heart isn’t working correctly, and the heart cannot pump blood through the body as efficiently as it should. When alcohol is consumed, it is absorbed fairly quickly in the stomach and gastrointestinal tract. Alcohol can damage the gastric mucosa, which is the mucous membrane of the stomach (Chey, 2009). When the gastric mucosa is damaged, this can lead to lesions or ulcers in the stomach as well as other injuries. These injuries can lead to serious digestion problems. Since the liver is the main site of metabolism and filtration, alcohol can create severe problems in the liver. Heavy drinking can cause apoptosis, or cell death, in the liver (Manzo-Avalos & Saavedra-Molina, 2010). Alcoholic fatty liver disease is when the liver accumulates fat which can cause liver failure (Shen, et al., 2010). This disease can lead to cirrhosis, which is scarring of the liver that causes poor liver function (Verrill, et al., 2009). All of these organs are vital and can be damaged easily by consuming excessive amounts of alcohol.
When people drink, their behaviors and emotions are also affected. The more a person drinks, the harder it is for them to control themselves. People may start to act more outgoing or lose their inhibitions at first. Judgment becomes impaired and many bad choices are made while drinking. Risky and impulsive decisions can be made, and the outcome may not be good. Alcohol can impact the decision to engage in unprotected sex (Rehm, et al., 2012). Unprotected sex can lead to unwanted pregnancies or sexually transmitted infections. Blood alcohol concentration, or BAC, measures how much alcohol is in a person’s body. Alcohol can impair many things including vision, speech, and balance. Motor coordination is increasingly impaired the higher the person’s BAC (Modig, et al., 2012). Tasks that are fairly simple while sober can seem almost impossible while intoxicated. Alcohol makes it hard for people to concentrate or be alert. Reflexes and reaction times are slower when a person has been drinking. If too much alcohol is consumed, vomiting is one of the body’s responses of trying to get the alcohol out of the system. At high levels of BAC, memory loss or blackout can occur. All of...
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