Alcoholism is a chronic disorder, in which a person is unable to refrain from frequent and excessive consumption of alcohol for physical or psychological reasons. The World Health Organisation has listed alcoholism as one of the three most deadly killer diseases of the 20th century.
Alcoholism is also a very serious social problem. It often brings poverty and a certain amount of crime and frequently results in marital unhappiness and broken homes. It also leads to numerous traffic accidents.
Alcohol is not a product found in nature. It results from decomposition and as such belongs to a family of poisons. Ethyl alcohol, the main intoxicating ingredient in wine, beer and distilled liquor is a toxic drug which depresses the brain and nervous system.
Alcohol cannot be called a food for it enters the alimentary canal and is not changed or digested in any way. It is quickly absorbed in the blood stream and then travels to every part of the body, adversely affecting vital organs like the brain and liver.
About 90 per cent of the alcohol is slowly oxidised in the liver and the remaining 10 per cent is eliminated by breathing and through urination. An average peg of whisky, 1 2 ounces of beer or 5 ounces of wine take one full hour to be oxidised in the liver.
According to WHO, “Alcoholics are those excessive drinkers whose dependence on alcohol has attained such a degree that it shows a noticeable mental disturbance or interference with their bodily or mental health, their interpersonal relations and their smooth social and economic functions, or who show the prodromal signs of such development.”
Alcoholics have a puffy face with bloodshot eyes, hoarse voice and rapid pulse. They are suspicious, irritable and over-emotional. Vomiting, delirium, impaired judgement and disturbed sleep are some of the common symptoms.
The chronic alcoholic, who would rather drink than eat, fails to get enough vitamins. The few vitamins acquired by him are drained out his system in the process of burning the alcohol in his body. Vitamin deficiency can lead to delirium tremens,convulsins, neuritis, disorders of the eyes and impaired memory.
Excessive drinking often causes premature graying of hair due to vitamin deficiency. Chronic alcoholism results in a depletion of minerals in the body, particularly magnesium, which produces symptoms like tremor of the hands, feet and tongue, convulsions, mental clouding and sweating.
Alcohol tends to be habit-forming. The more you have, the more you want. The more you drink, the less you eat. Soon the body is out of gear, because it has been getting an unsuitable and inadequate type of fuel. Excessive drinking imposes a strain on the liver.
It gradually destroys its functions and often causes cirrhosis of the liver. It leads to disorders of the stomach and bowels. It can cause brain damage as brain cells are often affected by it. Alcohol also affects the heart which becomes weak and flabby.
Alcoholism results from excessive drinking. Sometimes a person sinks comparatively rapidly into alcoholism and at other times, years may pass before a person becomes a full-fledged alcoholic. A person generally takes to drinking as a means to enliven social life, to overcome anxiety or to induce sleep.
He becomes an alcoholic if he gets dependent on alcohol physically and psychologically. He resorts to heavy drinking because of his inability to deal with the stress and strain of life.