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One Drink Is Too Many and a Thousand Not Enough

by Victoria Nortei

A cousin of mine passed away last year, and his death affected his younger brother. His brother couldn’t eat or sleep well. He had to move from one friend’s house to another because he couldn’t sleep alone. He also drank a lot during this loss, more than he usually does, but I believe he is adjusting now. He is at risk of an alcohol use disorder, but he doesn’t realize he is addicted. He withdrew socially from other people and only related to just close friends. It was very difficult to gain his attention and he was always by himself. I am very close to him, and he is like a best friend with whom I mostly share important life events. I know him as a casual drinker, but through conversations, he makes it known that he drinks a lot. The loss of his brother made matters worse. I tried talking to him to try and change him, but it didn’t work. I had the opportunity to study alcohol abuse in a mental health class, and through this class, I got to understand how serious alcohol use disorder can be and how difficult it is to quit drinking. 

Drinking alcohol isn’t bad itself, but it becomes bad when abused. Alcohol Use Disorder is a common public health disorder (4). People who normally abuse alcohol have excuses for drinking just as my cousin used his brother’s death to drink more. However, this is dangerous because alcohol causes great harm to the body. This problem is very common in our society. It causes damage to body organs and systems such as the liver, pancreas, weakens the heart muscle, brain, nerves, and others (3). The function of the liver in our body is very vital, however, it is the organ alcohol affects the most (2). When there is a dysfunction of the liver, it is not able to produce bile which emulsifies (breaks down) fats in our food (2). It is also not able to store glucose (the end-product of carbohydrate) as glucagon and release it when there is a low sugar level in the blood (2). Cirrhosis (irreversible liver disease) of the liver which is an end-stage of liver disease causes portal hypertension (when blood pressure is elevated in the portal vein), ascites (serous fluids accumulates in the abdominal cavity), esophageal varices, and hepatic encephalopathy (which occurs when the body is not able to convert ammonia to urea for excretion) in our body (2). Anyone who abuses alcohol is at risk of getting this disorder. The youth from ages 15 to 40 are people who mostly use excessive alcohol (4). Millions of Americans including men, women and adolescents have alcohol use disorder (3). Most people drink casually and after some time become dependent on alcohol and their tolerance level increases making it difficult to get drunk on their usual level of drinks.

There are groups that help with dealing with the disorder. Alcoholics Anonymous is a nonprofessional and self-supporting group. These self-help groups welcome everybody (rich, poor, educated or not, minorities, all ages), and the only requirement is a desire to stop drinking (1). The 12-step program is a program utilized in the Alcoholics Anonymous group is very effective and if a client can follow and abide by the program, the outcome is worth it (1). The 12-step program serves as a guideline and a way to overcome addiction to alcohol (1). This program is mainly based on spiritual principles, yet it is open to all kinds of faith and allows different kinds of interpretations (1). It also provides support, encouragement, and holds the individual accountable for his or her actions. The program is for people who genuinely want to overcome their addiction (1). The people involved in this organization have had almost the same or similar experiences in terms of intoxication and withdrawal. In this type of relationship, there is a sense of belonging (group cohesiveness), and a feeling of they are not alone in the problems, thoughts, and feelings they are experiencing (universality). One way or the other, relationships formed impacts the members by others sharing their experiences and this inspires the hope of being able to overcome alcohol addiction. I believe there is a sense of “if this individual can do this (revert from addiction), so can I”. There is no form of judgement in this organization.

Alcohol use disorder is very common in the United States. It causes long-term effects on the body that can lead to death. People must be educated on these adverse effects. Measures should be put in place so that an individual doesn’t end in either withdrawal or intoxication of alcohol since both of them can be deadly. The age limit of alcohol must be increased and there should be rules and regulations that ensure that everyone abides by it. Alcoholics Anonymous helps people quit drinking. If anyone needs help or wants to learn more about AA they should visit this website, https://www.aa.org/.This website also provides locations for AA meetings, and numbers to call for help (1). If you want to quit drinking or know anyone who wants to stop, visit the AA website as soon as possible.

References

  1. Alcoholics Anonymous https://www.aa.org/ 
  2. Alcohol and the Liver https://www.addictioncenter.com/alcohol/liver/ 
  3. Medline plus https://medlineplus.gov/genetics/condition/alcohol-use-disorder/ 
  4. National Institute on Alcohol and Alcoholism (NIAAA)

https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochures-and-fact-sheets/alcohol-facts-and-statistics (Links to an external site.) 

  1. The Effects of Alcohol on Your Body https://www.healthline.com/health/alcohol/effects-on-body 

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