I remember once when one of my colleagues went out on an assignment and came back with assorted alcoholic beverages from one of the leading manufacturers in Ghana; GIHOC Distilleries.
She, not interested in the stuff she brought, gave them out to no one in particular. From where I sat behind my desk, I could tell making a dash at any one of the drinks was a hard task, since no one will want to be labeled as an alcoholic.
But is that what drinking just a little alcohol makes you? An alcoholic? Hold on; alcohol, like any other good thing, when taken in excess can be harmful to one’s health.
April is Alcohol Awareness Month. The Weekend Globe brings you some health risks associated with chronic heavy drinking. Spread the word!
Heavy drinking can cause the number of oxygen-carrying red blood cells to be abnormally low. This condition, known as anemia, can trigger a host of symptoms, including fatigue, shortness of breath, and lightheadedness.
"Habitual drinking increases the risk of cancer," says Jurgen Rehm, PhD, chairman of the University of Toronto's department of addiction policy and a senior scientist at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.
Scientists believe the increased risk comes when the body converts alcohol into acetaldehyde, a potent carcinogen. Cancer sites linked to alcohol use include the mouth, pharynx (throat), larynx (voice box), esophagus, liver, breast, and colorectal region. Cancer risk rises even higher in heavy drinkers who also use tobacco.
Heavy drinking, especially bingeing makes platelets more likely to clump together into blood clots, which can lead to heart attack or stroke. In a landmark study, it was found that binge drinking doubled the risk of death among people who initially survived a heart attack.
Alcohol is toxic to liver cells, and many heavy drinkers develop cirrhosis, a sometimes-lethal condition in which the liver is so heavily scarred that it is unable to function. But it's hard to predict which drinkers will develop cirrhosis. "Some people who drink huge amounts never get cirrhosis, and some who don't drink very much do get it." For some unknown reason, women seem to be especially vulnerable.
It's long been known that heavy drinking often goes hand in hand with depression, but there has been debate about which came first -- the drinking or the depression. One theory is that depressed people turned to alcohol in an attempt to "self-medicate" to ease their emotional pain. However, there are grounded suspicions that prove otherwise -- that is, heavy drinking led to depression.
Heavy drinking can cause epilepsy and can trigger seizures even in people who don't have epilepsy. It can also interfere with the action of the medications used to treat convulsions.
A painful condition, gout is caused by the formation of uric acid crystals in the joints. Although some cases are largely hereditary, alcohol and other dietary factors seem to play a role. Alcohol also seems to aggravate existing cases of gout.
Source: Weekend Globe