What’s the Alcohol Doing to You?

A 2012 survey revealed that alcohol is consumed by 75% of Canadians. So, what is the alcohol doing to you?

Alcohol is considered as a drug. Alcoholism is a term used to signal the variety of conditions involved with alcohol abuse or dependence.

Alcoholism is considered to be one of the major drug problems in Western society even though it’s been in society for thousands of years for some societies.

Types of Alcoholics

We must also realize that not every alcoholic is the same. Another landmark study (2007), done by The National Institute on Alcoholic Abuse and Alcoholismcreated categories on the sub-types of the alcoholic such as, Young Adult, Young Anti-Social, Functional, Familial (mental illness), Chronic Severe but also includes the ‘high functioning‘ alcoholics, those able to function within their responsibilities, lead a double life.

A few addictions experts are suggesting that 75% -90% are high functioning alcoholics. Shall we learn the the effects of alcohol?

Progression of Alcoholism

Alcoholism progresses the same for every alcoholic and will reveal itself, at different rates. After all, as said earlier, no alcoholic is the same. Alcohol crosses the ‘blood-brain‘ barrier and changes brain cells affecting the central nervous system (CNS) and see or hear the following indications;

  • the brain slows the body down (depressant), prolonged alcohol abuse can permanently impair brain and nerve function
    altered speech
  • foggy memory
  • hazy thinking
  • slurred speaking
  • impaired co-ordination
  • affects the heart, leads to hypertension, heart disease, heart failure and stroke
  • breathing patterns will slow or stop
  • cirrhosis of the liver, scarring the tissue leads to impaired function
  • damage to organs, heart, brain, liver, stomach
  • reduced resistance to infection
  • lower reproductive function and/or impotence/infertility
  • mixing alcohol with other drugs and medications can be fatal

Behaviors of Alcoholism

The behaviors of an alcoholic will depend on the stage of their addiction. There are different definitions for the stages of alcoholism but most will contain the following qualifying criteria:

  1. Social drinker, one or two drinks a day, enough for euphoria
  2. Non-Social drinker, to reduce stress, first sign of dependency, urge to drink at stressful events
  3. Frequent Relief, to escape, stress, feelings, guilt, seek to diminish senses, may steal alcohol
  4. Daily Routine, memory blackouts, hidden drinking (mix beverage with alcohol), tolerance to alcohol effects rises
  5. Full Dependence, find reasons to drink (opportunist), defensive to offers of help, unpredictable mood and behavior changes, loses control over responsibilities, lies, manipulative, avoidance behaviors, tremors,
  6. End Stage, alcohol obsession, deteriorating health, eats less, resents interference, emotionally unpredictable, seizures, tremors, cirrhosis of the liver, dementia
  7. Death
say NO to drugs
say NO to drugs

Differences in Effects of Alcohol for Gender

Differences in body and weight will create differences in tolerance. One person with low body fat will feel effects of alcohol less than a person with higher body fat. A woman has less of the enzyme dehydrogenase (an enzyme that moves a substance to a hydrogen acceptor for break-down), in their stomach.

Also, women tend to have higher body fat and lower water content in their body. Over all, the less you weigh, the more quicker one feels the effects of alcohol. Our bodies can only break down one alcoholic drink per hour.

Personality Changes of Alcoholism

The stages of alcoholism brings personality changes that can range from mild to outright dangerous with the loss of inhibitions.

  • Negative emotions are intensified and responses are apparent with knee-jerk reactions.
  • Paranoia, delusions and hallucinations can lead to endangering self and others. This is due to reduced blood flow to regions in the brain.
  • Aging organs, including the brain, decrease their ability to withstand the effects of alcohol.
  • Medical treatment and neurogenesis may help to resolve these effects but further study is needed.
  • Long term alcohol abuse can still lead to varying degrees of lasting brain damage and/or eventual death.
  • Recovery from alcohol abuse also has a place and begins with first admitting, a problem exists.

Recovery from Alcoholism

A visit to your doctor can helps towards repairing the physical effects. Visiting an alcohol treatment centre and/or Addictions professional, can help towards further understanding your addiction cycle and triggers helps toward learning and applying the available options, to change your life.

Lasting friendships and support can be found through joining Alcoholics Anonymous, AA. One just has to be aware that even if alcohol is removed, one may still exhibit ‘dry drunk‘ behaviors.

The purpose of AA is set up as a ‘self-help‘ group of recovering alcoholics (remove and abstain from alcohol from their daily life) who help support each other, and new members. They help you understand and overcome your dependence and abuse.

Serenity Prayer - AA
Serenity Prayer – AA

Gaslighting – Lies and Truth of Reputation

People have said some bad things about AA but being a member myself, I’ll just say this, you will meet the right people who are ‘strong‘, and with years of sobriety. You’ll have the best down-to-earth, ‘real‘ people for friends. True friends.

They are not a ‘cult‘ but fear drives people to run away, and ‘demonize‘ others even if in reality, they are good people. AA members ‘know‘ that ‘place‘ too.

People do run away from ones who have ‘emotions‘. Sometimes, too much gentleness and kindness breaks down psychological ‘walls‘ we hide behind especially after years of abuse. Alcoholism is known to be accompanied with a mental illness.

Relapse and Forgiveness

Over all, recovery is a choice available to everyone and which can lead, to helping others step out of their own alcohol addiction. You may become strong, and asked to become a ‘Sponsor‘. A chosen ‘Mentor’ to help one through learning to walk the Path of Sobriety.

One last note, people do have relapses and drink again. Some will return, and others move away. Those who are strongest with years of sobriety will help teach, encourage to learn, forgiveness.

Friends will forgive the relapse and welcome you back but most of all, you will learn to forgive yourself, and not be ashamed. Nobody is perfect, it doesn’t exist.

Learning in Motion

how alcohol changes the body

Extra Learning Resources

National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism


Alcoholics Anonymous

Al – Anon Family Groups

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