BlessWorld Foundation International

Affecting the World Through Health
A Global Health Initiative

Global Health: Alcohol Abuse



Alcohol is a clear, colorless liquid produced by fermenting or distilling various fruits, vegetables or grains. It is a type of depressant that slows down parts of the brain affecting thinking, behavior, breathing and heart rate. Millions of men and women of all ages, from adolescents to adults, engage in alcohol use because it is legal in most countries and is an essential component of many beverages or drinks. The color of alcoholic beverages depend their ingredients and the process of fermentation or distillation employed. Fermented beverages include beer and wine, which usually have a maximum alcohol content of about 15%. Distilled beverages on the other hand, also known as hard liquor or spirit such as rum, whisky and vodka, have much higher alcohol content.

Despite being available in different forms, alcohol has the same narcotic effects and should be consumed moderately. Alcohol abuse, also known as alcohol use disorder is a pattern of alcohol use that involves problems controlling one’s drinking, causing preoccupation with alcohol and continuation of use even in the face of problems. Unhealthy and unsafe consumption of alcohol includes binge drinking and any use that puts an individual’s health or safety at risk or causes other alcohol-related problems. Individuals with alcohol use disorder exhibit patterns of drinking that result in repeated significant distress and problems in performing daily life functions. These disorders can be mild to severe; however, mild disorders have the capacity to escalate and result in serious problems, hence early treatment is crucial.

Globally, alcohol abuse is the seventh leading risk factor for injury, disease and death. Besides tobacco, alcohol accounts for higher burden of disease than any other drug- it is the major cause of preventable liver disease. Common signs and symptoms of alcohol use disorder include inability to control the amount consumed, spending too much time drinking or recovering from alcohol use, craving alcohol, failing to fulfill responsibilities at work or home or school due to alcohol use, continuing to drink alcohol even when it causes significant physical or social problems, compromising other activities and hobbies because of alcohol, using alcohol in unsafe situations such as when driving, developing a higher tolerance to alcohol and experiencing withdrawal symptoms such as nausea, sweating and shaking.

Short term effects of alcohol abuse are memory loss, hangovers, slurred speech and blackouts. Long-term effects include stomach and heart problems, addiction, intoxication, cancer, brain damage, permanent memory loss, pancreatitis, high blood pressure and cirrhosis or scarring on the liver.

Abstention from or drinking alcohol in moderation are the only ways to prevent the negative consequences that results from alcohol abuse. Drinking in moderation means having no more than one drink daily for women and not more than two for men. One drink equals:

  • 1.5 ounces of liquor (like whisky, rum, or tequila)
  • 5 ounces of wine
  • 12 ounces of beer

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