Unformatted text preview: Signs And Symptoms Drinking alone or in secret Being unable to limit the amount of alcohol you drink Not remembering conversations or commitments, sometimes referred to as "blacking out" Making a ritual of having drinks before, with or after dinner and becoming annoyed when this ritual is disturbed or questioned Losing interest in activities and hobbies that used to bring pleasure Feeling a need or compulsion to drink Irritability when your usual drinking time nears, especially if alcohol isn't available Keeping alcohol in unlikely places at home, at work or in the car Gulping drinks, ordering doubles, becoming intoxicated intentionally to feel good or drinking to feel "normal" Having legal problems or problems with relationships, employment or finances Building a tolerance to alcohol so that you need an increasing number of drinks to feel alcohol's effects Experiencing physical withdrawal symptoms -- such as nausea, sweating and shaking -- if you don't drink Causes Genetics. Certain genetic factors may cause a person to be vulnerable to alcoholism or other addictions. Emotional state. High levels of stress, anxiety or emotional pain can lead some people to drink alcohol to block out the turmoil. Certain stress hormones may be associated with alcoholism. Psychological factors. Having low-self esteem or depression may make you more likely to abuse alcohol. Having friends or a close partner who drinks regularly -- but who may not abuse alcohol -- could promote excessive drinking on your part. It may be difficult for you to distance yourself from these "enablers" or at least from their drinking habits. Social and cultural factors. The glamorous way that drinking alcohol is portrayed in advertising and in the media may send the message that it's OK to drink excessively. Risk Factors Age. People who begin drinking at an early age -- by age 16 or earlier -- are at a higher risk of alcohol dependence or abuse. Genetics. Your genetic makeup may increase your risk of alcohol dependency. Sex. Men are more likely to become dependent on or abuse alcohol than are women. Family history. The risk of alcoholism is higher for people who had a parent or parents who abused alcohol. Emotional disorders. Being severely depressed or having anxiety places you at a greater risk of abusing alcohol. Adults with attentiondeficit/hyperactivity disorder also may be more likely to become dependent on alcohol. Complications drinking can affect your nervous system, causing numbness of your hands and feet, disordered thinking and dementia. Increased risk of cancer. Chronic alcohol abuse has been linked to a higher risk of cancer of the esophagus, larynx, liver and colon. Other complications of alcoholism Liver disorders. Drinking heavily can cause alcoholic hepatitis, an inflammation of the liver. Signs and symptoms may include loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and tenderness, fever, yellowing of the skin (jaundice) and sometimes confusion. After years of drinking, hepatitis may lead to cirrhosis, the irreversible and progressive destruction and scarring of liver tissue. Gastrointestinal problems. Alcohol can result in inflammation of the lining of the stomach (gastritis) and interfere with absorption of the B vitamins -- particularly folic acid and thiamin -- and other nutrients. Heavy drinking can also damage your pancreas, which produces the hormones that regulate your metabolism and the enzymes that help digest fats, proteins and carbohydrates. Cardiovascular problems. Excessive drinking can lead to high blood pressure and damage your heart muscle (cardiomyopathy). These conditions can increase your risk of heart failure or stroke. Diabetes complications. Alcohol prevents the release of glucose from your liver and can increase the risk of low blood sugar (hypoglycemia). This is dangerous if you have diabetes and are already taking insulin to lower your blood sugar level. Complications Cont. Sexual function and menstruation. Alcohol abuse can cause erectile dysfunction in men. In women, it can interrupt menstruation. Birth defects. Alcohol use during pregnancy may cause fetal alcohol syndrome. This condition results in birth defects, including a small head, heart defects, a shortening of the eyelids and various other abnormalities. Developmental disabilities are likely as well. Bone loss. Alcohol may interfere with the production of new bone. This can lead to thinning bones and an increased risk of fractures. Neurological complications. Excessive and alcohol abuse may include: Domestic abuse and divorce Poor performance at work or school Increased likelihood of motor vehicle fatalities and arrest for drunken driving Greater susceptibility to accidental injuries from other causes Higher incidence of suicide and murder ...
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- Spring '08