Alcohol has a broad range of side effects. Though it is legal to consume, it’s far from harmless. Alcohol abuse is still a widespread problem in the United States that genuinely impacts society, families, and individuals.
When a person loses the power of choice over their drinking, this is called alcohol abuse or an alcohol use disorder (AUD). At least 8% of the adult U.S. population meets the criteria for an AUD, which comes out to almost 27 million Americans. The good news is that excellent help is available for people ready to overcome their alcohol abuse and find a better way to live.
What Is Alcohol?
Alcohol abuse has been with humanity for about as long as fermentation. Alcohol remains the most popular drug in America. Ethanol, or ethyl alcohol, is the active ingredient in alcoholic beverages that causes intoxication.
The lowest alcohol content by volume (ABV), at an average of 5%, is Beer. A typical 12 oz glass or can of beer is roughly the amount of alcohol the average human body can process in an hour. In other words, most adults can drink that amount in one hour without becoming intoxicated. Beer might be considered the “gateway drug” in alcohol abuse. But some young people start with more palatable “hard seltzers” and sweeter drinks.
Wine has an average of 12% ABV, and its higher alcohol content makes it more potent than beer but less potent than hard liquor. A standard glass of wine is about 5-6 ounces, which is also considered to meet the “one drink” standard often referenced when assessing alcohol abuse.
Whiskey, rum, tequila, gin, and vodka are “hard” liquor examples. They are frequently mixed with other non-alcoholic beverages to create mixed drinks. 40% (80 proof) is the average ABV for liquor, and the standard drink is typically 1.5 ounces (about a shot glass).
When consuming alcohol, 20% of it is absorbed through the person’s stomach, and 80% of the alcohol gets absorbed through the person’s small intestine. It then makes its way through the rest of the body by the bloodstream. It then begins to change the body’s system’s normal routine functioning. The liver then metabolizes most of the alcohol.
The liver is often adversely affected when alcohol abuse becomes habitual and long-term. It can also cause more health-related issues as well. Neurotransmitters in the brain are also affected and change the functioning of awareness, perception, and mood. Long-term, heavy alcohol abuse devastates the body and brain.
Serious health risks can present themselves with long-term use and misuse. Alcohol has been linked to more than 200 diseases and health conditions.
Cancer, liver cirrhosis, unintentional injuries, and addiction can all be caused by drinking alcohol. In addition to these health concerns, alcohol addiction can lead to relationship and family stressors. Other long-term health issues listed below are:
- Liver disease
- High blood pressure
- Stomach ulcers
- Heart disease
- Digestive problems
- Brain and nerve damage