By Dr. Ade Oderinde
Short-term effects of alcohol
Depending on how much is taken and the physical condition of the individual, alcohol can cause:
Distorted vision and hearing
Decreased perception and coordination
Anemia (loss of red blood cells)
Blackouts (memory lapses, where the drinker cannot remember events that occurred while under the influence)
unprotected sex that could potentially lead to unplanned pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
People don’t smell good the day after (the peculiar alcohol stink) ; the liver processes most of the alcohol you drink, but some of it leaves the body straight through the breath, sweat and urine. Never mind your bloodshot eyes, but the individual looks generally unkempt and markedly undesirable.
Long-term effects of alcohol
Binge drinking and continued alcohol use in large amounts are associated with many health problems, including:
Unintentional injuries such as car crash, falls, burns, drowning
Intentional injuries such as firearm injuries, sexual assault, domestic violence
Increased on-the-job injuries and loss of productivity
Increased family problems, broken relationships
High blood pressure, stroke, and other heart-related diseases
Permanent damage to the brain
Vitamin B1 deficiency, which can lead to a disorder characterized by amnesia, apathy and disorientation
Gastritis (inflammation of stomach walls)
Cancer of the mouth and throat
What about the teeth? People who have alcohol use disorder tend to have higher plaque levels on their teeth and are three times as likely to experience permanent tooth loss.
Skin problems; Alcohol dehydrates the body generally, including the skin – your body’s largest organ. This happens every time you drink. Drinking too much is also thought to deprive the skin of vital vitamins and nutrients. Over time, drinking heavily can have other, more permanent, detrimental effects on your skin. Rosacea, a skin disorder that starts with a tendency to blush and flush easily and can eventually lead to facial disfigurement, is linked to alcohol.
Injury is the most likely health effect of a single incidence of drinking too much. But the types of injuries and the seriousness of injury can vary greatly depending on the circumstances (for example falls, road trauma and assault),loss of personal possessions such as wallets, keys or mobile phones. While often physical scars fade, the psychological scars resulting from alcohol-related trauma can linger for life!
Alcohol contributes to criminal behaviour.
Alcohol can reduce the inhibitions and lead one to behave in a way that one would not consider if sober. Incidents that one would deal with rationally when sober, can quickly escalate and get out of hand after a few drinks and may end up involving the police. Alcohol-related offences include assault, sexual assault, assault of police, property damage, disorderly or offensive behaviour, hindering police, resisting arrest and drink driving.
But being arrested or charged can be just the start of the problems as one may have to spend time in jail. Many industries won’t employ someone with a criminal history. One may lose current employment because of the blot on one’s record or because you need to take time off work for court appearances. Legal problems can also result in relationship break-ups and friction between family members.
What people think about us affects how we feel about ourselves. A humiliating drinking incident such as vomiting, uncontrolled passage of urine/faeces on the body or outright passing out can result in ridicule, social ostracism and other forms of bullying. Hangovers can lead to time off work, poor work performance and workplace accidents, all of which could put your job at risk.
Drinking too much can also affect personal relationships. Usually the people close to someone who regularly drinks too much are adversely affected.
Teenagers of parents with alcohol problems tend to drink more frequently, more heavily, and more often alone than other teenagers (this is understandable as they would have along the line mastered the art better than their parents). Other social consequences of drinking too much can include:
financial problems due to excessive spending on alcohol
limited career opportunities due to a conviction for an alcohol-related offence
impacts on work performance
losing friends because of the way you act when you’re drunk
a limited group of friends, due to constantly socialising with other people who drink to excess
reduced sexual performance.
My drinking, your problem
There are a range of harms to others from drinking. These include effects on family life and members. The drinker may spoil a family holiday, or may fail to pick up a child from school. Drinking is often implicated in family violence and in child neglect. There are effects on friends and on work life – friendships broken off, injuries in a drunken fight, work time spent filling in for a drinker or getting help for him or her. And there are adverse effects on people who don’t know the drinker – annoyances like late-night street noise, and more serious impacts, such as injury from trying to break up a drunken fight, or the cost of fixing or replacing broken furniture or torn clothing when someone had a bit too much.
Alcohol is not friendly to the body. While the mind may find its effects fun, the body does not.