ALCOHOL INTOXICATION
A
ALCOHOL AND THE BODY
Alcohol is a drug and, even in small
amounts, its effects on the body are
noticeable. Problems arise when
people fail to take into account the
effects ofalcohol on tasks requiring
coordination (such as driving) when
they become intoxicated or when they
become dependent on the drug.
Alcohol dependence can cause early
death and is a major factor in crime,
marital breakdown, child abuse,
accidents, and absenteeism.
Prolonged heavydrinking that
stops just short ofdependence still
may cause a wide variety of diseases,
such as cardiomyopathyand cirrhosis
ofthe liver.
The table below highlights the
effects ofalcohol on the occasional
social drinker. These effects occur with
higher concentrations as alcohol
tolerance increases.
EFFECTS OF INCREASING BLOOD
ALCOHOL LEVELS
Concentration
(milligrams per
100 millilitres)
Observable effects
30-50
Flushed face, euphoria,
talkativeness, increased
social confidence
50-150
Disturbed thinking and
coordination, irritability,
reduced self-control,
irresponsible talkand
behaviour
150-250
Marked confusion,
unsteady gait, slurred
speech, unpredictable
shows of emotion and
aggression
250-400
Extreme confusion and
disorientation, difficulty
remaining upright,
drowsiness, delayed or
incoherent reaction to
questions progressing
to coma (a state of
deep unconsciousness
from which the person
cannot be aroused)
400-500
Risk of death due to
arrest of breathing
(although habitual
drinkers may survive
even such high levels)
and choking on vomit
Alcohol
100
in blood
(mg per
80
100 ml)
60
40
Person
/
/
/
/
*
has first
drinks
y
t
s
/
1/
L _
Person has
N
/
drink/s
Time
12p.m.
2p m.
4
p. m.
6p
Q-
00
£
m.
10p. m.
Cumulative effects of alcohol
The bodytakes some time to eliminate even small amounts ofalcohol. Ifa person has
two drinks at lunchtime, and then has one or two earlyin the evening, the cumulative
blood alcohol level could be over the legal limit for driving, even after several hours.
Alcohol levels
in different drinks
A unit is the measure used
to define the amount of
alcohol in an alcoholic drink.
One unit constitutes 10 ml of
pure alcohol. The number of
units per drink is calculated by
the volume ofthe drink and
the percentage of alcohol by
volume. The drinks shown here
each contain approximately
one unit of pure alcohol.
Beer
(250 ml)
(4 per cent
byvolume)
Wine
(100 ml)
(10 per cent
byvolume)
Sherry
(50ml)
(20 per cent
byvolume)
Whisky
(25ml)
(40 per cent
byvolume)
LONG TERM EFFECTS ON THE BODY
Persistent heavy drinking eventually
damages bodytissues; the main
effects are shown below.
Liver
The liveris the main organ responsi-
ble for metabolizing alcohol from the
blood; itmanifests many of the long-
term effectsof heavy drinking. These
effects include fattyliver, hepatitis,
cirrhosis, and livercancer.
Digestive system
Irritation from large
amounts of alcohol
can cause gastritis
and pancreatitis.
Reproductive system
Alcohol increases
sexual confidence, but
in the long term can
cause shrinkage of
testes and breast
developmentin men.
Brain and nervous system
Alcohol depresses the central
nervoussystem. Prolonged
alcohol abuse permanently
impairs brain function and
damages peripheral nerves.
Skin
Alcohol causes facial flushing,
which becomes constantin
heavydrinkers.
Heart and circulation
Prolonged heavy drinking
can cause heartfailure,
hypertension, and stroke.
Urinarysystem
Alcohol acts as a diuretic,
increasing urine output.
Cirrhosis of the liver
This condition is commonly
caused byheavydrinking.
When compared to a normal
liver (far left), the cirrhotic liver
clearly shows the formation of
bands of scar tissue, which
impair its function.
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