Alcohol has been consumed by people of various cultures for thousands of years. It has long been a part of the drinking culture, the set of traditions, and the social behaviors that surround the consumption of alcoholic beverages as a recreational drug and social lubricant. Alcohol, specifically ethanol or ethyl alcohol, is the ingredient found in beer and wine that causes intoxication; it is organically formed when yeast ferments the sugars in different foods. For example, wine is made from the sugar in grapes, beer from the sugar in malted barley, and vodka from the sugar in potatoes, beets, or other plants.
Although alcohol is naturally formed by all-natural ingredients, it is also a highly addictive psychoactive chemical. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), alcohol consumption is a ‘causal factor in more than 200 disease and injury conditions.
Perhaps the key to health and happiness is moderation in all things. In the case of alcohol consumption, the proverb appears to be true. Moderate drinking is key! While appropriate drinking may provide health benefits, the result of drinking alcoholic beverages is dependent on consumption. At lower doses, alcohol can act as a stimulant, inducing feelings of euphoria; however, drinking too much alcohol all at once can lead to drowsiness, respiratory difficulties, coma, or even death.
Alcohol has effects on every organ in the body, especially the liver and the pancreas, and these effects vary with blood alcohol concentration (BAC) over time. When a drink is swallowed, the alcohol is rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream, and the drowsy effects are felt within 5 to 10 minutes. It typically reaches a peak in the blood after 30 to 90 minutes and is thus carried throughout the body’s organs.
The liver is the only organ capable of metabolizing alcohol, hence our bodies metabolize the most alcohol in the liver, making it the organ most vulnerable to alcohol consumption. Heavy drinking can cause alcoholic fatty liver and liver inflammation, which are symptoms that stop the liver from functioning properly.
Other than the liver, excessive drinking can also cause the pancreas to become inflamed, a condition known as pancreatitis. In severe cases, heavy drinking can lead to acute, short-term, and chronic pancreatitis, which is usually caused by the accumulation of excess alcohol consumption over time.
Other effects of excessive alcohol consumption on body parts include:
• brain and nervous system
• mental health
• pancreas (sugar digestion)
The other drawback of excessive drinking is the reaction of alcohol and medication. Alcohol interacts strongly with a wide range of drugs, including prescription and over-the-counter medications, herbal medicines, and illegal drugs.
Reactions of alcohol and medication include increasing the sedating effect of sleeping pills and opiate-based pain relief, increasing the potential for aspirin to irritate the stomach, as well as increasing the potential of paracetamol to damage the liver.
In closing, excessive alcohol consumption has never been beneficial to the body. Though it has some benefits, the risks and disadvantages simply outweigh the health benefits. Therefore, when it comes to drinking, it is critical to be cautious of any medication reaction and practice the guidelines of moderate drinking.