A Report on Alcoholism in American Society
Alcohol is enjoyed by It has become socially acceptable to have a drink in the middle of the day, but many forget it is still a drug. Misuse of alcohol can lead to alcoholism, one of the most widespread and complex problems in America. The reasons some people become dependent on alcohol and others do not are unknown. Many health problems are associated with chronic alcohol abuse, including damage to the liver, brain, or central nervous system. In most cases, the person drinking is doing more damage to the people around them then themselves.
In order for one to see how alcohol can be damaging and addictive, one must understand how it is made. The type of alcohol in the alcoholic drinks we drink is a chemical called ethanol. To make alcohol, you need to put grains, fruits or vegetables through a process called fermentation. Wine and cider are made by fermenting fruit, while fermented cereals such as barley and rye form the basis of beer and spirits. A drink’s alcohol content is affected by how long it’s left to ferment. Spirits also go through a process called distillation, where a proportion of the water is removed, leaving a stronger concentration of alcohol and flavor. Since there are many different kinds of alcohol there is different kinds of yeasts used to make them (Kinney). The yeasts that are used to make alcohol are called sugar fungi (Kinney). The making of alcohol is such a big business that in 1990 the United States produced over eight billion gallons of it (Kinney). There is so much alcohol made that it produces some big numbers in statistics. Alcohol is the third leading cause of preventable deaths in the United States with one hundred thousand deaths a year (Detox). There are over thirteen million eight hundred thousand people with drinking problems in the United States (Detox). Plus, the studies show that twenty percent of suicide victims are alcoholics (Detox).
The body metabolizes, or breaks down, alcohol differently from the way it breaks down solid food. Once swallowed, a drink enters the stomach and small intestine, where small blood vessels carry it to the bloodstream. Approximately 20% of alcohol is absorbed through the stomach and most of the remaining 80% is absorbed through the small intestine. Alcohol is metabolized by the liver, where enzymes break down the alcohol. Understanding the rate of metabolism is critical to understanding the effects of alcohol. In general, the liver can process one ounce of liquor (or one standard drink) in one hour. If you consume more than this, your system becomes saturated, and the additional alcohol will accumulate in the blood and body tissues until it can be metabolized.
This is why pounding shots or playing drinking games can result in high blood alcohol concentrations that last for several hours. Knowing how to count a standard drink is necessary for calculating blood alcohol concentrations. Too often, people underestimate how much they have had to drink because they aren’t using standard measurements. Beer, wine, and liquor all have different alcohol percentages and should be drank differently. Beer has an average of five percent alcohol per bottle, while wine has about twelve percent alcohol per glass. On the other hand, liquor or spirits, has an average of forty percent of alcohol per glass.
Alcohol has a very long history, not just in America but in the world as well. Ancient civilizations thought beer was better than food, with the vitamins they added to make it (Kinney). Man discovered how to distill alcohol in 800 A. D. (Kinney). By learning to distill alcohol they created whiskey, gin, rum, and others (Kinney). Many religions have been affected by alcohol. It is said in the bible Noah planted a vineyard after the flood, the Greeks believed the god Dionysus brought them wine, and alcohol was used in many of the Mexican Indians ceremonies. Then in the 1800’s Europeans started to make alcohol commercially. Alcohol grew into a big problem in the United States and the rest of the world. So in 1919 the United States added the eighteenth amendment of prohibition. It worked great for a couple years with very little amounts of illegal drinking (Kinney). Then came the moon shiners making distilled liquor and bootleggers smuggling it into the country. It also hurt the United States Government because they lost a lot of tax money. In the 1920’s Al Capone ruled the Chicago crime world and was the king of bootleg liquor (Kinney). There was also a rise in blindness and death due to bathtub gin having poisons in it (Kinney). So after fourteen years in 1933 prohibition was appealed.
The main question people have is why drink then if is so damaging to the body. Some people enjoy it because it relives the stress, while others are just trying to have fun and take the edge off. In doing so they can forget how many drinks they are on and actually lose control, it really depends on the drinker. There are many different types of drinkers. There are comfortable abstainers or non-drinkers that would not have alcohol no matter what the occasion. Also, there is a usual abstainer, which may drink when they feel uncomfortable not drinking. The light drinker drinks occasionally but in small amounts. There is also an occasional abuser that drinks with a full purpose of getting drunk (Preventing Chronic Disease). Problems occur when someone doesn’t keep themselves in check when drinking and happens to lose control. They start to depend on alcohol on an every-day basis, which leads their enjoyment of alcohol to alcoholism.
Alcoholism is the most severe form of alcohol abuse and involves the inability to manage drinking habits. It is also commonly referred to as alcohol use disorder. Alcohol use disorder is organized into three categories: mild, moderate and severe. Each category has various symptoms and can cause harmful side effects (Preventing Chronic Disease). If left untreated, any type of alcohol abuse can spiral out of control. Individuals struggling with alcoholism often feel as though they cannot function normally without alcohol. This can lead to a wide range of issues and impact professional goals, personal matters, relationships and overall health. Over time, the serious side effects of consistent alcohol abuse can worsen and produce damaging complications. Alcoholism is a disease that affects millions (Kinney). The disease is defined as a serious use of alcohol that impairs someone’s social or occupational functioning (Detox). It is where the body’s organs are disrupted from performing vital functions causing pain and weakness to the person (Detox).
Chronic Alcohol Abuse damages almost every part of the body. Chronic Alcohol Abuse can cause severe and permanent damage to the brain (Kinney). It also degenerates, scars and can set the heart off beat (Kinney). Chronic Alcohol Abuse may also cause Fatty liver, Hepatitis, and cirrhosis liver diseases. Fatty Liver Disease builds up fat in liver, so it cannot process food but will heal over time. Hepatitis Liver Disease is a painful inflammation of the liver that can heal if drinking stops. Cirrhosis liver disease is fatal and permanently kills liver cells (Kinney). It can cause inflammation the pancreatitis (Kinney). It decreases the activity of the immune system increasing the risk of cancer in the throat, mouth, liver, and bladder (Kinney). It is a chronic disease with an unknown biological or genetic cause (Preventing Chronic Disease).
There are many methods of treating alcoholism or Chronic Alcohol Abuse. There are a lot of programs that help with dealing with alcoholism but most of them require the immediate stop of drinking (Detox). The main factors in success are maintaining a healthy diet, exercise and positive work patterns (Detox). Crisis intervention services take place in hospitals. This is treatment for overdoses on drugs and alcohol where people stay for a few days then move to counseling (Kinney). Residential treatment programs will remove the person from their home and move them to a new location. Here the people learn about the consequences of their drunken actions. These treatments take from two to twelve months (Preventing Chronic Disease). Many programs help build self-esteem and trust in others. Day treatment programs are so you can work counseling into schedule. It lasts for two to twenty-four months (Kinney). There are also clinic programs happening in community health centers, and YMCA’s. They provide a wide range of services (Kinney). In the United States they offer treatment in three phases. The phases are Detoxing, Recovery, and Prevention (Preventing Chronic Disease). A detoxification center provides a safe place to withdraw from alcohol. All alcoholics go through withdrawals. However, most do not go to a detoxification center. Alcohol withdrawal differs for each person. People may become restless, sweat, shake, or hallucinate. A craving for alcohol is common. Some people become delirious or cannot sleep. Alcohol withdrawal, ridding the body of alcohol, usually takes five days but can last several weeks (Davis). Trained personnel help alcoholics through withdrawal. They evaluate alcoholics for medical and physical problems. Sometimes doctors give alcoholics medicine to help them through withdrawal.
Because the craving for alcohol is strong during withdrawal, some people take a drug called Antabuse (Preventing Chronic Disease). Antabuse discourages alcoholics from returning to alcohol. By itself, Antabuse produces no reactions. Once alcoholic’s drink, though, even in small amount of alcohol can trigger cramps, nausea, headaches, and dizziness (Preventing Chronic Disease). The reactions are swift and severe. Not all people want to take Antabuse, and doctors do not prescribe it often.
Alcoholism is a very serious disease that can lead to violent behavior and in some cases death. It can be prevented with a numerous number of programs that aim to help stop alcoholism. Ultimately these programs rely on the cooperation of the drinker themselves, and their willpower. People forget that alcohol is a drug, it does take its toll on the body and leaves its effect. It is not bad to have a drink here and there, but one must remember to drink in moderation.
Cite this Essay
To export a reference to this article please select a referencing style below