Alcohol use disorder (AUD), also known as alcoholism, alcohol dependence or alcohol abuse, is a medical state when a person can’t stop consuming alcohol too often, feels deprived if he/she does not drink it and experiences physical, mental and social health problems due to alcohol use or during deprivation periods.
How common is AUD?
According to current statistics of World Health Organization, around 2 billion people consume alcohol and almost 100 million of them face excessive alcohol consumption. It is estimated that 1 in every 20 deaths in the world is because of AUD, which means 3 million deaths a year. However, death is only the final harm of alcohol use disorder.
How does alcohol travel through the body?
When alcohol is consumed, some 20% of it enters bloodstream through the stomach and this first cycle is pretty fast, as it takes only 3 minutes for alcohol to reach your cell after the first sip. The remaining 80% enter your bloodstream through small intestine. No matter how they enter the bloodstream, final destination of alcohol molecules is the liver. Your liver breaks down alcohol by various chemical interactions and converts it into carbon dioxide and water. This cycle makes fatty acids accumulate within the liver and in the long run this causes fatty liver (liver fattening).
What are the harms of alcohol use disorder?
The long-term effects of alcohol occur when alcohol is consumed continuously and excessively over a period of months or years. Drinking 100 ml or more of pure alcohol every week is accepted to be the critical level for facing these long term harms.
The negative physical and psychological effects of chronic alcohol abuse are many, and most result in death. Alcohol also causes a wide range of accidents, job loss and increased family problems. In addition to life-threatening problems, chronic alcohol abuse can lead to loss of appetite, infections, sexual impotence and digestive disorders.
WHO has announced that there is also a direct link between excessive alcohol consumption and certain types of cancer. Long-term alcohol consumption is one of the most important causes of cancers of the esophagus, larynx, stomach and pancreas. The higher the alcohol consumption, the higher the risk of fatal diseases.
The most common causes of deaths due to alcohol use disorder are heart, kidney and liver diseases, pneumonia, cancer, alcohol poisoning, accidents, homicide and suicide. Over time, a person with alcohol addiction starts to shake, sweat, lose sleep, hallucinate and lose touch with reality. In such people, attention is distracted, consciousness is blurred, emotions are incoherent, and there may be restlessness, fear, irritability, intolerance, impaired perception and memory.
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