April 4, 1999
Alcohol Affects Us All
When people hear the word drug, they usually think of an illegal substance such as cocaine, heroin, marijuana, or any other drug that can be found on the street. Most people never consider the fact that consuming alcohol can be just as harmful as illegal drugs, not only on the body, but on the mind and spirit as well (#1). If constantly abused, alcohol can be even worse for one than taking illegal drugs (#5) Irresponsible drinking can destroy a persons life as well as the lives of those around them. When people become both physically and psychologically addicted to alcohol, they become an alcoholic and suffer from a disease called alcoholism. One denotation of this term is a diseased condition of the system, brought about by the continued use of alcoholic liquors (Websters Dictionary, 37). Another definition of this term, given to me by my English professor, Janet Gould who is in fact, a recovering alcoholic, is that alcoholism is a mental dependence and a physical allergy (#3). Alcoholism somehow affects us all through a parent, sibling, friend, or even personal encounters with a stranger. In fact “alcoholics may become angry and argumentative, quiet and withdrawn, or depressed. They may also feel more anxious, sad, tense, and confused. They then seek relief by drinking more” (Gitlow 175). Alcohol and Alcoholism is a big part in our society, which should be recognized and dealt with.
In addition about 7% of all adults who consume alcohol in the United States today are considered alcoholics, or have suffered from some sort of drinking problem in their lives (Secretary of health viii). “Although there is no indication of how the alcoholism of families members is linked … through genetics, studies show that about 50 to 80 percent of all alcoholics have had a close relative that was an alcoholic” (Caplan 266). Many times alcoholism starts during a persons high school and college years; however some teenagers and young adults frequently abuse alcohol and never think about the physical, mental, and emotional toll that alcohol can have on a persons life (#3). Alcoholism usually begins with social drinking then a person will find excuses to drink more often (Burgess 13). When alcohol is made more readily available to an individual, such as in a college environment, it increases the risk that person will drink excessively (Ewing 173) (#5). The chances of a person becoming an alcoholic are much higher for a person who drinks excessively and lower for a person who drinks moderately. Most alcoholics start out by building up a tolerance, causing them to drink higher amounts of alcohol to get the same effect; this tolerance is the starting point of an alcoholics dependence and causes many problems in an alcoholics life (#2). Alcohol begins to control the individuals life and causes their drinking habits to conflict with their best interests (Burgess 16). Personal relationships can be torn apart, jobs are frequently lost, and the health of a person deteriorates when an individual begins to rely on a drink to get by (Burgess 16). Sometimes a person may start to drink at every waking moment of the day because they cannot deal with the withdrawals of being sober (Burgess 16).
Furthermore, alcohol can have many physical effects on a persons body; internal organs and systems can be severely damaged and even shut down when too much alcohol is consumed (#2). The prolonged use of large amounts of alcohol without an adequate diet may cause serious liver damage, such as cirrhosis of the liver” (Secretary of health 47). It has been estimated that 10% of all alcoholic persons develop cirrhosis, a disease characterized by diffuse scarring of the liver (Secretary of health 47). The central nervous system can also be permanently damaged causing a person to possibly blackout, hallucinate, and experience tremors. The term blackout does not mean loss of consciousness, but is referred to as the lost hour with the intoxicated person remembering nothing the next day (Burgess 13). The withdrawal symptoms that a severe alcoholic can experience are sometimes compared to the same withdrawals as a heroin addict, yet people still do not consider alcohol to be a drug. Drinking during pregnancy can cause serious damage to the unborn child. An unborn child of an alcoholic may develop mental or physical retardation during pregnancy. Additionally, a child who has an alcoholic parent is much more likely to become an alcoholic themselves later in life.
For example, I have an extended family of alcoholics. Many of my uncles are alcoholics, and my grandmother is a recovering alcoholic (#1). I have seen how alcoholism has led my uncle to a divorce, and also how it drove my cousin to other dependencies such as cocaine, gambling, and theft (#1). In a recent interview with my English professor, Janet Gould, she explained to me that alcohol affects alcoholics differently. Her first drink was at the age of nineteen with her boyfriend. After her first sip she said Wow I can feel the bubbles of this champagne going up to my head. She explained that alcohol, for her, was cunning, baffling, and yet powerful. Asking her husband, How do you know when alcohol is a major part of your life he stated ask yourself the question how important is it to you? Alcohol destroyed her family life with her losing her husband and children. I am glad to say she is now a recovering alcoholic and has been sober for sometime now.
Clearly, alcoholism is a serious matter that is too often overlooked. Alcohol is the most abused drug in the United States (Sec of Health viii). Restaurants, sporting events, parties, and other social events all provide alcohol to just about anybody, even if a person is underage. High school and underage college students often find that obtaining alcohol is not an challenging obstacle. Simply being aware of how much an individual consumes and how often that they consume it can curb alcoholism. Drinking is a large part of most social functions and is accepted by most people, but the problems begin when alcohol is abused (#1). The only guarantee that a person will not become an alcoholic is complete abstinence of alcohol whereas even the slightest amount of alcohol can lead to a person to alcoholism (#4). Anytime a person takes a drink; they are taking a risk that can change the way they will live the rest of their lives. Even though it is a legal substance, alcohol can destroy a person just as easily as any illegal drug.
Caplan, Roberta. “Alcoholism.” Academic American Encyclopedia. 1992.
Gitlow, Stanley E., M.D. “Alcoholism.” New Book of Knowledge. 1991.
Burgess, Louise Bailey. Alcohol and your health 1973.
Ewing, John A. Drinking Alcohol in American Society- Issues and Current Research 1978.
Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare. Alcohol and Health 1971.
AOL Health. Alcoholism: Treatment