By Dr. Sivasekaran, MD
In our social culture, drinking with family and friends is common for celebrating special occasions and in some instances coping with life. Drinking alcohol has become extremely accepted in our society, and with that acceptance and desensitization of the harmful effects, comes a lot more alcohol abuse than most people are aware of, or willing to acknowledge.
We all know the guidelines of the healthy version of drinking. A glass of wine or liquor for women and two for men is usually the allotted daily amount recommended for the health benefits to transpire. Despite the health claims in moderate drinking, not everyone should drink. Do not drink if you are pregnant or trying to become pregnant, take medications that counteract with alcohol, have a medical condition that alcohol effects negatively, or if you plan to operate machinery or drive a vehicle.
Alcohol plays a significant role in your bodies overall health. A full 24 hours after an episode of drinking, your immune system is more susceptible to disease and infection.
Your brain can be severely affected by alcohol. Have you ever woken up dizzy, with a headache, unable to remember everything that happened the night before? This is due to the negative effect that alcohol has on our brains. The neurons and neurotransmitters in the brain are responsible for a multitude of functions from memory recall, motor senses, to movement and coordination. These tiny pathways and transmitters can show both short-term and long-term damage after binging or prolonged alcohol use.
After drinking, the brain’s neurotransmitters will try to compensate and “fix” the damage that has affected its functions, but with this often comes more damage like increased withdrawal symptoms or hangovers, an increased tolerance level, and the need for more alcohol or dependence on the substance.
The functions that are damaged by alcohol abuse are often longstanding. If you stop drinking, some of the damage will lessen, or improve like problem-solving, memory recall, attention span, and motor functions, but this will take time. Researchers usually see improvements to the brain after several months or years after abstinence takes place.
Drinking can increase your risk of certain cancers, like breast cancer, oral, esophageal, liver and throat cancer. It also harms the blood vessels in your pancreas, which inhibits digestion and damages the liver. The livers of alcoholics usually develop fatty deposits known as steatosis or fatty liver disease. These implications can contribute to more severe disorders like cirrhosis or fibrosis of the liver.
Heavy drinking also damages the heart, which can lead to heart palpitations and irregular beating, high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, and cardiomyopathy.
There are benefits to moderate drinking, but the problem is that with the acceptance and social aspect of alcohol, many people are at risk of becoming dependent on it for one reason or another. It’s quite common to start out drinking socially and to then need it more often as your tolerance level increases.
April is Alcohol Awareness Month, and the National Council on Alcohol and Drug Dependence shines a light on the first weekend in April every year as the weekend of abstinence. If you have trouble avoiding alcohol for those three days, they encourage you to speak to you physician or therapist about getting help.
The following is a test provided online via the National Council on Alcohol and Drug Dependence, Inc. at NCADD.com.
To find out more information, please contact Dr. Siva’s office at (352) 369-5300, or visit DrSivaOcala.com.
Am I an Alcoholic?
1. Do you try to avoid family or close friends while you are drinking?
2. Do you drink heavily when you are disappointed, under pressure or have had a quarrel with someone?
3. Can you handle more alcohol now than when you first started to drink?
4. Have you ever been unable to remember part of the previous evening, even though your friends say you didn’t pass out?
5. When drinking with other people, do you try to have a few extra drinks when others won’t know about it?
6. Do you sometimes feel uncomfortable if alcohol is not available?
7. Are you more in a hurry to get your first drink of the day than you used to be?
8. Do you sometimes feel a little guilty about your drinking?
9. Has a family member or close friend expressed concern or complained about your drinking?
10. Have you been having more memory blackouts recently?
11. Do you often want to continue drinking after your friends say they’ve had enough?
12. Do you usually have a reason for the occasions when you drink heavily?
13. When you’re sober, do you sometimes regret things you did or said while drinking?
14. Have you tried switching brands or drinks, or following different plans to control your drinking?
15. Have you sometimes failed to keep promises you made to yourself about controlling or cutting down on your drinking?
16. Have you ever had a DWI driving while intoxicated or DUI driving under the influence of alcohol violation, or any other legal problem related to your drinking?
17. Are you having more financial, work, school, and/or family problems as a result of your drinking?
18. Has your physician ever advised you to cut down on your drinking?
19. Do you eat very little or irregularly during the periods when you are drinking?
20. Do you sometimes have the shakes in the morning and find that it helps to have a little drink, tranquilizer or medication of some kind?
21. Have you recently noticed that you can’t drink as much as you used to?
22. Do you sometimes stay drunk for several days at a time?
23. After periods of drinking do you sometimes see or hear things that aren’t there?
24. Have you ever gone to anyone for help about your drinking?
25. Do you ever feel depressed or anxious before, during or after periods of heavy drinking?
26. Have any of your blood relatives ever had a problem with alcohol?
If you find that you answered yes to some of the questions, it is most likely that you should seek help from a professional.
RATNASABAPATHY SIVASEKARAN, MD
Dr. Siva is a comprehensive internal medicine physician that understands the complexities of colorectal cancer and is experienced in helping his patients get the preventative care that is essential for their health. Dr. Siva has been in practice for fourteen years. He earned his Honors Bachelors of Science in Biology from University of Waterloo, Canada. He went on to earn his Doctor of Medicine from
St. George’s University School of Medicine graduating on the Dean’s List. He is American Board of Internal Medicine certified. Dr. Siva has affiliations with AMA, AHA and Marion County Medical Society. He opened his own private practice in Ocala in 2006, and he has privileges at all hospitals and nursing homes in Ocala for continued care of his patients.