Physical and psychological effects of alcohol

Alcohol is often incorrectly classified as a stimulant or "upper". Alcohol is in fact a tranquilliser which depresses the central nervous system. The short term physical effects depend on the blood-alcohol level. It ranges from mild mood changes to complete loss of coordination, vision, balance and speech. These effects usually wear off in a matter of hours after a person stops drinking.

Larger amounts of blood alcohol can impair brain functioning and eventually cause unconsciousness. An extreme overdose, when the blood-alcohol level is higher than 0,50, can be fatal.

Long-term alcohol abuse can be very damaging to one's physical health. Health risks include cirrhosis (hardening) of the liver, gastrointestinal problems, damage to the heart muscle and impaired muscle functioning. Heavy drinkers often tend to miss meals or lack adequate diets and therefore suffer nutritional imbalance and have an impaired immune system.

Brain damage can occur as a result of a vitamin B2 deficiency. A well-known condition, Karsokov's syndrome, is an amnesic disorder which means that people find it difficult to remember past events and to learn new things.

Alcoholism can also lead to impotence in men, damage to the fetus in pregnant women and an elevated risk of cancer of the larynx, esophagus, stomach, pancreas and upper gastrointestinal tract. Women cannot tolerate alcohol as well as men and are more vulnerable to alcohol related health risks than men.

The psychological effects of alcohol intoxication include lack of inhibitions, increase in aggression and violence, uninhibited sexual behaviour/lack of interest in sex, mood swings, depression, impaired memory and sensory-motor co-ordination.

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