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Campus Health Service

Alcohol

The presence and abuse of alcohol at various campus activities is a great cause of alarm for us as health professionals. We aim to provide you with information, and a friendly request to convey this message to others. Through this we hope to minimize the abuse of alcohol.

Did you know?

  • 90% of people use alcohol at some or other stage during their life span
  • Most people can take moderate amounts on a daily basis without ever becoming alcoholics
  • That as little as one drink may be harmful to your unborn baby
  • Most medications interact with alcohol and may cause added health problems

Why do we use alcohol?

  • for social occasions
  • to be happy
  • to stimulate conversation
  • for religious and cultural reasons
  • medical reasons

How does alcohol affect us?

  • Mood effects:
  • jolly, friendly, chatty
  • over-emotional/tearful
  • brutal or callous
  • irritable
  • belligerent
  • uncouth
  • quick to take offence

Irresponsible behaviour:

  • dangerous driving
  • loss of inhibitions
  • fights / crime
  • rape/prostitution

Effects in pregnancy/childhood:

  • important because in the first 8 to 12 weeks people are often not aware that they are pregnant
  • congenital defects eg joint defects and cardiac abnormalities
  • mental retardation
  • hyperactivity
  • learning and behavioural problems

Effects on the body:

When consumed in large amounts over time, alcohol can cause widespread damage to the body. It can harm virtually every organ; many of these effects are reversible with abstinence, some not.

  • oesophagus: cancer of oesophagus, mouth, larynx. Tears in oesophagus due to profuse vomiting.
  • brain: Alcohol depresses central nervous system. Contracts brain, destroys brain cells. Large amounts over a long time may cause memory loss and change the cognitive function. Thiamine deficiency which leads to short-term memory loss.
  • heart: Heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, heart failure. Even social drinkers who binge on special occasions get bouts of irregular heartbeats, known as "holiday heart".
  • liver: Fatty liver, may progress to alcoholic hepatitis. Scar tissue known as cirrhosis. Structure of liver changes and chokes the bloodflow. Varicose veins 'in liver, may rupture and cause catastrophic bleeding.
  • lungs: Chronic pulmonary infections, pneumonia and lung collapse. Inability to clear lungs when vomiting.
  • stomach: irritates stomach, causes gastritis, ulcers, acid reflux, erosion of inner lining leading to bleeding.
  • kidneys: alcohol is a diuretic, thus increasing urine output; prolonged drinking can cause kidney failure.
  • small intestines and pancreas: alcohol blocks absorption and breakdown of nutrients, changes cells lining the stomach, decreases amount of digestive enzymes secreted by pancreas. May develop pancreatitis.
  • reproductive system: changes balance of hormones, in men - impairs production of sperm and testosterone, can lead to infertility / impotence, in women - oestrogen poorly metabolized in liver, increases amount of oestrogen in body = menstrual irregularities and infertility.
  • blood: Anemias, abnormal blood clotting, easy bruising, impaired function of white blood cells, thus more infections.
  • joints and muscles: may cause osteoporosis, arthritis, deformed joints, atrophy of muscles.

Thus to prevent the above mentioned it is important to keep the following in mind:

  • know your limit!
  • eat before consuming alcohol
  • thin people become intoxicated sooner than overweight people
  • females are more easily affected prior to menstruation
  • when taking birth control tablets you will remain intoxicated for longer
  • your environment will influence the effect of the alcohol
  • the more you have to drink to become intoxicated, the closer to addiction you are

!!!!! use alcohol with care !!!!