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Alcoholism In Za Essay Research Paper ALCOHOLISMAlcoholism

Alcoholism In Za Essay, Research Paper


Alcoholism is a chronic, progressive illness involving excessive ingestion of ethyl alcohol either in the form of beverages or as a constituent of other substances (e.g. cough mixture). It is an emotional and often physical dependence on alcohol, which frequently leads to brain damage and early death. Ten percent of adult drinkers in the United State are considered alcoholics. More males than females are affected but drinking among women and the young is on the increase.

The development of alcoholism as opposed to heavy drinking has been thought of as a symptom of psychological or social stress as a learned, maladaptive coping behaviour. More recently and more accurately it has come to be viewed as a complex disease entity in its own right.

Alcoholism develops over a period of years. Early subtle symptoms include placing importance on the availability of alcohol and ensuring that this availability influences choices of friends and activities. Alcohol is used more as a mood-changing drug than as a beverage.

The alcoholic will have a high tolerance to alcohol consuming more and having fewer adverse effects than others. A person will start to drink against his own best interests, alcohol will become more important than personal relationships, work, reputation and physical health. Physical addiction to the drug will occur leading to round the clock drinking to avoid withdrawal symptoms.

Medico-legal Aspects of Acute Alcohol Intoxication

When an alcoholic beverage is drunk, alcohol can be absorbed directly into the blood stream from the stomach especially if no food has been taken recently.

Absorption from the intestines. When alcohol is ingested in a diluted form it is absorbed more quickly than when it is concentrated. Absorption is usually complete within 1 – 3 hours. Heavy drinkers tend to absorb alcohol more quickly than occasional drinkers.

Alcohol concentration in the blood rises steeply followed by a more gradual upward slope to reach a maximum which is more or less distinct. After this peak there is an irregularly curved fall to the period of diffusion equilibrium. This takes place over 15 – 30 minutes. Then the alcohol level in the blood falls progressively in a rectilinear fashion until it has been eliminated from the body.

Forensic Medicine Gordon & Shapiro

2nd Edition Churchill Livingstone 1982

The peak concentration of alcohol in the blood is reached within 1 – 2 hours after ingestion.

Physical Symptoms

The effects of alcohol on the human body depend on the amount of alcohol in the blood. This varies at the rate at which the drinker s physical system absorbs and metabolises alcohol and at the rate of consumption. The higher the alcohol content in the drink consumed, the higher the blood alcohol level. The amount and type of food in the stomach also affects the absorption rate. When the stomach is full, drinking is less intoxicating than when it is empty. Alcohol absorption is delayed by foods, which contain fat and protein. The heavier the person, the slower the absorption of alcohol.

After alcohol passes through the stomach it is absorbed through the walls of the intestines into the blood stream from where it is carried to the various organ systems where it is metabolised. Small amounts are processed by the kidneys and excreted in the urine. Small amounts are processed through the lungs and exhaled with the breath. By far the greater part of alcohol is metabolised by the liver.

As alcohol is metabolised, heat is given off. The body metabolises alcohol at the rate of 22.5 – 30 ml of whisky per hour.

Alcohol begins to impair the brain s ability to function when the blood alcohol concentration reaches 0.05 grams of alcohol per 100 ml of blood.

Conc. Effect on the body

0.05% Begins to impair brain s ability

0.20% Difficulty in controlling emotions – may laugh or cry excessively. Difficulty in walking.

0.30% Trouble comprehending. May become unconscious.

0.40% The brain centres, which control breathing and heartbeat, start to become affected.

> 0.50% May cause death.

Moderate or temperate use of alcohol is not harmful but heavy drinking is associated with alcoholism and numerous other health problems. The parts of the body most affected by heavy drinking are the digestive and nervous systems. Digestive system disorders include cancer of the mouth, throat and oesophagus, gastritis, oesophageal and gastric ulcers, cirrhosis of the liver and pancreatitis.

Disorders of the nervous system can include neuritis, loss of memory, hallucinations and tremors as seen in delirium tremens. Delirium tremens may be seen hen a person stops drinking after a period of sustained, heavy alcohol intake. Permanent damage to the brain and nervous system may also result in permanent damage as seen in Korsakoff s psychosis and Wernicke s encephalopathy. Heavy drinking in pregnancy can lead to a baby being born with the foetal alcohol syndrome which is characterised by face and body abnormalities and, in some cases, impaired intellectual ability.

Here is some more involved information on certain alcohol related diseases:


What is alcohol induced liver disease?

Like the name implies this disease is caused by the excessive consumption of alchol. This common but preventable disease causes on average 10000 deaths per yr in S.A.

Our per capital income is R18000 per yr therefore approximately R180 000 000 per yr is lost to alc. induced liver disease alone.


Alc. use impairs the functioning of the immune system. In the short-term, this will increase the no. of colds you will experiance.With long-term use, alc. can impede the functioning of immune cells, increasing your subseptability to infectious diseases & cancer.

Additionally, the combination of alcohol and drugs such as commonly used sleeping pills, tranquillisers, antibiotics and aspirin, can be fatal even if both agents are taken in non-lethal dosages.


The treatment of this illness increasingly recognises alcoholism as the primary problem needing attention. Specialised residential treatment facilities are rapidly increasing in number. As the public becomes more aware of the nature of alcoholism, alcoholics and their families tend to conceal the condition less. The diagnosis is not delayed anymore. Earlier and better treatment has led to high recovery rates. Treatment involves individual counselling as well as group therapy.

Addiction to other drugs such as tranquillisers and sedatives poses a major hazard to alcoholics. Antabuse, a drug that produces a violent intolerance to alcohol as long as the substance remains in the body, is sometimes used after withdrawal.

A.A.(Breif History)

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is a world-wide fellowship of men and women who meet together to attain and maintain sobriety. It originated in 1935 when a stockbroker and a surgeon met in Akron, Ohio and helped to keep each other sober. Today, AA has 87 000 groups in 130 countries with a total membership of more than 2 million. All men and women who have a drinking problem are welcome to attend AA meetings. The only requirement for membership is that they have to want to stop drinking. Members are anonymous at the public level and no dues or fees are payable. The AA programme is one of total abstinence in which members are encouraged to stay away from alcohol, one day at a time.

It is estimated that the economic costs related to alcoholism exceed $100 billion per year.(In the U.S.A.)

Whereas in South Africa the economic costs related to alcoholism are approximately R900 000 000 per year.

The general public and city council combat alcoholism in the following ways:

+ not allowing alcohol to be served to minors ( 0.50% 5.May cause death.

Alcoholism can occur in both males and females and in all age groups. It is, however, more prevalent in males with the peak incidence occurring in middle age.

Below is a questionnaire compiled from responses by American college students.

Alcohol related problem Female (%) Male (%)

Have a hangover 81 82

Do something you regretted 48 50

Short term memory loss 38 41

Argue with friends 29 32

Damage to property 6 24

In trouble with police 4 10

Personal injury 14 17

Require treatment for overdose 1 1

Miss a class 42 45

Alcohol affects mainly short-term memory. Chronic alcoholism can lead to a degenerative condition of the brain known as Korsakoff s psychosis.

It also affects both fine and gross co-ordination e.g. balance, gait and speech (slurred). The effect on co-ordination, however, is variable and depends on a number of factors.

In conclusion S.A. is put at a great economic disadvantage yearly due to alc. related deaths.


1. Forensic Medicine Gordon & Shapiro Churchill Livingstone 1982

2. Encarta Microsoft CD 1995

3. Grolier s Encyclopaedia CD 1995

4. Binge drinking on campus – results of a national study. Wechsler H, Dowdall GW, Davenport A,DeJong W. Harvard School of Public Health

Statistics of alcohol related diseases in Ga-Renkwa Hospital

No. Of people in Alcohol Related Conditions

Annual Amount Cause

50 Motor Car Accidents

25 Stab Wounds

20 Gun shot wounds

20 Severe Head Injuries

50 Alcohol related liver disease