If you’ve ever been around drunk people, you’ve probably noticed that alcohol makes some people funny and outspoken, other people quiet and sad, and still other people angry and reckless. It’s a known fact that alcohol affects people in different ways, but what many people do not know is that there are various factors that influence how much people drink, and, among the people who do drink, how likely they are to suffer alcohol-related problems. For more information about alcoholism and the effects of alcohol on different people, contact A Forever Recovery today at (877) 467-8363.
Alcoholism, also known as alcohol addiction or an alcohol use disorder, is a condition that changes the way the brain works, affecting the person’s emotions, interfering with their impulse control, and putting them at risk for serious health problems. In an in-depth report on the effects of alcohol and alcohol use disorders, The New York Times characterizes alcoholism according to the following criteria:
- An uncontrollable desire to drink, despite negative consequences
- Inability to satisfy the need to drink with minimal or moderate alcohol consumption
- Hiding drinking from others out of fear of judgment or intervention
- Deterioration of interpersonal relationships, financial situation or academic/professional performance as a result of drinking
- Increased amounts of alcohol are needed to produce an effect (tolerance)
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms if drinking is reduced or discontinued
As much as 15% of the U.S. population fits the criteria of a problem drinker, and many people who consider themselves moderate or “social” drinkers are dependent on alcohol and would actually fall under the category of alcoholism, according to the New York Times report.
Types of Alcohol and Their Effects
Most people assume that the type of alcohol consumed is what affects people differently, i.e. that beer and wine are “safer” than liquor when in reality, a person is affected by the amount of alcohol consumed. In regards to the different types of alcohol, “one drink” is considered 12 ounces of beer, eight to nine ounces of malt liquor, five ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof liquor, and the different effects of alcohol depend on how much alcohol is consumed. However, any type of alcohol consumed in large amounts or for an extended period of time can increase the risk of alcoholism, liver damage, various cancers and other serious health effects. According to the U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), people who consume alcohol are considered:
- At low risk for alcohol-related problems if they always drink within low-risk limits (no more than four drinks per day, or 14 drinks per week, for men, and no more than three drinks per day, or seven drinks per week, for women)
- At increased risk if they drink more than the single-day limits or weekly limits
- At high risk if they drink more than both the single-day limits and the weekly limits
Why Does Alcohol Affect Me Differently?
Alcohol consumption affects nearly every type of cell in the body, and after prolonged exposure to alcohol, the brain undergoes changes, and the person eventually becomes dependent on alcohol to feel “normal.” There are a number of factors that play a role in an individual’s risk of developing alcohol dependence or alcoholism, including genetics, age, gender, family history, physical condition, biology, and culture. In fact, statistics show that genetic factors may account for roughly half of the total risk for alcoholism, predisposing certain individuals to alcohol dependence and increasing their risk of suffering alcohol-related problems. For example, research shows that different people carry different variations of the enzymes that break down alcohol in the body, which can cause toxic chemical compounds to build up in the body over time and increase the person’s risk of developing alcoholism.
Getting Treatment for Alcoholism
Alcoholism is one of the leading causes of preventable death in the United States, and while many people with an alcohol use disorder improve with treatment, less than 10% of people receive the treatment they need to recover. If you or a loved one is struggling with an alcohol use disorder, call (877) 467-8363 to speak to an experienced substance abuse counselor at A Forever Recovery today.