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Alcohol Awareness Week: November 11-23

By Erin Shriver
On November 4, 2014

Alcohol Awareness Week is used to help authorities; organizations and regular citizens raise awareness about alcohol issues and the impact it can have on our heath and communities. 

This years’ Alcohol Awareness Week runs from November 17 to 23. The theme for this year is “facing our alcohol problem: taking back our health and high streets.”

When you think about problems that involve alcohol, many people go directly to alcoholism. It is true that this is one of the heath problems associated with chronic heavy drinking, but there are other health concerns as well.

WebMd provides a list with 12 health problems associated with chronic heavy drinking:

  1. Anemia: heavy drinking can cause the number of oxygen-carrying red blood cells to be abnormally low. This can trigger a host of symptoms including fatigue, shortness of breath, and lightheadedness.
  2. Cancer: an increased risk of cancer comes when the body converts alcohol into acetaldehyde, a potent carcinogen. Cancer risk rises even higher in heavy drinkers who also use tobacco.
  3. Cardiovascular disease: heavy drinking, especially bingeing, makes platelets more likely to clump together into blood clots, which can lead to heart attack or stroke. Heavy drinking can also cause cardiomyopathy, a potentially deadly condition in which the heart muscle weakens and eventually fails, as well as heart rhythm abnormalities such as atrial and ventricular fibrillation.
  4. Cirrhosis: alcohol is toxic to liver cells, and many heavy drinkers develop cirrhosis, a sometimes-lethal condition in which the liver is so heavily scarred that it is unable to function.
  5. Dementia: as people age, their brain shrinks, on average, at a rate of 1.9% a decade; which is considered normal. But heavy drinking speeds up the shrinkage of certain key regions of the brain, resulting in memory loss and other symptoms of dementia.
  6. Depression: it’s long been known that heavy drinking often goes hand in hand with depression, but there has been a debate about which came first—the drinking or the depression. Some depressed people turn to alcohol to self-medicate, but there are also some people who drink so heavily, that they become depressed.
  7. Seizures: heavy drinking can cause epilepsy and can trigger seizures, even in people who do not have epilepsy. It can also interfere with the action of the medication used to treat convulsions.
  8. Gout: a painful condition, gout is caused by the formation of uric acid crystals in the joints.
  9. High blood pressure: alcohol can disrupt the sympathetic nervous system, which, among other things, controls the constriction and dilation of blood vessels in response to stress, temperature, exertion, etc. Heavy drinking—and bingeing can cause blood pressure to rise and over time, this effect can become chronic.
  10. Infectious disease: heavy drinking suppresses the immune system, providing a toehold for infections, including tuberculosis, pneumonia, HIV/AIDS, and other sexually transmitted diseases. People who drink heavily also are more likely to engage in risky sex.
  11. Nerve damage: heavy drinking an cause a form of nerve damage known as alcoholic neuropathy, which can produce a painful pins-and-needles feeling or numbness in the extremities as well as muscle weakness, incontinence, constipation, erectile dysfunction, and other problems.
  12. Pancreatitis: in addition to causing stomach irritation, drinking can inflame the pancreas. Chronic pancreatitis interferes with the digestive process, causing severe abdominal pain and persistent diarrhea.

Although one is not necessarily going to get any of these health conditions from drinking on a casual basis, people must become aware of the consequences of binge drinking and heavy drinking on a regular basis.

The more educated you are about alcohol and its effects, the safer you will be if you come in contact with certain situations regarding alcohol.

Here is an alcohol fact sheet from PBS that gives you information that can be used to help educate others during Alcohol Awareness Week.

  • The younger you are when you start drinking, the more likely you are to have a problem with alcohol.
  • College students spend more on alcohol than on textbooks
  • One 12 ounce beer=5 ounce glass of wine=1 ½ shots of 80 proof liquor
  • How alcohol affects you depends on
    • How much alcohol you consume
    • The time period in which it is consumed
    • How much food is in the stomach
    • Body weight
  • Alcohol is a depressant
  • Alcoholics don’t know they are becoming alcoholics- “it just happens” and it is a disease
  • When someone has a problem, they follow certain patterns:
    • Lie to sober friends
    • Hide it from sober friends
    • Party more with drinking friends
    • Deny they have a problem
  • The best thing to do for a friend with a problem is to tell a counselor or someone who can help. Here at Ottawa University, Donna Washington, our counselor would be the person to go to for help and advice.
  • If you’re asking yourself if you have a problem, you probably do.
  • The body takes about a half hour to feel the effects of alcohol. If you drink before that time, you may drink too much.
  • Alcohol poisoning occurs when you drink too much alcohol too fast, which can lead to coma or even death.
  • The worst thing you can do when a person has had too much to drink is to leave them alone or lying down. They need to be kept awake and may need medical help.
  • Alcohol-related accidents are the number 1 killer of teens.
  • 1.4 million teens a year are injured in some way through an alcohol related accident.
  • A BAL (Blood Alcohol Level) of .1 means you have 12 times for likelihood of being in an accident.
  • A BAL of .2 means you have 60 times more likelihood of being in an accident.
  • You always have a choice about whether or not to drink.
  • Binge drinking can lead to permanent brain damage; coma, then death, and it can happen in less than an hour.
  • Some social side effects of alcohol are: unprotected sex, pregnancy, STD’s and date rape.
  • Up to two-thirds of date rape cases involve alcohol.
  • There is nothing that will sober you up except time.
  • It takes approximately one hour for each drink to be used by the body.

Keep all of this information in mind not only during Alcohol Awareness Week, but also for the rest of your life. You don’t know how many people are reaching out for help when they have a drinking problem, and you might be the person to change their lives.

Be smart, and keep educated on this subject since it is so prevalent on college campuses and even after college. Be smart when drinking and never feel pressured into doing it or doing anything you don’t want to do. 

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