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Biological Effects of Ethyl Alcohol by Derrick Brauner

By at January 20, 2012 | 6:58 am | Print

Ethyl Alcohol also known as Ethanol and commonly referred to as alcohol, grain alcohol, or spirits and has for ages been used for medicinal purposes as well as for pleasurable consumption, often consumed within specific social contexts and is used within ceremonies of many of the world’s religions. Alcohol’s molecular formula is C2H5OH, which is one of the oldest chemical reactions discovered by man. In Persia and the Middle East, a fermented drink was produced from honey and wild yeasts, dating back to as early as 8000 B.C. Although some of the processes, ingredients and technologies used over the millennia in the manufacture of alcohol have changed, the chemical compound of alcohol and its physiological and psychological effects on humans is the same as it was 10,000 years ago.

Data indicates that alcohol consumption impacts the course of many diseases causally, in both severe and chronic cases, including injuries. This paper will examine the effects of drinking alcohol and related diseases that can be incurred as a result of excessive or binge alcohol consumption. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the alcohol-Related Disease Impact (ARDI) tool measured that from 2001–2005, there were approximately 79,000 deaths annually caused due to excessive alcohol use. In its report on alcohol and public health, it was projected that excessive alcohol use is the 3rd leading lifestyle-related cause of death to Americans each year.” (CDC – Alcohol and Public Health Home Page. cdc.gov).

In daily life, a person may have experienced a long, stressful day at the workplace and it could occur to our case subject that a highball is in order to reward themself for sticking out the day in all of its trials. On the way home a stop at the local store provides the necessary elixir to ease the remaining stressors of the day. Our subject’s first encounter with the biological effects of the alcoholic beverage occurs at the first moment alcohol comes in contact with the mouth. Some alcohol is absorbed into the bloodstream instantaneously, as it contacts the lining of the mouth. Because of alcohol’s anesthetic quality, it may irritate the mouth lining and the esophagus as it is imbibed. Approximately 20% of the consumed alcohol will be absorbed through the stomach’s lining and the remaining alcohol will be absorbed by the small intestine. The rate at which alcohol is passed on to the small intestine, once it has entered the stomach, is dependent upon the strength of the alcohol and the amount of food that is within the stomach. If food is present in the stomach when alcohol is ingested, then the passage of alcohol from the stomach to the small intestine and the process of absorption by the small intestine will in turn be slowed. According to Virginia Tech Alcohol Prevention Center, the potency of alcohol within a drink will affect the rate at which the alcohol is absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract. The most rapid absorption occurs at 10% to 30% alcohol by volume. As alcohol content becomes 10% or lower, absorption is slowed within the gastrointestinal tract. Conversely, as concentrations of alcohol become higher than 30%, irritated mucous membranes of the pyloric sphincter will cause an increased secretion of mucous and delay gastric emptying. (College Alcohol Abuse Prevention Center | Virginia. alcohol.vt.edu). When alcohol is absorbed into the bloodstream and is delivered throughout the body. Because alcohol is water soluble, it can travel within the water content of tissues and cells and is easily absorbed through cell walls. Once reaching the brain, the alcohol begins to affect the central nervous system. The first sign of intoxication is a warm sensation in the face, the upper body and in the extremities due to alcohol acting on the smooth muscle membranes of the vein and arterial walls, causing vasodilation. As alcohol is increasingly absorbed into the bloodstream and in turn dispersed throughout the brain, a person will experience impaired body functions such as that of the senses, perception, and speech.

Specifically, the next stages of intoxication cause judgment to become impaired as alcohol depresses the nerve centers in the hypothalamus. The frontal lobe is affected, causing loss of reason, inattention to caution and lack of inhibitions. Alcohol present in the parietal lobe causes the loss of fine motor skills, slowed reaction time and decreased coordination and the most classic signs of alcohol intoxication are slurred speech and impaired hearing, originating from alcohol affecting temporal lobe. As the occipital lobe is affected, blurred vision and poor distance judgment result. If the test subject were allowed to increase his alcohol intake to an even higher, more dangerous level, the next area of the brain to be at risk would be the brain stem. The brain stem is where autonomic actives are affected and loss of vital body functions become at risk. Fortunately, for our subject, what started out as a pleasurable experiment has only left him with a few foggy memories and suffering from multiple symptoms of veisalgia. This one time case study will not prove to affect the man’s health, however, if behavior of heavy drinking persists over time, varied and multiple health problems can arise as a result. Aside from the obvious health risks of driving while being physically impaired, or to physically injure one ‘self as a result of any accident occurring while being intoxicated, there are more subtle, long term risks which are equally as dangerous to one’s health.

Listed in the article The Relation Between Different Dimensions of Alcohol Consumption and Burden of Disease: An Overview, the following major diseases have been listed as having evidentiary results of causal impact from average volume of alcohol consumption: tuberculosis, mouth, nasopharynx, other pharynx, and oropharynx cancer, esophageal cancer, colon and rectum cancer, female breast cancer, diabetes mellitus, alcohol use disorders, unipolar depressive disorders, epilepsy, hypertensive heart disease, ischemic heart disease (IHD), ischemic and hemorrhagic stroke, conduction disorders and other dysrhythmias, lower respiratory infections (pneumonia), cirrhosis of the liver, preterm birth complications and fetal alcohol syndrome. (Rehm, J. et al. 821). The relationship between alcohol doses versus biological response could be calculated for all diseases other than depressive disorders, as risk was found to increase with increased consumption of alcohol for a majority of diseases mentioned. Median volume and patterns of consumption alike were linked causally to IHD, fetal alcohol syndrome and unintentional and intentional injuries. Patterns of light to moderate alcohol consumption without excessive drinking resulted in beneficial effects being observed for incidences of IHD, ischaemic stroke and diabetes mellitus (as defined by 60+ g pure alcohol per day). For many disease and injury cases, findings showed the impact of alcohol were greater as cause of death compared to measure of morbidity. There was insufficient data to determine if quality of alcohol had an impact towards disease burden. Patterns of heavy drinking episodes increase the risk of some diseases and all injury outcomes. It has been suggested that in the future, studies should address methodology, specifically the relation of average volume versus drinking patterns, in efforts to obtain more accurate risk markers and to understand more clearly the causal-effect of alcohol related diseases. (Rehm, J. et al. 817-21).

Of all diseases, which can be contributed to alcohol consumption, no one ailment is more synonymous with alcohol abuse than cirrhosis of the liver. Alcoholic liver disease occurs after years of heavy or binge drinking, however can occur in individuals that drink in moderate amounts. An individual’s history of alcohol use and higher volumes/concentrations of alcohol, which are consumed on average, produces a greater likelihood of developing liver disease. Alcohol has been found to cause swelling and inflammation (hepatitis) of the liver. If left untreated this condition further results in scarring and finally, cirrhosis of the liver. Cirrhosis, considered the last phase of alcoholic liver disease, is an irreversible degeneration of healthy liver cells being replaced by scar tissue (fibrosis). (Alcoholic Liver Disease – PubMed Health. 13 Dec. 2110). Although cirrhosis of the liver is not only caused by alcohol consumption but as a result of taking certain medications, through contraction of hepatitis B or C, autoimmune inflammation of the liver, disorders of the drainage system of the liver (the biliary system), such as primary biliary cirrhosis and primary sclerosing cholangitis, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), hemochromatosis, metabolic disorders of iron and copper and Wilson’s disease, ci
Liver disease and or cirrhosis of the liver may begin to occur having slight indications or none at all, and may include one or more of the following symptoms: abdominal indigestion or pain, confusion or problems thinking, impotence, loss of interest in sex, and breast development (gynecomastia) in men, nosebleeds or bleeding gums, small, red spider-like blood vessels on the skin, swelling or fluid buildup of the legs (edema) and in the abdomen (ascites), nausea and vomiting, vomiting blood or blood in stools, pale or clay-colored stools, weakness, weight loss, yellow color in the skin, mucus membranes, or eyes (jaundice).

There are a variety of tests that identify how the liver is functioning, such as those that measure for anemia (low red blood cell count detected on a CBC), clotting problems, liver function problems (detected on liver function tests) and a low serum albumin count (a blood protein found in blood plasma, produced by the liver). CT scans, MRI’s, ultrasound of the abdomen and endoscopy to check for dilated veins (varices) in the esophagus or stomach are used in the diagnosis and treatment process of liver disease. The most definitive of all tests to evaluate liver health is a liver biopsy.Treatment of liver disease is limited because most drugs are metabolized by the liver. In some occasions corticosteroids are helpful in treating liver disease, however, the best treatment for liver disease is a lifestyle change that supports liver health. Most important in treating a diseased liver is strict abstinence from alcohol. A regimen of vitamin and mineral-rich foods making up for nutritional deficiencies and introduction of antioxidants which neutralize toxins produced by the liver, promotes liver health. A study of patients under medical treatment for cirrhosis, who consumed 3000 or more calories per day, had a zero mortality rate (Mendenhall C et al 1995). Patients whose liver function has deteriorated despite medical effort, due to complications or when cirrhosis becomes too advanced and difficult to treat, liver transplantation is often the last option for remedy. If untreated, the liver will continue to deteriorate, leaving fewer healthy cells to undertake the functions of the liver, thus creating greater and more profound health risks, and ultimately resulting in death.

In conclusion, there are many risks associated with consuming alcohol which may pose serious health issues or an individual that can become life threatening. To reduce ones risk of alcohol related health problems abstain from drinking alcohol and have an annual check-up with a physician. If an individual chooses to consume alcohol, some proactive measures in protecting against the adverse effects of long term alcohol consumption are: Research of one’s family’s disposition, as related to alcohol connected diseases. Drink in moderation. Avoid binge and heavy drinking, as the incidence of alcohol related disease greatly increases with these drinking patterns. Drink responsibly.

Works Cited

“Alcoholic Liver Disease – PubMed Health.” 13 Dec. 2110. Web. 21 Nov. 2011. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001326>.
“CDC – Alcohol and Public Health Home Page – Alcohol.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Web. 21 Nov. 2011. <http://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/>.
“Cirrhosis – PubMed Health.” 13 Dec. 2010. Web. 21 Nov. 2011. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001301/>.
Mendenhall C, Roselle GA, et al. Relationship of protein calorie malnutrition to alcoholic liver disease: A reexamination of data from two Veterans Administration Cooperative Studies. Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 1995 Jun;19(3):635–41.
Rehm, Jürgen. “The Relation between Different Dimensions of Alcohol Consumption and Burden of Disease: an Overview.” Addiction 105.5 (2010): 817-43. Print.
“Students Alcohol’s Effects Factors That Effect Intoxication.” College Alcohol Abuse Prevention Center | Virginia Tech. Web. 21 Nov. 2011. <http://www.alcohol.vt.edu/students/alcoholeffects/intoxfactors.htm>.

 

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  1. […] things that we use and do can trigger the symptoms and make them worse. Drinking caffeine and alcohol have been known to make the symptoms worse, along with tobacco. Still, the causes are unknown, […]

3 Comments


  1. Sue, 5 years ago Reply

    Great Article on effects of alcohol.


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