IDS 301 – Politics of Disease
12 May 2017
Alcohol use disorder (AUD) affects more than 18 million Americans and is grouped into two categories: alcoholism and alcohol abuse. Alcoholism is a disease that causes strong cravings for alcohol as well as loss of control preventing one from knowing when to stop while drinking. Those afflicted with alcoholism have a physical dependency on alcohol and experience extremely dangerous withdrawal symptoms while also experiencing a high tolerance, causing them to drink much more alcohol in order to experience the same effect. Alcohol abuse is not necessarily a physical dependency on alcohol, however it is still considered a serious problem, causing people to partake in dangerous activities as well as placing their own bodies at risk with an increased consumption of the alcohol. This paper will be focusing on alcohols effects on modern society and the government’s role in attempting to decrease those afflicted with alcoholism.
Alcohol affects most organs in the body, the liver especially, which is what processes the alcohol. Alcohol is first metabolized by an enzyme known as alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) into acetaldehyde, which is in turn broken down by aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH) into acetate. Acetate is metabolized further and exits the body as carbon dioxide and water. A secondary pathway known as microsomal ethanol oxidizing system is activated primarily when blood alcohol content is high and is seen often in heavy drinkers. There are multiple symptoms indicating chronic alcoholism such as gynecomastia, spider angiomata, testicular atrophy, enlarged/shrunken liver, as well as a host of other indicators. There are multiple complications such as Wernicke encephalopathy, Korsakoff syndrome, as well as Hepatic encephalopathy. Occasional drinkers tend to experience memory impairment, recklessness in decision making, and blacking out while chronic drinkers are noted to have an inability to think abstractly, memory loss, as well as the previous complications mentioned. If the symptoms are not treated patients can die due to the complications of alcoholism and on occasion can die from the direct consumption of alcohol known as alcohol poisoning. This is when the amount of alcohol in the blood stream reaches toxic levels and leads to respiratory depression, aspiration, hypotension, and cardiovascular collapse causing death.
Throughout history humans have found different ways to alter their mental state providing a sense of detachment or in some cases more attachment to reality. Alcohol increases the effects of GABA and inhibits glutamate in the brain causing impaired movements and thoughts. The reason for drinking alcohol is the increase of dopamine in the brain creating a sense of euphoria and it’s constant release is what can lead to addiction. Treatment of alcoholism consists of the recognition of the problem and the continuous abstinence from it. Depending on the severity...