When you think of alcohol what do you think of? A glass of wine with dinner? A beer after work with colleagues? Or maybe a Saturday night out with friends? You probably do not, however, think of alcohol as a drug similar to nicotine. Whatever your thoughts are of alcohol there is some important information you must know when choosing your drink.
Alcohol is a drug and can have many negative effects on your body. Also, because it is a drug, alcohol abuse can lead to addiction. But what exactly are the negative effects of alcohol and how might alcohol abuse be treated?
Alcohols Negative Effects
The alcohol that we drink is made from a chemical compound called ethanol. When introduced to the body, ethanol produces many outward side effects which are commonly known. These include: improved mood, increased self-confidence and sociability, decreased anxiety and attention span, flushed skin, and impaired judgment. Ethanol consumption also has effects on the brain that cannot be outwardly seen. Ultimately, it ends up interrupting many signaling pathways and kinase cascades. Ethanol effects things like protein kinase A, protein kinase C and NMDA receptors which all play roles in controlling a wide spread range of things from memory to digestion. These interactions in the brain are responsible for alcohol reinforcement and reward. The specific methods in which ethanol produces these effects are still unknown.
Treatment of Alcohol Abuse
Because alcohol effects neuronal factors, it is possible that alcohol abuse could be treated through drug therapy. One specific area which has been researched is using a drug that will inhibit PKC. This could work because in animal models, inhibition of PKC cause a decrease in self-administration of alcohol. Meaning if PKC was inhibited in humans, it is possible that the desire for alcohol would be lowered causing less alcohol consumption. Currently there is no drug treatment for alcoholism.
How Much Is Too Much?
One of the things I found most interesting about this week’s discussion was talking about what qualifies a person as an alcoholic. This topic came up when someone questioned whether someone who had a glass of wine every night with dinner or went out for one beer every day after work was considered an alcoholic. I had never really thought about what I defined alcoholism as. Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines an alcoholic as “a person affected with alcoholism.” Alcoholism is defined as “continued excessive or compulsive use of alcoholic drinks.” Although that seems straightforward, who gets to decide what is excessive. As a class we came up with ideas such as when it is affecting your daily life or when having wine with dinner is a ‘have to’ thing rather than a ‘want to’ thing you might have problems with alcoholism. I think the definition that we discussed that appealed to me the most was that if a person is hiding their drinking or drinking alone they are likely ashamed of how much alcohol they are consuming and aware that it is not healthy. I think that the definition of alcoholism is a personal thing and the question of how much is too much has a different answer for each person.
If you think you or someone you know may have problems with alcohol abuse please talk to someone about possible treatment options.