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Alcohol consumption in moderation doesn't tend to lead to long term complications. 

The definition of moderate alcohol use, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAA) in the U.S.A., is up to 4 drinks for men and 3 for women in any single day, and a maximum of 14 drinks for men and 7 drinks for women per week. The National Health service in the U.K., (NHS), states that men shouldn't regularly consume more than 3-4 units and women not more than 2-3 units of alcohol per day. 

A single unit of alcohol is defined as 10ml of pure alcohol which equates to 200ml/7oz of 5% beer, 85ml/3oz of 12% wine or 25ml/1 shot of 40% hard-tac alcohol. The reason why the limit is decreased for women is because they will absorb around 30% more alcohol into their bloodstream than men who have consumed the same amount of alcohol and weighing the same as them. 

How is alcoholism is screened? 

In the medical fraternity, alcoholism is screened with the help of the following questions: 

  • Do you feel that you need to cut down on your drinking? 
  • Do you get annoyed when people criticize you about your alcohol consumption? 
  • Do you feel guilty about your alcohol consumption? 
  • Do you need to consume alcohol when you wake up in the morning to help ease your nerves or reduce a hang-over? 

If you have answered ‘yes’ to any 2 of these questions or a ‘yes’ response to the last question only, then you are most probably dealing with alcoholism and you should make the effort to discuss the situation with your primary care physician. 

They will in turn refer you to an appropriate alcohol rehabilitation centre where you can receive the correct help and advice that is needed. 

Benefits of moderate alcohol consumption

There are some benefits in moderate alcohol consumption. According to studies done worldwide, these benefits have included reduction in chances of developing cerebrovascular incidents such as strokes, reduced incidents of dementia in the elderly, reduced chances of depression and red wine consumption lowered the risk of developing colon and breast cancers. Cardiovascular health was also improved but the benefit wasn't detected in patients who showed behaviors of good health. 

Problems connected to excessive alcohol consumption 

When alcohol consumption increases past the above-mentioned maximum allowed levels, then the chances of developing issues in the long term increase as well. Excessive alcohol intake can lead to the following:

  • Fatty liver changes where the cells of the liver are damaged but are able to regenerate after a while of no alcohol consumption. 
  • Alcoholic hepatitis occurs when there are recurrent and persistent episodes of fatty liver changes. Here, the liver cells are damaged and the function of the liver is reduced and this leads to yellow discoloration of the skin and eyes as bile can’t be stored in the gall-bladder but is reabsorbed into the blood stream. 
  • Cirrhosis occurs when most of the cells have been destroyed by alcohol and the liver then can’t function normally. The end result can be fatal as other systems in the body, such as the heart and kidneys, go into failure. 
  • Alcoholic cardiomyopathy occurs when alcohol damages the heart cells and causes the muscle of the heart to be dysfunctional and this can lead to heart failure. 
  • The nervous system is also affected as damage to the nerve cells can cause memory loss and decreased function and sensation of the limbs. 
  • Alcohol binges can lead to damage of the pancreas which can result in inadequate glucose control and therefore diabetes.

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