December is a month of festivities. Most of us are bound to indulge ourselves in binge drinking, in the spirit of Christmas, and end of year. It is just apt to re-educate us, on the effects of alcohol in our body.
Please note these statements of fact about alcohol.
i) About 20% of any alcohol alcohol drunk is absorbed in the stomach, and 80% in the intestine. It is then carried around the body by the blood stream.
ii) The liver breaks down(oxidizes) the alcohol at an almost constant rate. Usually about 21/2 bottles i.e 1.5l of beer, or 15mls of whisky(kai-kai) per hour.
iii) This process eventually disposes of about 90 % of the alcohol, forming Carbon dioxide(CO2) and water(H2O) as end product.
iv) The remaining 10% is eliminated through the lungs and in the sweat.
The 4 main effects of alcohol in the body are;
1) Alcohol provides energy – it has high calorific value, but contains no nutrients.
2) Alcohol acts as anaesthetic on the central nervous system, slowing it down, and impairing its efficiency.
3) Alcohol stimulates urine production. With heavy alcohol intake, the body loses more water than is taken in, and the body cells become dehydrated.
4) Alcohol puts part of the liver, temporarily out of action. After heavy drinking, as much as two-thirds of the liver can be non-functioning – but this is usually fully-recovered within a few days.
What is blood alcohol level?
ν The effect of alcohol on behaviour depends on the amount reaching the brain via the blood stream.
ν This “blood alcohol level “, is determined by several factors, apart from the quantity of alcohol drunk.
i) The size of the liver decides the rate of elimination.
ii) The size of the person decides the amount of blood in the system, because blood volume is proportionate to size. The larger the person, the greater the diluting effect of the blood on the alcohol consumed, and the more it takes to produce the same effect.
iii) The speed and manner in which the alcohol is consumed is important. The longer one takes to drink a given quantity, the less effect it has.
iv) Alcohol consumed in an empty stomach will have a greater and more immediate effect, than that consumed during or after meal. Food acts as a buffer to absorption
How does alcohol affect our behaviour?
ν As the the level of alcohol in the blood rises the drinker’s brain and nervous system are increasingly affected, and changes occur in his behaviour.
• The normal limit for alcohol varies for each country. USA – 0.10 to 0.15%. South Asia – 0.05%. UK – 0.08%. Australia – 0.15%.
Now let us analyse different behavioural changes for different levels of alcohol.
1) At 0.02% – The drinker experiences sense of warmth and friendliness. Visual reaction tie slows.
2) At 0.04% – Driving ability while speeding is impaired.
3) At 0.06% – Feelings of mental relaxation general well being. Further slight decrease in skills. Sluggishness.
4) At 0.09% – Exaggerated emotions and behaviour. Tendency to be loud and talkative. Loss of inhibitory control. Sensory and motor nerves increasingly dulled.
5) At 0.12% – Staggering and fumbling with words.
6) At 0.15% – Intoxication.
7) At 0.20% – Incapacitation, depression, nausea, loss of sphincter control.
8) At 0.30% – Drunken stupor.
9) At 0.40% – Coma.
10) At 0.60% – + Lethal dose. Death through heart and respiratory failure.
ν Fortunately, lethal doses seldom occur, as unconsciousness and vomiting force the drinker to stop.
Now learn – how we get drunk.
ν Alcohol is physiological depressant that is, as consumption occurs the transmission of impulses in the nervous system become slowed.
ν First to be affected are the higher levels of the brain – inhibitions, worry and anxiety are dissolved, resulting in a series of well being and euphoria.
ν As the lower levels of the brain become affected, co-ordination, vision and speech are impaired
ν The small blood vessels of the skin become dilated(widen). Heat is radiated and the drinker feels warm. This means, that blood has been diverted from the internal body organs, where blood vessels are already constricted by the effect of alcohol on the nervous system. Dangerous signal.
ν Any increase in sexual desire is due to depression of usual inhibitions. The drinker becomes more audacious.
ν Alcohol is not an aphrodisiac – alcohol increases sexual desires but deteriorates sexual performance. And physical sexuality is the more and more impaired, as blood alcohol level rises.
ν Eventually the poisoning effect of excess alcohol causes nausea and possible vomiting, and may leave the drinker with the usual symptoms of hangover. I hope we are all listening.
• Happy Festivities.
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