Alcohol abuse can be defined as the consumption of alcohol at a level that affects the physical, mental and social integrity of an individual. Alcohol abuse can cut across age, gender and ethnicity, and it affects the individuals involved in different ways.
Usually, the symptoms of alcohol abuse appear within 12 months of the debut of this lifestyle pattern. Its main social symptoms are repeated failure in fulfilling daily work tasks, house chores and homework; drinking in inappropriate situations (driving, at work, in public places); giving up a hobby or other activities to drink; isolation from family and friends; and increased risk of suicide.
In addition to this, the main physiological symptoms of alcohol abuse are the development of resistance to alcohol, so one must switch to drinks that contain a higher percentage of alcohol to get the same effect; weight loss (alcohol slows the metabolism due to inflammation of the organs, which may lead to malnourishment because of the body’s incapacity to absorb nutrients); redness of the nose and cheeks; gastritis or other stomach-related health issues; withdrawal symptoms when one stops drinking, such as: sweating, anxiety, nausea, headaches, shakiness or vomiting; brain damage (caused by the toxic effect of ethanol, nutritional deficiency and electrolyte disturbance); heart damage (alcohol abuse leads to high blood pressure, which in time, weakens the heart muscle – making it harder for the heart to pump blood); cirrhosis of the liver (a slow-progressing disease in which healthy tissue is replaced with scar tissue, preventing the liver from functioning normally; it is caused by the oxidative stress experienced when liver tries to break down alcohol); blackout (when the individual can’t remember what happened when he/she was drinking); and nutritional deficiencies such as insufficient amounts of vitamin B12 and thiamine.
Alcohol abuse symptoms may vary with age and gender. Individuals who start drinking regularly at a young age, especially teenagers, face a higher probability of developing alcohol-related diseases and health problems.
Women tend to manifest the symptoms of alcohol abuse more aggressively than men. They can present with the problems such as fetal alcohol syndrome (when the mother consumes alcohol during pregnancy), depression and anxiety.
Men also present characteristic symptoms of alcohol abuse. These can include erectile dysfunction (alcohol damages the central nervous system and peripheral nervous system, resulting in loss of sexual desire and coordination) and high blood pressure.
Alcohol abuse in young people is very dangerous because it may develop into a constant lifestyle pattern, potentially causing extremely dangerous disease to become present later in life. It has been observed in a range of different studies that individuals who start drinking at an early age commonly develop afflictions such as larynx, liver, colon and esophagus cancer; Alcoholic Hepatitis (a disease caused by regular consumption of large quantities of alcohol); Alcoholic Cardiomyopathy (weakening of the heart muscle caused by hypertrophy); Alcohol Dementia (deterioration of intellectual functions; may lead to the destruction of certain areas of the brain; caused by the loss of thiamine); and Alcoholic Neuropathy (numbness of limbs, diffuse aches, incontinence, problems swallowing and talking caused by the direct toxic effect of alcohol on the brain).