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Effects of Addictive Substances



Alcohol Effects


One of world's oldest known drug is alcohol. Honey, fruit juices, and fermented grain have been used to make alcohol(ethanol).
The production of products containing alcohol has become big business and the consumption and abuse of alcohol has become a major public health problem.
Alcohol is known as the central nervous system depressant.

Alcohol will affect the person's :
1. age
2. gender
3. physical condition
4. amount of food eaten
5. other drugs or medicines taken

Path of Alcohol in our body :

1. Mouth: alcohol enters the body.
2. Stomach: some alcohol gets into the bloodstream in the stomach, but most of the alcohol into the small intestine.
3. Small Intestine: alcohol enters the bloodstream through the walls of the small intestine.
4. Heart: pumps alcohol throughout the body.
5. Brain: alcohol reaches the brain.
6. Liver: alcohol is oxidized by the liver at a rate of about 0.5 oz per hour. Alcohol is converted into water, carbon dioxide and energy.

It causes ,

In low doses alcohol produces :
a relaxing effect
reduces tension
lowers inhibitions
impairs concentration
slows reflexes
impairs reaction time
reduces coordination

In medium doses alcohol produces :
slur speech
cause drowsiness
alter emotions

In high doses alcohol produces :
breathing difficulties

Its Effects on nervous system :

Alcohol is known as a central nervous system depressant. It acts at many places which includes the reticular formation, spinal cord, cerebellum and cerebral cortex, and on many neurotransmitter systems. Alcohol is a very small molecule and is soluble in lipid and water solutions. Because of such a property, alcohol gets into the bloodstream very easily and also crosses the blood brain barrier.

Some of its effects are :
1. Increased turnover of norepinephrine and dopamine
2. Decreased transmission in acetylcholine systems
3. Increased transmission in GABA systems
4. Increased production of beta-endorphin in the hypothalamus

Chronic drinking can lead to addiction to alcohol and to additional neurological problems. Typical symptoms of withholding alcohol from someone who is addicted to it are shaking (tremors), sleep problems and nausea. More severe withdrawal symptoms include hallucinations and seizures.

If it is used chronically, it can cause :
Damage the frontal lobes of the brain
Cause an overall reduction in brain size and increase in the size of the ventricles.
Lead to alcoholism (addiction to alcohol) and result in tolerance to the effects of alcohol and variety of health problems.
Cause a vitamin deficiency. Because the digestion system of alcoholics is unable to absorb vitamin B-1 (thiamine), a syndrome known as "Wernicke's Encephalopathy" may develop.

This syndrome is characterized by impaired memory, confusion and lack of coordination. Further deficiencies of thiamine can lead to "Korsakoff's Syndrome". This disorder is characterized by amnesia, apathy and disorientation. Widespread disease of the brain is a feature of both Wernicke's and Korsakoff's Syndromes.

Another consequence of alcohol use is Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS). Inside the mother, a fetus is fed through the placenta. Because alcohol passes easily through the placenta every time the mother drinks alcohol, the developing fetus gets a dose of alcohol. Alcohol disrupts normal brain development of the fetus. Fetal exposure to alcohol can impair the development of the corpus callosum which is the main connection between the right and left hemispheres of the brain, reduce the size of the basal ganglia and damage the cerebellum and cerebral cortex.

Compared to normal babies, babies born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome have :
smaller heads and brains
some degree of mental retardation
poor coordination
abnormal facial features

Moderate alcohol drinking by a mother during pregnancy may also lower the IQ of the child. How alcohol causes these effects is not known. Perhaps alcohol affects the placenta in some way to alter the blood flow to the fetus. It is also unclear how much alcohol is necessary to cause these effects. Avoid alcohol completely, this is the safest solution.


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