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Alcohol Abuse

Alcohol addiction is generally characterised by an overwhelming desire or compulsion to continue drinking, despite the negative impact on the user’s life. It is serious. It can get you into legal trouble and can affect every aspect of your life, including your physical health, your state of mind, your relationships and your finances.

If you or someone you care about has an alcohol problem, or you want to change your habits, there is help available. It’s important to remember that you aren’t alone.

Are you concerned someone you love may have an alcohol problem?

If someone you know has a problem with alcohol they may experience one or more of the following:

  • Drinking too much (causing vomiting or experiencing a hangover)
  • Overdosing (losing consciousness)
  • Regular need for alcohol
  • Having previous failed attempts to stop drinking
  • Significant changes in mood and/or behaviour
  • A decline in health
  • Neglecting responsibilities
  • Lowered productivity
  • Accidents
  • Financial problems
  • Deteriorating relationships at work and with family and friends
  • Doing things you normally wouldn’t do (such as illegal activities like stealing

Effects

Chronic and heavy alcohol use can potentially affect the physical and mental health of individuals and increase the risk of death.

Short-term effects

Drinking too much alcohol can affect the body very badly. Effects can vary depending on a person’s weight, metabolism and how long ago they had eaten.

The immediate effects of drinking alcohol can include:

  • Initial relaxation
  • Reduced concentration
  • Lack of coordination and slow reflexes
  • Mood changes, aggression or being overly emotional
  • Confusion, blurred vision and poor muscle control
  • Nausea, vomiting and incontinence
  • Alcohol poisoning
  • Coma and death

The day after heavy drinking, most people experience an unpleasant ‘hangover’. This is because, even though it is a liquid, alcohol dehydrates the body, causing headaches, nausea, tiredness and depression.

Long-term effects

Heavy drinking over a long period of time causes damage to many parts of the body, including:

  • The nervous system - loss of feeling in hands and feet, ‘pins and needles’
  • The brain - brain damage, loss of memory, hallucinations, confusion
  • The heart - high blood pressure, enlarged heart, irregular pulse
  • The lungs - increased risk of infections
  • The liver - cirrhosis, severe pain, swelling, liver cancer, hepatitis
  • The skin - sweating, bruising, ‘flushes’
  • The blood - red blood cell damage
  • The stomach and digestive system - increased cancer risk, bleeding, ulcers
  • Muscles - weakness, damage to muscle tissue
  • The pancreas - inflammation
  • For men - impotence, shrinking of testicles, sperm damage and lower sperm count
  • For women - increased gynaecological problems, foetus damage if pregnant, increased risk of breast cancer

The following graphic visually explains low-risk drinking advice for adults

Seek help

Alcohol Drug Helpline

alcohol.org.nz

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