Drinking alcohol plays such an important role in our society, it's no wonder some of us have problems controlling how much and how often we drink. But developing this kind of control is not as difficult as it seems. Unless we have developed full blown alcoholism, a good approach to the problem based on a conscious decision is all it takes to manage this habit.
Even though drinking in moderation has no adverse side effects for most people, it is important to consider how much is enough before alcohol starts affecting both our mental and physical well being. Remember that the chances of developing alcoholism, which is a disease, increase with the amount and frequency of drinking, specially if you are genetically predisposed.
Alcohol damage to our organism is something that can build up over time, and often we are not totally aware that is happening until it is too late to bring things to normal. Because by then we have acquired a strong habit, a new "friend" we depend upon to bring us through all social occasions, or a permanent companion for our free time.
We might of course continue living as usual, avoiding as much as possible to drink on weekdays, but always looking forward to the weekend, to the time when we can unite again in spirit with our faithful ally, the one that makes life so fun and interesting. This is what I call to be hooked on alcohol; and for so many people being hooked is an important part of their lifestyle.
The development of alcohol dependence is posited to involve numerous changes in brain chemistry (i.e., neurotransmission) that lead to physiological signs of withdrawal upon abstinence from alcohol as well as promote vulnerability to relapse in dependent people.
These neuroadaptive changes often occur in those brain neurotransmission systems that are most sensitive to the acute, initial effects of alcohol and/or contribute to a person’s initial alcohol consumption. Studies of these neuroadaptive changes have been aided by the development of animal models of alcohol dependence, withdrawal, and relapse behavior. These animal models, as well as findings obtained in humans, have shed light on the effects that acute and chronic alcohol exposure have on signaling systems involving the neurotransmitters glutamate, ?-aminobutyric acid (GABA), dopamine, and serotonin, as well as on other signaling molecules, including endogenous opioids and corticotrophin-releasing factor (CRF).
Adaptation to chronic alcohol exposure by these systems has been associated with behavioral effects, such as changes in reinforcement, enhanced anxiety, and increased sensitivity to stress, all of which may contribute to relapse to drinking in abstinent alcoholics. Moreover, some of these systems are targets of currently available therapeutic agents for alcohol dependence.
Is alcohol good for your heart?
Some studies show a correlation between moderate drinking and a smaller chance of dying from one form of heart disease than are people who do not drink any alcohol or who drink more.
If you don't drink, however, there is no need to start drinking just for this benefit to your heart. You can guard against heart disease by using other proven methods like exercising and eating nutritiously. And if you are pregnant, planning to become pregnant, have been diagnosed as alcoholic, or have another medical condition or taking medicines that could make alcohol use harmful, you must not drink at all.
If you can drink alcohol safely, and you choose to drink, do so in moderation. Heavy drinking can actually increase the risk of heart failure, stroke, and high blood pressure, as well as cause many other medical problems, such as liver cirrhosis.
- Mood: There’s a strong link between heavy drinking and depression, and hangovers often make you feel anxious and low. If you already feel anxious or sad, drinking can exaggerate this, so cutting down may put you in a better mood generally.
- Sleep: Drinking can affect your sleep. Although it can help some people fall asleep quickly, it can disrupt your sleep patterns and stop you from sleeping deeply. So cutting down on alcohol should help you feel more rested when you wake up.
- Behaviour: Drinking can affect your judgment and behaviour. You may behave irrationally or aggressively when you’re drunk. Memory loss can be a problem during drinking and in the long-term for regular heavy drinkers.
- Immune system: Regular drinking can affect your immune system. Heavy drinkers tend to catch more infectious diseases.
- Drinking and alcohol; NHS Choices.
- Alcohol and your health; Drinkaware-UK
- What is alcoholism; The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
- How Adaptation of the Brain to Alcohol Leads to Dependence; Peter Clapp, Ph.D.; Sanjiv V. Bhave, Ph.D.; and Paula L. Hoffman, Ph.D.
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