4.5 The risks of alcohol see also 3.5

Alcohol is the most commonly accepted drug but when used in excess (more than 6 to 8 glasses per day) also the most harmful. In particular the liver is seriously damaged. The liver needs 90 minutes to metabolise one glass of alcohol. When drinking large amounts for several years, the liver gets no chance to 'rest' and the alcohol user runs a high risk of contracting cirrhosis of the liver. It could take another 10 to 15 years but eventually one might die from cirrhosis of the liver. A connection has been found between alcohol use and cancer of the mouth, throat, larynx and oesophagus. In addition, excessive drinking promotes cardiovascular diseases and can inflict serious damage to stomach, pancreas and brain (Korsakow's syndrome).

Short-term

* Adverse effect on judgement and reflexes.

* Aggression.

* Overestimation of one's own abilities.

* Adverse effect on motor functions.

Long-term

* Cancer of the liver.

* Cancer of mouth, throat, larynx, and oesophagus.

* Cardiovascular diseases.

* Korsakow's syndrome.

Is alcohol addictive?

No, not when used in moderation. However, when used excessively and prolonged, alcohol can be addictive psychologically as well as physically. The numbing effect of alcohol can become very attractive because it is relaxing and can obscure problems. The body too, will develop a tolerance to alcohol. Whereas beginners already get drunk after a few glasses of beer, an experienced drinker can put away a few litres without even appearing intoxicated. The phenomena is called tolerance: More and more of the drug is needed to maintain the desired effect. Aside from tolerance, an alcohol user may also experience withdrawal symptoms if alcohol use is discontinued abruptly after a long and heavy period of drinking. These can vary from sleeping badly and 'the shakes' to - in severe cases - seizures or delirium tremens. During delirium tremens, high fever and hallucinations occur , one sees things that are not there like, for example, animals.

I + I = 3 just like sleeping medicines and tranquillizers, alcohol is a 'depressant'. Together the effects are multiplied which can lead to cardiac arrest. In combination with cocaine and heroin the risk of an overdose is increased.

Can alcohol use lead to aggression?

Yes, the 'high' can suddenly turn into aggressive behaviour and a fighting mood. Alcohol can lead to aggression especially after excessive use and in combination with other drugs.

 

Drug users and alcohol
Drug users and HIV-infected individuals
are particularly at risk from alcohol. In combination with cocaine or heroin, the risk of an overdose is increased. If someone has gastrointestinal (stomach) problems and/or liver damage (often a consequence of excessive alcohol use), methadone can irritate and hepatitis C can have an even stronger impact. In the case of liver damage, AIDS inhibitors can be less effective.