The concept of alcohol has always intrigued me; how could a substance do so much damage? What is in alcohol that makes good people make poor decisions? Don’t get me wrong, I love my nights out as much as the next girl, but while at college, this question has been prevalent in my mind. In order to try and find an answer to this question, I wanted to look at the bad effects versus the good effects of alcohol and pose the question as to why we drink and what exactly is in alcohol that makes it so bad?
While looking at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, it highlighted some of the things that alcohol does to your body — and after looking at this, I realized how detrimental this drug can be. In this article, it subcategories all the parts of the body alcohol affects, starting with the brain and heart. When consuming alcohol, it impedes communication passageways in the brain and affects the way we look and act towards things. It causes mood and behavioral changes and challenges us to think and move normally. Drinking can affect your heart in serious ways over time or if you drink too much at once. Such issues include cardiomyopathy, arrhythmias, stroke, or high blood pressure. On the contrary, studies have proven that a moderate amount of alcohol can help adults to avoid developing coronary heart disease. Heavy alcohol consumption can be very damaging to your liver and can lead to developing steatosis, alcoholic hepatitis, fibrosis, and cirrhosis. Pancreatitis can be a result of heavy drinking due to detrimental inflammation and swelling in the pancreatic blood vessels which ultimately causes complications with digestion. Cancer is always a possible outcome with putting toxic substances in our boy. Consuming too much alcohol can increase our risk for certain cancers such as: mouth, esophagus, throat, liver, and breast. In addition to all these effects, our immune system is depressed by drinking because it makes our bodies an easier target and weakens our immune system’s natural ability to fight off infection or viruses.
I know after reading all of that, I started to question why I even drink. I mean with all those horrible outcomes at stake why even risk it? I found through research that all of these outcomes come from heavily drinking and are associated with alcoholism. Moderate drinking on the other hand can have some beneficial effects. I found in this article, #3, 4, and 5 have good points to make. In the third it talks about how moderate drinking can actually improve brain health. It was studied and Dr. Zakhari notes that by drinking a little bit, it can aid in stopping cognitive decline and enhancing brain function. The explanation for this is due to the need for oxygen which usually is the source behind cognitive decline. By drinking, alcohol make the blood more fluid and this keeps the blood supply in the brain consistent. Another beneficial point made is that drinking can help avoid strokes. “Why?” you ask? Strokes are usually caused by blood clots and since alcohol is a blood thinner is reduces the risk of clotting. Even when a clot forms, the drug can aid with dissolving the clot. Not only can alcohol help your brain and reducing risk of stroke, it can also help you sleep better. Alcohol is a somnogen which is also known as a sleep inducer and although it can help you to fall asleep it will most likely keep you tossing and turning later in the night. Another article, that highlights the good effects of drinking can be found here. So if you’re looking for a new source of antioxidants or B vitamins, check this article out… if you’re 21…
So now after looking at some of the good effects it can have on our bodies, it makes the question of why do we drink a little bit easier to answer. However, I wanted to look and find out the reasons people have behind drinking and this is what I found:
- Dealing with issues
- Having a good time
- Makes you happy
- Makes you cool
- Keeps you warm when it’s cold out
- Peer Pressure
All of these reasons we’ve heard time and time again and we probably all fall into one of these categories. And to be clear, I’m not saying alcohol is good or bad, I just want to find out what makes it so bad and why we continue to drink even though we know the effects.
After researching I found through this article, that the ingredient behind making you drunk (and dumb) is called ethanol. When yeasts forms with sugar in certain carb filled foods or substances, such as grapes or grains, ethanol is produced. Many of you probably knew the cause behind alcohol being so powerful however, even though I now know the scientific cause, I still find it mind-boggling that this can happen. However, something that I thought of as a possibility of our poor decision making besides the chemical excuse would be a psychological effect. Maybe the third variable of “thinking” we should be acting a certain way can also contribute to the brain effects we have while drinking.