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Consumption of alcohol may be legal worldwide, but that does not change the fact that alcohol can be an addictive and dangerous drug. Occasional excessive alcohol consumption can interfere with short-term memory formation, cause vitamin deficiencies and result in liver swelling. Chronic alcohol consumption can exacerbate these medical problems and can result in serious damage to the liver, pancreas and nervous system.
1) Liver Disease
Liver disease is the health outcome that is most commonly associated with excessive alcohol consumption. Intoxication causes your liver to swell, which can cause pain in severe cases. Among chronic alcohol users, this liver swelling will eventually result in the infiltration of fatty lipids and liver enlargement. Alcoholism can eventually result in cirrhosis of the liver, which reduces the liver to a yellow, swollen, scarred and non-functional organ.
2) Memory and Learning Problems
Prolonged alcohol use is associated with brain shrinkage and tissue damage, and can cause memory and learning problems. Alcoholics also demonstrate diminished spatial abilities and attention spans, and have difficulty completing problem-solving tasks. In severe cases, alcoholism can result in anterograde amnesia, preventing the individual from being able to form new memories. For light and heavy drinkers alike, encoding of new memories is impaired during alcohol influence.
3) Vitamin Deficiency
Excessive consumption of alcohol results in several vitamin deficiencies. These deficiencies are the result of alcohol's tendency to interfere with the absorption of vitamins by the body. Your body's folate, vitamin B-6, vitamin B-12, thiamine and vitamin A levels are all diminished with consumption of alcohol. Alcohol also results in loss of zinc through the urinary tract, limits the gastrointestinal absorption of iron, and is associated with anemia.
4) Academic Performance
A 2005 study conducted at the University of Wisconsin-Lacrosse found that male college students who drink, or who live with a roommate who drinks, tend to have lower GPAs than non-drinkers and students living with non-drinkers. Interestingly, these differences in achievement were observed to be much smaller for female students, suggesting that males may be more vulnerable to the negative effects of peer pressure and alcohol use.
5) Medication Interactions
Numerous types of medications can have negative interactions with alcohol. According to researchers at the University of Oklahoma, even moderate alcohol can interfere with your body's ability to metabolize drugs or can enhance the effects of certain medications. Medication interactions can often cause excessive drowsiness and can result in liver problems. Types of drugs that interact with alcohol include antibiotics, antidepressants, pain medications, antihistamines, barbiturates, opioids and muscle relaxants.
6) Pancreas Problems
Alcohol can cause short-term impairment of the pancreatic system because alcohol stimulates pancreatic secretion but impairs the production of additional pancreatic enzymes. This results in digestion problems and the inability to absorb nutrients. Chronic alcohol consumption can even result in severe pancreatic dysfunction, such as pancreatitis.
7) Sleep Deficiencies
While drinking alcohol can sometimes help people fall asleep, alcohol consumption is associated with sleep fragmentation and nighttime body arousal. Drinking also results in less REM sleep. Once a chronic drinker stops drinking alcohol the opposite effect is frequently observed, wherein periods of excessive REM sleep are comingled with periods of marked insomnia.
8) Saturday Night Palsy
The colloquially-termed "Saturday night palsy" is a type of peripheral nerve damage that is caused when a frequent drinker falls asleep while putting excessive pressure on the hands, feet or another limb, as detailed in a report by Penn State University researchers published in the journal Alcohol Health & Research World. Since alcohol interferes with the body's ability to communicate with the brain, the affected limb may feel "dead" for a few days or a few weeks. In extreme cases of intoxication, loss of blood to a limb can even lead to amputation or death.
In the short term, drinking alcohol can result in diuresis, or rapid dehydration. Consumption of alcohol results in the decreased secretion of antidiuretic hormones that prevent dehydration; dehydration is one of the main causes of hangover symptoms after drinking. It's never a good idea to drink alcohol when you're planning on engaging in physical activity or planning on being outside on a hot day.
10) Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
According to the State University of New York in Potsdam, if you drink alcohol while you are pregnant you put your unborn baby at risk of developing fetal alcohol syndrome. Babies who suffer from fetal alcohol syndrome experience learning problems, deformed facial features, smaller heads and abnormally developed joints and limbs. They also weigh less and are shorter than other babies.