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Alcohol Awareness Month

Westbank Urgent Care is honoring Alcohol Awareness Month during the month of April.

What does Alcohol Awareness Month mean exactly? Well, it is important to understand the dangers alcohol may have on your body and well-being. Alcohol is the most commonly used addictive substance in the U.S.  17.6 million people, or one in every 12 adults, suffer from alcohol abuse or dependence.  More than half of all adults have a family history of alcoholism or problem drinking, and more than seven million children live in a household where at least one parent is dependent or has abused alcohol.An alcohol abuser or alcoholic is very different from someone who enjoys a glass of wine every once in a while. An alcoholic cannot quit drinking or control how much they drink. They have withdrawal symptoms; they feel sick to their stomach, sweat, shake and become anxious. Alcoholics usually give up other activities so they can drink and spend most of their time drinking and recovering.

Excessive alcohol affects the body in several different ways. Alcohol interferes with the brain’s communication pathways, and can affect the way the brain looks and works. These disruptions can change mood and behavior, and make it harder to think clearly and move with coordination.

Drinking a lot over a long time or too much on a single occasion can damage the heart, causing problems including stroke, irregular heartbeat, and high blood pressure.  Heavy drinking takes a toll on the liver, and can lead to a variety of problems and liver inflammations including steatosis (or fatty liver), alcoholic hepatitis, fibrosis, cirrhosis.

The pancreas can also be damaged by alcohol. Alcohol causes the pancreas to produce toxic substances that can eventually lead to pancreatitis, a dangerous inflammation and swelling of the blood vessels in the pancreas that prevents proper digestion. Drinking too much can also weaken your immune system, making your body a much easier target for disease.  Chronic drinkers are more liable to contract diseases like pneumonia and tuberculosis than people who do not drink too much.  Drinking a lot on a single occasion slows your body’s ability to ward off infections – even up to 24 hours after getting drunk.

Drinking too much alcohol can increase your risk of developing certain cancers, including cancers of the mouth, esophagus, throat, liver, and even breast.

Not everyone who uses alcohol is an alcoholic.  A person becomes a substance abuser when the substance becomes so crucial that he or she is willing to risk other important aspects of life in order to have the substance.  This may be after the first time a substance is used, or it may take years.

Research shows that the risk for developing alcoholism runs in families.  But just because there is a genetic predisposition doesn’t mean that the child of an alcoholic parent will automatically become an alcoholic.  Not all children of alcoholic families get into trouble with alcohol. Some people develop alcoholism even though no one in their family has a drinking problem.

Lifestyle is a critical factor, as well.  Heavy drinking friends, elevated stress levels, and how readily alcohol is available are factors that may increase the risk for alcoholism. Drinking one beer at a barbecue may not have these detrimental effects on your body, but drinking a whole pack of beer in an hour definitely could.

Below is a short infographic from on the NHI website. They list several resources for more information or treatment services, if you fear you or someone you know may be abusing alcohol. 

Remember to be safe and responsible this holiday weekend…and every other weekend too!

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