8 risks of alcohol abuse over the holidaysSunday, December 26, 2021
On Christmas Day many individuals tend to consume alcoholic drinks in excess. While it's the season of good cheer and spirits, it's important to exercise caution and not get too carried away.
Below medical internist Dr Samantha Nicholson Spence shares health risks associated with alcohol abuse and binge drinking.
Dr Nicholson Spence said excess alcohol can cause inflammation of the pancreas, which can become quite severe to the point of death. “It causes extreme vomiting, abdominal pain in the upper abdomen, spreading towards the back. Some people may have jaundice associated with it, but that's not a usual feature. Pancreatitis, if severe, will make the pancreas inflamed to the point it releases enzymes on the pancreas itself, instead of in your intestines where it is supposed to break down your food. As a result, it breaks down your pancreas and it starts a cascade where it gets worse and may require surgery to remove some of the dead pancreatic tissue,” she said.
The medical internist said, while less severe, gastritis is still serious. “Vomiting and abdominal pain is the main presentation. However, excessive vomiting can cause bruising and ulceration of the oesophagus and stomach and may result in you vomiting blood. If it's a a lot of blood, you can end up needing a blood transfusion or even surgical intervention if you rupture a major vessel or the oesophagus itself from the excessive vomiting. If the oesophagus becomes ruptured, which is rare, that's almost, in most cases, a fatal condition,” Dr Nicholson Spence said.
3) Fatty liver
Dr Nicholson Spence said the role of the liver is to break down the alcohol or detoxify it. Consequently, excess alcohol consumption puts excess strain on the liver and can cause what is known as fatty liver. “Usually fatty liver is reversible and goes away once you stop drinking. But, in some people you can develop hepatitis where the liver is inflamed. Alcohol hepatitis can kill and in very severe cases you can get acute liver failure. Acute liver failure is a very severe complication, which also can result in death,” the medical internist said.
According to Dr Nicholson Spence, people who drink to the point of developing serious complications usually blackout or fall into a coma. “The body can become so drowsy, drunk, and intoxicated to the point you can't drink any more and you blackout,” she said.
5) Seizures and brain injury
Dr Nicholson Spence said excessive alcohol use is associated with seizures, which can be major (fits) or multiple, where it happens back-to-back and you might not regain consciousness. “That's a risk for death because during the period where you're seizing back-to back and not regaining consciousness, you're also not breathing and can have permanent brain damage as a result. If you drop and hit your head during the seizure, you can get brain injury,” she said.
6) Medication complications
“Sometimes Jamaicans plan to drink and stop their medication and that's not a good thing. Yes, alcohol is incompatible with some medication, but some medications are not forgiving when you skip multiple doses. [And] so you end up in the hospital just the same when you probably would have been fine if you had just taken the medication,” Dr Nicholson Spence said.
7) Heart issues
Dr Nicholson Spence said, while alcohol affects the heart, overdoing it in the holiday will usually be a problem for your heart if you have pre-existing heart disease.
8) Accidents and violence
The medical internist said alcohol is behind the high rates of accidents locally, and warned that it only takes one drink to dim your reflexes. “Is nuff buy-licence people out there on the road. It's a recipe for disaster. Our roads are terrible, too. One minute you could have a smooth stretch, you feel good and you drive off, speeding and cruising down the road... and then suddenly you have to swing from a pothole, lose control, and it's a terrible accident or death,” Dr Nicholson Spence said. “If you're drinking have a designated driver. Alcohol also causes increase in violence as it makes you louder, more enraged and prompted to take chances you wouldn't normally take.”