CHN Health Matters
Alcohol use is prevalent in our society. Alcohol can legally be consumed if over the age of 21. Alcohol is a chemical that acts like a drug to cause both short term and long term effects on the consumer. Although alcohol can be consumed safely I frequently see the unwanted consequences of alcohol use both in the Emergency Department and the clinic.
Alcohol accumulates in the blood stream after it is consumed. It generally is absorbed rapidly and remains in the system for hours. Alcohol causes some sedation and tends to help people unwind or “loosen up.”
Excessive consumption will cause toxic effects on several organ systems. The most noticeable is the effects on the brain causing unsteadiness, sleepiness, slurring of words, changes in behavior, and even loss of consciousness or “passing out.”
The effects on the brain can affect judgment such that an intoxicated person is more likely to engage in risky activities or do things that they would not do sober. The kidneys lose the ability to concentrate urine so the kidneys start putting out excessive amounts of urine, causing frequent urination and dehydration. The dehydration is what is thought to contribute to the symptoms of a hangover the next day. The liver, stomach, and pancreas are directly poisoned by alcohol and this can cause acute abdominal pain.