How Drinking Hurts You
Gather round, Mailmen, because now it’s time for a special message from the Power Rangers. Today’s message is about drugs – one drug in particular. A scary drug that’s cheap, easy to find, and much more addictive than people give it credit for. It causes violent, reckless behavior, destroys the user’s health, and is even responsible for nearly 90,000 deaths a year in the United States alone.
And the worst part of it is, many people think that because it’s legal now, that it’s safe.
I’m talking, of course, about alcohol.
Just Because It’s Legal Doesn’t Mean It’s Good For You
Yeah, you heard me. Somehow, lots of people have the notion in their heads that just because alcohol is perfectly legal, it somehow means that it’s not dangerous (kinda like how cigarettes are totally harmless fun, right?). This couldn’t be farther from the truth. Not only is alcohol a highly dangerous drug, it might even be the most dangerous.
No kidding. That’s the exact conclusion made in a study by the Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs, putting alcohol ahead of things like heroin and crack cocaine. It’s now widely accepted that long-term alcohol abuse will damage your internal organs, increase the risk of all sorts of cancers, especially those of the mouth, throat, stomach and pancreas, impair mental faculties, lead to jaundice or cirrhosis, increase greatly the risk of a stroke or developing heart disease later on, and more.
And that’s just immediate physical effects on the drinker’s body. Consider the indirect effects of alcohol – encouraging poverty by siphoning money away from the drinker’s income stream, increasing the risk of a major accident while driving (over 10,000 killed in drunk driving accidents last year in the United States alone), and encouraging erratic and violent behavior. In fact, info taken from individuals incarcerated for violence reveals that over 40% of them were under the influence of alcohol while committing their offense.
With a whopping 1 out of 17 Americans abusing alcohol regularly in this day in age, and the growing acceptably of binge drinking, “day drunk,” energy drink-alcohol cocktails like 4Loko and a whole host of homebrew options, and an enormous array of TV shows and entertainers joking about being “alcoholics” like it was nothing, addiction is as easy as ever.
Why Some People Become Alcoholics
Few, if any people, actively choose to become alcoholics. Typically abuse begins in high school or college, when people begin to go to parties or other relatively consequence-free environments. It’s only after graduation and entry into “real life” that many discover the myriad ways alcohol has insinuated itself into their lives, becoming a crutch to get through the day, to prepare oneself for stressful things like job interviews or first dates, or even as a sleeping aid. Eventually, the body grows so accustomed to having alcohol in it that it adjusts itself accordingly, treating it as if it were a natural component of its otherwise finely tuned systems.
Some people, it is now believed, are just genetically predisposed to alcoholism. Certain races and ethnic groups, as well, have certain genetic influences that make them feel the effects of alcohol more keenly, making it even easier to develop an unhealthy habit, and then even an addiction. That being said, just about anybody can develop dependency with enough time, and under the right circumstances. Alcohol is relatively cheap, it’s legal, there’s no stigma around using it in certain social situations, and even for the underage, it is devilishly simple to procure (who in his teen years didn’t pay an older friend to take a trip to the local 7-11?). Unlike “harder” drugs like cocaine or psychedelics, it takes a large dose of alcohol to get truly fucked up, and even though we know now just how habit-forming it can actually be, there are still few people who see booze as something that creates “addicts.” Such are the effects of the hypocritical drug policies in most modern countries.
Many people eventually see alcohol as helping them navigate the difficulties of life. It is often the drug of choice for those with undiagnosed depression, as the mild euphoria it provides gives quick relief to those straining under the weight of the world. Unfortunately, alcohol will actually worsen the symptoms of depression over time, encouraging a vicious cycle of worsening depression, and deepening dependence of the very thing feeding it. It’s called a “depressant” for a reason.
Perhaps most frightening of all, when it actually does become apparent to someone that he’s developed an unhealthy dependency on alcohol, it’s only after he has waded in so far in that it’ll be harder than ever to get himself out of the pond again.
What Alcohol Does When It Enters Your Body, & What Goes On in an Addict’s Brain
One of the most noticeable effects of alcohol – and one of the main reasons it’s so easy to become addicted over time – is the fact that it hits you almost immediately after the first sip. True, it takes a while for the full buzz to set in, but just as soon as that beer or whisky sour flows down the hatch, your stomach begins to absorb it directly into your bloodstream on a direct course for your brain. Instant gratification, setting up an insidious system of stimulus and reward that teaches the brain to crave more alcohol the further the habit sets in.
There are a variety of reasons people enjoy alcohol; for one thing, it provides an excuse to cut loose, and after lowering one’s inhibitions, it helps the shy and naturally anxious move more readily through social situations. It also relaxes one’s nerves, and causes the pleasure centers of the brain light up. The real cause of this lies in the way alcohol affects communication between brain cells – a phenomenon also responsible for the way drinks tend to goof up your reflexes, making you slur your words, stumble in your steps, and dulling your natural response to pain. While your brain is plastic enough to recover from this, at least initially, constant imbibing will eventually overwhelm your brain’s self-protective capacities, and can even result in permanent brain damage
This is all to say nothing of the huge amount of stress heavy drinking puts on other parts of your body. When alcohol is absorbed into the bloodstream, your blood pressure increases, causing the heart to work much harder than it is accustomed to keep your circulation going. A serious drinking habit overloads the heart, weakening it until, over time, heart disease can develop. The mouth, throat and stomach all suffer as well, as alcohol causes damage to them at the cellular level, increasing the risk of cancer. The pancreas, too, becomes overloaded as alcohol interferes with that body part’s contribution to the digestive process – pancreatic cancer, the cancer the ultimately killed Apple scion Steve Jobs, is one of the worse cancers a human being can get, with grim survival odds compared to other varieties.
Once someone has truly crossed the threshold of alcoholism, the body stops being able to function without the stuff, despite the damage it’s doing. A sudden stop in the flow of alcohol is interpreted by the body as a sudden, dangerous drop in blood sugar, causing an immediate craving for the very thing that through the body’s systems out of whack in the first place – more booze!
What Alcohol Withdrawal Is Like
Now that you’ve forced your body to grow accustomed to the straight up poison you’ve fed it on a regular basis, it’s not going to let you go back without a fight. Nowhere is this more true than in the brain, with its finely tuned chemistry – heaver drinkers who quit cold turkey are in for a series of unpleasant surprises. Anxiety, irritability, mood swings, sweating, extreme fatigue and drowsiness are all common, nearly universal side effects. Even worse are the vomiting and nausea experienced by the long-term alcohol dependent.
If you do things the smart (right) way, you’ll kick the habit in sane, slow steps, with help from medication if things are really severe. But even with the meds, getting sober after years of abusing alcohol is no picnic. Suddenly, without the influx of firewater coming in, your body suddenly says, “Hey! What gives? Where’s the good stuff, fucktard!!?! I neeeeeed it!!!” and proceeds to punish you accordingly. If you think the kind of runny shits that come the morning after a house party are bad enough, you have no idea what it’s like for a full-blown alcoholic trying to quit. Your toilet will come to host every shade of brown, black and yellow known to man, and maybe then some that previously were not, and your poor asshole will be so stretched and overstressed that won’t have the holding power of an old, worn-out Ziploc bag.
Nothing is worse, though, than the horrible, ferociously powerful cravings you are sure to experience. Bad enough when you were drinking all the time, now they’re just plain out of control, consuming every fiber of your being with the desire, the outright need to have another drink, no matter the costs to your pocketbook, or to your health. And what’s truly scary about this process is that you’re in a real lady and the tiger situation: give in and have a drink, and you kick the can with your cravings enough that it keeps the addiction alive; resist, and run the risk that you fall into a serious withdrawal that could, no shit, actually kill you. Recovery, needless to say, is a delicate balancing act, and it’s no wonder so many people need the help of professionals to overcome their bad habit.
Other Gross Effects
So enough with the scary stuff. Even if you think you’re too big and bad to fall victim to the worst side effects of heavy drinking, or that you’re too smart to become addicted to anything, at least consider some of the less devastating but nonetheless unpleasant effects of drinking too much hooch. Those who’ve drank before know how alcohol have a way of making one visit the toilet a whole lot more often, but they might not realize how all those pissing breaks are rapidly dehydrating their bodies. Make drinking a habit, and over time, your skin will dry out and start to peel, your eyes will change color, and your scalp will completely flip out, putting out enough dandruff for a large-bodied man to make a snow angel in. Forget about making a good impression with that girl you’re chasing, or the recruiter at that job you really want.
Best Course of Action: Just Don’t Start Drinking to Begin With
The best way to avoid falling victim to the horrible effects of alcohol abuse is to simply not drink in the first place. Easier said than done, of course, but not impossible. As stated above, alcohol is made all the more dangerous by the fact that it doesn’t seem very powerful when one first samples it. But for that very reason, it’s incredibly easy for alcohol to take over your life slowly, without you even realizing it. Better to not give it the chance in the first place.
But we’re not a bunch of do-gooders here at Dead Mailbox Society. We know if you’re a regular reader here, you’re not a puritan. You’ve probably drank at some point in the past, or plan to try it sometime in the future. With that in mind, if you really do insist on consuming mind-altering substances, we urge you to do the smart thing, the safe thing, the right thing: Don’t drink alcohol. Smoke weed.
Weed, the Safer, Smarter Alternative to Alcohol
Oh yes, despite all the scare stories your parents, your counselor, your D.A.R.E. officer or your pastor might have made up for your benefit, good ol’ marijuana is a much safer alternative to alcohol. In fact, it’s such a safe and superior alternative that many alcoholics use it to wean themselves off from alcohol!
Imagine: no hangovers, no damage to the liver or pancreas, and no mechanism for a physical dependency. And through the modern magic of cannabis-infused edibles, you don’t even have to smoke it if you’re worried about damaging your lungs. What’s more, there’s even a good body of evidence to suggest that our friend Mary Jane fights illness, promotes good health, puts a handle on depression, and may even be one of the greatest all-natural anti-inflammatory substances known to man. In our upcoming features, we’ll explore some of the benefits of this miracle plant, and what they mean for you. We’ll also take a look at how marijuana can be used as a safe alternative to alcohol.
Until then, stay tuned. Get high.