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WHEN you abuse alcohol, it will also abuse you. Alcohol abuse is unsafe use of alcohol. Alcohol abuse poses serious safety, health, social and economic effects on individuals and families. It also makes people unproductive thereby affecting the economy of the nation.

As I grow older and after knowing what I know, I have realised that the use and abuse of alcohol affects everyone. Trust me it does – directly or indirectly.

Initially I thought alcohol only affected people who drink and their families. For the purpose of this article, I will limit myself to the health and safety risks of alcohol abuse at a personal level.

Alcohol is a chemical whose chemical name is ethanol.  Alcohol is what makes people drunk or intoxicated. Alcohol is found in beer, wines and spirits. Some wines are alcohol-free which means that such wines cannot intoxicate you no matter how much you consume. Always remember that it’s not the beer which is a problem. It is the alcohol in the beer which is a problem.

Alcohol is a psychoactive drug which is able to alter your mental processes and behaviour. Some psychoactive drugs are stimulants while others are depressants.

The brain has brain cells called neurons which receive and transmit information to each other. Depressants like alcohol, tranquillisers and sleeping pills inhibit or block the transmission of information between brain cells. 

In other words, slow down your mental processes gradually shutting down your brain. They calm your mind.

Stimulants do the opposite of the depressants. Stimulants increases the transmission of information between brain cells. Examples of stimulants include caffeine, cocaine and nicotine. If abused, both depressants and stimulants have serious negative health and safety effects on the person using them.

Your drinking experience goes through a cycle. As you start drinking alcohol, the “brain-shutting-down” process starts. Once you start consuming alcohol, the first thing you will experience is the feeling of relaxation.

As your mind becomes calm, you feel relaxed. Alcohol makes you temporarily forget about your problems and worries. As you continue consuming more alcohol, you start becoming less and less aware of yourself.

Your self-awareness reduces. At that point, you start doing things contrary to your normal behaviour when you are sober. You become less likely to control your behaviour. 

As you continue to consume more alcohol, alcohol takes total control of you. At that stage, you start staggering when walking and your speech becomes slurred. Your judgment becomes badly impaired and you may even experience memory loss. If you continue, you may black out or the brain may completely shut down. If that happens, you may die.

You don’t need to complete the entire cycle for alcohol to pose dangers to you. Alcohol abuse is not just when you drink too much and fail to talk or walk properly. It’s much more.

Alcohol abuse is any irresponsible and unsafe use of alcohol. Examples of unsafe use of alcohol include driving or working under the influence of alcohol, drinking alcohol in excess, drinking alcohol when you are pregnant or when you are on medication and drinking alcohol when you are below the legal age limit for consuming alcohol. Any alcohol abuse is unsafe.

Alcohol abuse poses many dangers to your own health and safety as well as the people around you. The first danger is that alcohol abuse causes accidents.

Many injuries and deaths have occurred due to alcohol-related accidents. Fatal accidents have been caused simply because some irresponsible person decided to drive or operate the machine under the influence of alcohol.

Alcohol impairs your judgment and slows your thinking which in turn slows your reaction rate. If you are intoxicated, it may be difficult for you to judge correctly the right time to overtake safely.

Alcohol may make you engage in unnecessary risky behaviours that are likely to cause an accident. Don’t drink and drive. Similarly, don’t drink and work.

The second danger is that alcohol abuse causes alcoholism. Alcoholism is a condition whereby a person becomes psychologically and physically alcohol dependent. To such a person, he or she drinks alcohol to feel normal.

Without alcohol, he or she can’t even perform. In worse situations, such a person’s hands or body may shake when he or she is sober. If you are suffering from alcoholism, seek medical attention.

The third danger is that alcohol abuse affects the pregnancy. Pregnant mothers must not take any amount of alcohol during any stage of the pregnancy. Alcohol affects the growth and development of the unborn child.

Alcohol may cause serious birth defects to the child. Some birth defects like learning difficulties may last for a lifetime of the child. Even if it appears safe for the pregnant mother, any amount of alcohol is unsafe for the unborn child.

The fourth danger is that alcohol abuse affects medication. As stated before, alcohol is a chemical. Medicines are also chemicals. So combining alcohol and medicines may cause a chemical reaction resulting in unsafe consequences. 

One of the following outcomes may occur. Combination of alcohol and medicines may produce chemicals that might be harmful to you. Alcohol may prevent medicines from working effectively.

Alcohol may increase the strength of the medicines thereby causing adverse side effects. If you are on medication, ask the doctor if it’s safe for you to drink alcohol.

Last but not the least, alcohol abuse causes some diseases. Research shows that alcohol abuse causes brain damage, liver diseases and some types of cancer.

There are other dangers like alcohol poisoning and hangover which I am unable to explain in detail due to limited space.

Alcohol never forces anyone to drink it. People choose to drink it. Drinking alcohol rapidly is dangerous.  Avoid drinking too much alcohol too fast. Eat before or during drinking.

Now you know the major dangers alcohol poses on you. So make a wise choice either to abstain or to drink responsibly.

Alcohol abuse is not just a social or religious issue but a health and safety hazard. My best and safe advice to you is that if you don’t drink, don’t start drinking and if you do drink, stop drinking. Until next week, stay safe. Zambia needs you.

*The author is the CEO of SafetyFocus Suppliers, a leading safety company in Zambia. For your daily safety tips, like our Facebook page on www.facbook.com/safetyfocussuppliers.

For your comments, contact the author on cell 0955 179267 or email: k.mark@safetyfocussuppliers.com

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