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The toxic effects of alcohol on human life support systems
In what ways and why does alcohol negatively affect human health?
The considered features of the action of small doses of alcohol indicate that their use is incompatible with labor activity in the conditions of modern production. What is required here is the immediate adoption of well-thought-out decisions, high concentration and stability of attention, the speed of the human operator’s response to various types of signals, and quick orientation in changing working conditions.
The most important pharmacological property of ethyl alcohol consists primarily in the fact that it has the ability to be rapidly absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract, and absorption actually begins already in the oral cavity. This period (phase of resorption - absorption) after taking alcohol lasts for 1.5–2 hours, including the time it spreads in the organs and tissues of the human body. Then comes the period of elimination of alcohol and its metabolic products from the body - the elimination phase. When taken on an empty stomach, the highest concentration of alcohol in the blood appears after 15–20 minutes, and gradually 90–92% of the dose is completely oxidized in the body, turning into the final product - water and carbon dioxide.
The oxidation of alcohol begins immediately after its intake and reaches its highest intensity in the first 5–6 hours, and then decreases in the next 6–16 hours, and the entire process of final oxidation can last up to 2 weeks (at a dose of 50–100 g). Approximately 90% of the alcohol taken in is oxidized in the liver under the influence of a special enzyme, alcohol dehydrogenases, the remaining 10% of the dose is oxidized with the participation of other enzyme systems, excreted from the body with expired air, sweat and urine. If in the first hours after administration, the concentration of alcohol in the blood exceeds its concentration in the urine, then after 2.5–3 hours the inverse ratio is observed. Moreover, in the later stages of oxidation, alcohol may already be absent in the blood, but still in the urine.
The ability of alcohol to be rapidly absorbed into the blood determines its effect on almost all organs, because they are penetrated and surrounded by a whole network of blood vessels, and the penetration of alcohol into certain organs or tissues is the greater, the more abundant the blood network that nourishes them and thereby ensures metabolic processes . As you know, the blood supply to the brain is 16 times greater than that of the muscles of the limbs, which means that the brain is saturated with alcohol much faster than the muscles. At the same time, the rate of excretion from the brain and cerebrospinal fluid washing the brain and spinal cord lags behind the excretion of alcohol by other organs and tissues - its concentration in the brain tissue is higher and lasts longer than in the blood.
Not surprisingly, the nervous system primarily responds to alcohol intake. Such targeted selectivity of action on the cells of the nervous system is due to the fact that the so-called lipids (fat formations) contained in them in a large volume are easily dissolved by alcohol. So, alcohol, penetrating into the nerve cells, reduces their reactivity, while the activity of the cells of the cerebral cortex is disrupted, and then its effect spreads to the cells of the subcortical centers and the spinal cord. With a single and rare use of alcoholic beverages, these disorders are still reversible, while systematic ones lead to a persistent and diverse violation of the functions of nerve cells, to their structural degeneration and death.
It is known that the activity of a nerve cell is expressed in successive processes of excitation and inhibition. Alcohol primarily inhibits the process of inhibition in the cortex of the cerebral hemispheres. Due to the inhibition of inhibition processes in the nerve cells of the cortex, the subcortical centers of the brain are disinhibited. This explains the state of arousal, so typical of a picture of intoxication.
Alcohol intake, acting on the nervous system and disrupting its functions, causes a real chain reaction of changes in the activity of other body systems, which, on the basis of the feedback principle, in turn, indirectly exacerbate the initially occurring adverse effects, both transient and persistently expressed.
Let us explain this with a number of examples. So, alcohol intake, acting through the central nervous system, indirectly stimulates increased secretion of gastric juice. However, despite the increased amount of juice secreted by the wall of the stomach, it contains significantly less than normal digestive enzymes, its digestive ability is reduced.
Acting on the subcortical centers of the deep structures of the brain, alcohol affects the functioning of the vasomotor center of the medulla oblongata, which regulates, in particular, the surface vessels of the skin. And after drinking alcohol, the expansion of these vessels is subjectively perceived by the drunk person as a sensation of warmth. Hence the widespread misconception that alcohol has a warming effect. In fact, the opposite effect is observed - the expansion of the skin vessels leads only to increased heat transfer of the body.
The stronger the intoxication, and therefore the stronger the toxic effect of alcohol in relation to the medulla oblongata, the higher the heat transfer and, consequently, the body temperature begins to decrease faster. Such a discrepancy between the subjective perception of the sensation of warmth in a drunk person and the objectively occurring increased heat transfer of the body can lead to tragic consequences: in conditions of cold and frost, intoxicated can easily and quickly freeze.
Entering the body, unchanged alcohol is excreted by respiration, with saliva and mainly through the kidneys. So, being filtered from the blood through the renal tubules, alcohol not only irritates them, but also enhances the release along with it of many valuable and necessary substances for normal functioning of the body.
As a result, the electrolyte composition of the blood is disturbed, the content of elements such as potassium, sodium, calcium, magnesium in it. Each of these elements performs one or another important function for the body. So, with a lack of magnesium in the body, irritability, trembling of the hands, body, cramps are noted, blood pressure rises. Excess sodium leads to a delay and accumulation of fluid in the body.
Normally, the electrolyte composition of the blood is balanced, but a change in the blood content of only one of the elements causes an increase or decrease in the content of its other elements. In a person who has taken alcohol, the content of magnesium in the urine increases several times. Alcohol intake shifts the acid-base balance of blood towards acidity. This helps to increase the consumption of ascorbic acid, reduce the supply of vitamin B1 both in the blood and in the brain.
Alcohol inhibits the activity of enzymes that provide muscle contraction, as a result of which the energy balance changes, the oxidation of fatty acids, protein synthesis and calcium metabolism in muscle fibers are impaired. All this changes the power of muscle contraction and energy costs and contributes to muscle fatigue. Under the influence of alcoholic beverages, the metabolism of lactic acid is disrupted and its release is inhibited. Therefore, with varying degrees of renal failure, the content of toxins in the blood increases sharply, which increases the risk of uremia.
The use, and especially the abuse of alcohol, affecting the functions of the central nervous system, indirectly lead to violations of all the main types of metabolism - protein, carbohydrate, fat. It is characteristic that in this case, specific disorders occur in the functioning of body systems, such as cardiovascular, nervous, excretory, immune, endocrine and individual organs.
With regular intake of alcoholic beverages, an intermediate product of the oxidation of alcohol (acetaldehyde) can also lead to the formation of specific substances such as morphine, thus contributing to the formation of addiction - a painful craving for alcohol, which underlies chronic alcoholism.
Patients with chronic alcoholism often complain of periodically occurring pain (compressive) in the heart. This is due to specific changes in the heart muscle in most patients. The fact is that under the influence of alcohol, their heart muscle degenerates, the altered walls of the heart lose their elasticity, become flabby and cannot resist blood pressure: the heart grows in size, its cavities expand. And gradually the working capacity of the heart muscle decreases, blood circulation is disturbed. This is expressed in palpitations, shortness of breath, coughing, general weakness, and swelling.
Circulatory disorders in alcoholics and drunkards contribute to the occurrence of chronic coronary heart disease in them.
Small vessels expand, skin integuments acquire a cyanotic-crimson color on the face (everyone knows the “nose of an alcoholic”). In chronic alcohol intoxication, the walls of the vessels change, which leads to sclerosis of the vessels of the heart and brain. Violations of cardiac activity and blood circulation are also responsible for the increase in blood pressure and hypertensive crises that are so frequent in patients with alcoholism, threatening hemorrhage in the brain and subsequent paralysis, complete or partial.
Alcohol abuse leads to inflammatory changes in the kidneys, due to a violation of mineral metabolism, stones form in them. Especially often the liver is affected, which increases in volume, fat is deposited in its cells. It ceases to fulfill its main function - to neutralize toxic substances, including alcohol, its metabolic products, due to the replacement of liver tissue with fat. The amount of bile produced is reduced.
The liver damage in a patient with alcoholism is evidenced by pain, heaviness in the right hypochondrium, nausea. Developing hepatitis (inflammation of the liver) can later turn into an even more serious disease, most often ending in the death of a patient from cirrhosis. Chronic alcoholism is often its cause.
The irritating effect of alcoholic beverages on the mucous membranes and the consequences of intensive smoking of many drunkards and alcoholics cause inflammatory processes that they often encounter in the throat, often with damage to the vocal cords. In patients with alcoholism, as a rule, a hoarse and coarse voice, laryngeal cancer is often observed. Due to circulatory disorders in the lungs, they develop congestion, and the elasticity of the lung tissue is significantly reduced. Therefore, they are much more likely than non-drinkers to suffer from chronic bronchitis, pneumonia, emphysema. Weakening of the lungs is accompanied by a painful cough, profuse sputum production.
Systematic alcohol abuse not only greatly facilitates infection with tuberculosis and sexually transmitted diseases, but also significantly complicates their course. First of all, due to a sharp weakening due to drunkenness of the body's defenses. These are diseases of people who do not follow the rules of personal hygiene, abuse alcohol. Infections with sexually transmitted diseases in 9 cases out of 10 occurs in a state of intoxication.
With systematic drunkenness and alcoholism, pronounced changes occur not only in the central, but also in the peripheral nervous system. Many patients experience discomfort at the tips of the fingers and toes, a feeling of numbness and tingling in them. With prolonged alcohol abuse, paralysis of the limbs may develop. Inflammatory changes in the intercostal, sciatic and other nerves lead to serious consequences - neuralgia, neuritis, accompanied by constant pain, restriction of movement. The drinker becomes practically disabled.
All this leads to increased sensitivity to colds and infectious diseases that occur in patients, moreover, much harder than in non-drinkers, with severe and protracted complications. The severity and severity of diseases of the internal organs and nervous system are directly dependent on the duration of alcoholization, stage and rate of the course of alcoholism. The development of disorders begins already at the very early stages of alcohol abuse, and their frequency, severity increases with increasing intensity, duration of alcohol abuse and the severity of chronic alcoholism.
It is known that in patients with stage III alcoholism 1.9 times more often than in stage II, diseases of the internal organs are found, and certain symptoms of damage to the brain, spinal cord and peripheral nerves are noted in almost all patients with alcoholism. The frequency of diseases caused by alcohol increases by 4 times already with a twofold increase in alcohol consumption. According to foreign researchers, in people who abuse alcohol, in 60% of cases there is inflammation of the pancreas, in 26–83 - cardiomyopathy, in 15–20 - tuberculosis, in 10–20% - gastritis and peptic ulcers of the stomach.
At the same time, for a number of persons suffering from chronic alcoholism, for some time, signs of alcoholic damage to internal organs may be absent.
Alcoholism is a common cause of death for patients. The mortality rate of patients with alcoholism is almost 2 times higher than that of people who do not drink alcohol. Among the causes of mortality, alcoholism and related diseases occupy third place, second only to diseases of the cardiovascular system and malignant tumors. Thus, alcoholism itself serves as the direct cause of death or accelerates its onset: drunkards and alcoholics, as a rule, do not survive to old age, dying at working age, reduce their life expectancy by 10-12 years. So, domestic forensic experts believe that the fact of alcohol intoxication occurs in 2/3 of cases of violent and sudden death. At the same time, the relationship between the frequency of such types of death and the severity of intoxication is clearly traced. The mildest manifestations of alcohol intoxication were noted in 6.4% of accidents, moderate and severe intoxication - in 20.2%, and severe alcohol poisoning - in 45.9% of cases.
One of the direct causes of death in patients with alcoholism is suicide committed while intoxicated or hangover. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 12–21% of patients with alcoholism attempt suicide, and 2.8–8% commit suicide. But is it not suicidal systematic drunkenness leading to death as a result of illnesses and injuries, because the sad contribution of alcohol to various types of injuries is very indicative.
95% of patients with alcoholism suffer from alcoholic gastritis. Gastritis is a lesion of the gastric mucosa. It is characterized by disturbances in the function of the stomach with manifestations such as pain, heaviness in the epigastric region, poor appetite, bad breath, nausea, vomiting, upset stool, and weight loss. The secretion of the stomach can vary in a variety of ways: from a significant increase to a sharp deterioration. Often, alcoholic gastritis precedes the development of an even more serious and dangerous disease, such as peptic ulcer of the stomach and duodenum.
Alcoholic polyneuropathy, or, as they used to be called, polyneuritis, is a kind of disease that develops in people who abuse alcohol for a long time. The name "poly" means plural, "neuritis" - inflammation of the nerves. Under the influence of the chronic effects of alcohol on peripheral nerves, their degeneration occurs. All organs, including muscles, act, as is known, by the "order" of the nervous system and under the influence of impulses that pass through the nerve fibers, and with polyneuritis these fibers undergo profound changes right up to complete death. Accordingly, that part of the muscles and organs that was innervated by the affected nerves loses or drastically weakens its function. This disease is observed in about 1/3 of patients with alcoholism, mainly in its later stages.
Persons suffering from alcoholic polyneuritis, there are all kinds of unpleasant phenomena: "goosebumps", numbness, muscle tightening (especially lower extremities), all kinds of pains - pulling, burning, stitching; sharp weakness in the limbs is noted - the legs become like cotton. Convulsions often occur due to spasm of a certain muscle group.
Everyone saw a special hammer in the hands of a neuropathologist. Everyone knows the picture of how neuropathologists check tendon reflexes by tapping the hammer at certain points where the nerves come closer. Normally, under the influence of such strokes, nerve irritation occurs, which leads to a reduction in the muscle group innervated by him, and the leg trembles accordingly. In alcoholics, when hammering the same areas with a hammer, such muscle contractions do not occur, because the nerves that feed these muscle groups, as if out of order, atrophy and do not conduct impulses.
Особое место занимают сексуальные нарушения при алкоголизме, носящие чрезвычайно сложный характер. В основном они связаны с тем, что под влиянием хронической интоксикации алкоголем происходит грубейшие изменения гипофиза, надпочечников и половых желез. Происходит резкое снижение активности мужских гормонов и резко падает их производство. С другой стороны, в появлении сексуального расстройства имеют огромное значение общебиологические и микросоциальные условия: нарушение супружеских взаимоотношений, изменение социального и семейного положения и т.д.
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