Alcohol causes over 200 diseases and is currently the third preventable risk factor for death. According to recent data published in the Lancet in 2020, the use of alcoholic beverages is the number one cause of disability in the age group 25-49, and the number one cause of death in the age group under 25. The toxic effect of alcoholic beverages is manifested in both acute and chronic. Symptoms and severity of acute intoxication vary according to the alcohol level, starting with euphoria, motor incoordination, mental confusion, ethyl coma and, last but not least, cardiorespiratory arrest.
Alcohol, that extra glass that makes the liver sick. To risk teenagers and the elderly
by Irma D’Aria
The numbers are also growing in our country. According to recent data, the percentage of accesses to Emergency Departments / First Aid for acute alcoholic poisoning has increased by 47% in the last 5 years (Nationwide Emergency Department Sample data) with an increase in related costs of 272%. This figure is probably linked to the spread and increase of the phenomenon of binge drinking (Bd), particularly among the youngest, including adolescents. By Bd we mean the intake of 4 or more alcoholic units in women and 5 or more in men, on a single occasion and in a short time. Considering that up to the age of 18 the enzymatic systems for “digesting” alcohol were not formed, any use, even modest, is to be considered harmful, and the Bd modality amplifies its toxicity.
A recent study by our group in high schools in Lazio, supported by the Rome Foundation, and published in Scientific Reports, found that, of the 2704 adolescents evaluated, 48% reported drinking alcohol in the Bd mode; of these, 6.6% already met the criteria for Alcohol Use Disorder (Aud) and / or alcohol dependence. But how is alcohol abuse defined? Consumption is measured in Alcoholic Units or Drinks, equivalent to about 12-15 grams of ethanol, which corresponds to a glass of wine, a 33 cl bottle of beer or a glass of spirits. Proper use requires a maximum of two drinks per day for men and one for women, provided that there are no medical, social or occupational contraindications.
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Exceeding these doses, damage occurs on all organs and systems, at the hepatic, cardiac, cerebral, hormonal, metabolic, reproductive levels, and increases the risk of cancer. Alcohol is, in fact, in the classification of the International Agency for Research on Cancer among certain carcinogens, such as smoking. The rule to follow is “less is more” and if you realize that you are a drinker at risk, consult your doctor quickly to start a treatment process.
Particularly at risk of Aud is the homeless population, for whom it has always been deemed unable to intervene. In collaboration with the Holy See and the Community of Sant’Egidio, in line with the “mission” of the Catholic University, we have created a path to ensure access to primary care for them. With results, published in Alcohol & Alcoholism in 2020, which showed similar successes to the general population. All topics addressed a few days ago at the “Meet the expert” of the EASL (European Association for the study of the liver), with professor Marsha Morgan of the Royal University College of London.
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