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PATENT MEDICINES AND ANALGESICS: ALCOHOL

The chemical name for alcohol is ethyl alcohol. Mixed with water in varying proportions, it is found in spirits, wine and beer. It is part of the social tradition of many countries.

After drinking, alcohol is absorbed into the bloodstream and its effect lasts up to several hours. In most people it produces feelings of relaxation and pleasure.

Alcohol is addictive for some people, though it is not as addictive as heroin. Doctors tend to call these people alcoholics rather than 'ethyl alcohol addicts', though the latter is just as good a description. It is the mood-altering effect of ethyl alcohol in drinks - whether in beer, cider and spirits or in a bottle of vintage wine - which alcoholics seek.

How often

Alcoholics may be daily drinkers, drinking round the clock from morning to night. Or they may start drinking only in the evening. As the alcohol stays in the bloodstream for many hours, the alcoholic can go for quite some time between drinks. It takes the body about an hour to process one ounce of alcohol.

Some alcoholics have a discontinuous pattern of 'binge drinking'. They may be sober for days, weeks or even months, and then go off on a drinking spree.

Health risks

  1. Lifestyle. In the later stages of the illness, alcoholics forget to eat and do not look after themselves. Accidents are also common. Crime, violence and sometimes prostitution occur among alcoholics.
  2. Ulcers, liver disease, heart trouble, circulatory disease and brain damage are some of the results of alcoholic drinking.
  3. Depression, paranoia and memory impairment are among the mental effects of the illness.
  4. Overdose. Overdosing on alcohol alone is rare, but accidental overdoses from a combination of drink and drugs are not uncommon - as hospital casualty departments at weekends know only too well.

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WHAT MAKES AN ADDICT DECIDE TO STOP?

Let's pause here and consider why addicts decide to stop using drugs and get well. Such a decision isn't an easy one for them. Addicts fear withdrawal and they cannot conceive of a life without drugs. So why do they stop taking drugs?

STOP HELPING THE ADDICT STAY ILL...

LET THE ADDICT SUFFER THE CONSEQUENCES...

INTERVENING TO MAKE THE ADDICT SEEK HELP...

LETTING THE ADDICT KNOW HOW YOU FEEL...