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Drinking heavily puts people at risk for many adverse health consequences, including alcoholism, liver damage, and various cancers. But some people appear to be at greater risk than others for developing these problems. Why do some people drink more than others? And why do some people who drink develop problems, whereas others do not?
Research shows that alcohol use and alcohol-related problems are influenced by individual variations in alcohol metabolism, or the way in which alcohol is broken down and eliminated by the body. Alcohol metabolism is controlled by genetic factors, such as variations in the enzymes that break down alcohol; and environmental factors, such as the amount of alcohol an individual consumes and his or her overall nutrition.
Alcohol is metabolized by several processes or pathways. The most common of these pathways involves two enzymes — alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) and aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH). These enzymes help break apart the alcohol molecule, making it possible to eliminate it from the body. First, ADH metabolizes alcohol to acetaldehyde, a highly toxic substance and known carcinogen. Then, in a second step, acetaldehyde is further metabolized down to another, less active byproduct called acetate, which then is broken down into water and carbon dioxide for easy elimination.
Alcohol metabolism and cancer — Alcohol consumption can contribute to the risk for developing different cancers, including cancers of the upper respiratory tract, liver, colon or rectum, and breast. This occurs in several ways, including through the toxic effects of acetaldehyde.
Alcoholic liver disease — As the chief organ responsible for the breakdown of alcohol, the liver is particularly vulnerable to alcohol metabolism’s effects. More than 90 percent of people who drink heavily develop fatty liver, a type of liver disease. Yet only 20 percent will go on to develop the more severe alcoholic liver disease and liver cirrhosis.
Effects of alcohol on the liver — Alcohol metabolism inhibits B-oxidation of fatty acids and increases lipogenesis. This leads to accumulation of fat in the liver, which in turn leads to steatosis. Alcohol metabolism also inhibits Kreb’s cycle and gluconeogenesis. Additionally, high toxic levels of acetaldehyde and free radicals will destroy hepatocytes leading to hepatitis and cirrhosis.
Yes, but it’s not simple. Because addiction is a chronic disease, people can’t simply stop using drugs for a few days and be cured. Most patients need long-term or repeated care to stop using completely and recover their lives.
Medical detox programs are designed to help. People enrolling in these programs provide their bodies with the opportunity to process leftover drugs and return to a sober, successful level of function. That work is done in a safe, secure, and supervised environment.
At a basic level, detox is a perfectly natural process. Drugs enter the body, and the body’s systems work to process the chemicals. Cells in the liver purify the blood. Cells in the digestive system process alcohol. Cells in the kidneys move waste out of the body altogether. It’s an efficient and perfectly natural system that the body uses to heal.
All previous methods are wrong and have many problems.
Medical detox is different. Here, people have supervision and support as they detox, so they won’t be forced to deal with changes and cravings without help.
Often, medical detox teams use medications to blunt the force of withdrawal symptoms, so people can move through the process without feeling ill. Inpatient detox begins with evaluations. Teams determine:
Teams pull together a medical detox protocol that encompasses medications, nutrition, emotional support, and alternative medicine.
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