People become addicted to alcohol for a variety of reasons. Some start drinking because their…
“Mike and Molly” Alcoholism Joke Stirs Anger
“Now don’t say you can’t swear off drinking; it’s easy. I’ve done it a thousand times.”
— W.C. Fields
Society appears to have lost its affection for Hollywood’s lovable drunk. The antics of W.C. Fields are truly sad today. The way Dudley Moore played Arthur, the character seemed unaware that he was sick. Now, Hollywood’s jokey take on alcoholism has stirred the ire of the Navajo Nation after the popular “Mike & Molly” television show referred to Native Americans as a bunch of drunks.
“You can see somebody who is drunk and tripping over themselves and it’s easy to make fun of them,” said Erny Zah, a spokesman for the Navajo Nation. “But the disease itself isn’t funny.” The group is demanding an apology from CBS.
Alcoholism is a true medical illness and nothing to laugh about. A sufferer’s addiction will most likely continue, unabated, without proper substance abuse treatment. Most people who are addicted to alcohol use drinking as a way to deal with life’s emotional stressors; without alcohol, they would be unable to cope with day-to-day problems. Only a small percentage of those afflicted with the illness stop drinking on their own. In fact, professional intervention is often necessary to get someone to agree to go to rehab.
Many alcoholics continue to resist help even when it is obvious to everyone around them that alcohol is destroying their lives. Because it is a depressant, alcohol is an extremely effective sedative and provides quick relief from anxiety. However, in addition to providing stress relief, alcohol causes long-term problems that can be difficult to overcome. An alcoholic may show up late for work or miss the workday altogether. While the individual may have started drinking to blunt stress at work, he or she will soon face the stress of having to find a new job.
When an alcoholic is resistant to treatment, even warnings about worst-case scenarios go unheard. This doesn’t mean that the alcoholic doesn’t care, but it does indicate how strong the addiction to alcohol can become. When one understands how alcohol and addiction work on the brain, it’s entirely understandable why reasoning with an alcoholic can prove fruitless.
Humans have a primitive desire to live, and alcoholics are no different. Near-misses can be enough to bring someone back from the brink of self-destruction and, occasionally, hearing in graphic detail what physical ailments could befall them can change an alcoholic’s behavior. Television ads featuring people on oxygen machines or in the throes of end-stage lung cancer were extremely effective in encouraging people to stop smoking.
In an effort to reach that primitive part of the alcoholic’s brain that remains interested in self-preservation, here are four ways alcohol can kill.
1. Liver Failure
The liver is not an optional organ. We need it to collect and eliminate waste and toxic substances from our bodies. Alcohol is a highly toxic substance and almost all the alcohol we consume eventually makes its way to the liver. But prolonged alcohol use causes inflammation of the liver, or hepatitis. If left untreated, this swelling will leave scar tissue, or cirrhosis, in up to 33% of heavy drinkers. The more scar tissue in a liver, the less efficient the organ becomes because scar tissue means cell death.
Eventually, cirrhosis will cause the liver to fail. Symptoms include jaundice, pain and liver enlargement. Unless a transplant occurs, the inability of the liver to effectively remove toxins from the body will eventually lead to death. But don’t expect doctors to jump at the chance to transplant a healthy liver into an alcoholic — most patients need to be substance free for a certain period of time before a hospital will consider the procedure.
It often seems as though most of what we eat, drink, breathe or even just come in contact with has the potential to cause cancer. Alcohol, however, is one of the big bad wolves. Not only does alcohol cause cancer on its own by damaging body tissues, it also weakens the immune system, rendering it useless against carcinogenic invaders that the immune systems of non-drinkers can fight off. In some instances, alcohol even enhances the carcinogenic effect of other carcinogenic substances like tobacco.
The most common type of cancer associated with alcoholism is liver cancer. This is due in large part to the chronic inflammation that alcohol causes. However, pancreatic cancer and colon cancer run a close second, most likely due to the fact that alcohol is converted to the carcinogenic substance acetaldehyde. In addition, some alcoholics experience cancer of the mouth, throat and esophagus — three areas that alcohol physically touches. This is especially true in alcoholics who smoke.
3. Heart Attack and Stroke
Too much alcohol intake can increase the level of triglycerides in the blood stream; the fat clogs blood vessels, which can lead to heart attack or stroke. It also raises blood pressure, which can have a similar effect. The fact that each gram of alcohol accounts for seven calories means that replacing meals composed of protein or carbohydrates (worth four calories each) with alcoholic beverages will likely lead to weight gain. Chronic alcoholism over a period of years can cause an alcoholic to become obese. Obesity leads to heart disease — and the cycle continues.
4. Physical Trauma
Drunk drivers are a risk to themselves and others. About two-thirds of drunk-driving fatalities are the drunk drivers themselves. In many cases, the person had prior drunk driving incidents on his or her record.