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What are the health and lifestyle outcomes of alcohol use and/or abuse?

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Alcohol is a substance legal in many parts of the world for consumption by adults. The affects of alcohol vary among individuals. As all drugs, alcohol affects children more than adults, and thus many societies restrict the age at which it is legal to consume alcohol. Some ethnic groups (especially Native Americans) and individuals have a genetic predisposition to alcohol addiction and cannot drink alcohol safely. While among certain groups and cultures moderate consumption of alcohol  (no more than 1-2 units a day, 5 days a week) has been shown to have some health benefits, particularly for cardiac health, excessive drinking, especially binge drinking (in which large quantities of alcohol are consumed over a short period) is especially dangerous, often resulting in liver damage or death. Also, when drunk, people can engage in a variety of high risk behaviours, including unprotected sexual encounters and drunk driving.

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Alcohol use is the acceptable drug in our society, so that many people who would never use an illegal drug use alcohol. If controlled and used lightly, the effects are minimal and may be beneficial.  Young people addict to alcohol far faster than adults, and the effects are much stronger. Their bodies begin to need alcohol as a flight from feelings or problems, and their need grows at a far faster pace.  

Alcohol can be considered a gateway drug if the person becomes addicted to alcohol and to the lifestyle. They begin to lose their straight friends as they ever up the days they use.  Often the weekend is the start, but soon they add days until it is everyday.  Alcohol becomes the food they eat which plays havoc with their bodies.  

Behaviorally, they can carry on with school or jobs for a while, but the alcohol soon destroys that as they are not often sober.  The lifestyle outcome is often jail.  They lose their families.  Their health becomes precarious as the sugar in alcohol often leads to diabetes.  Their liver is affected also often to the point of death.  Hallucinations are common in the last stages of addiction.

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