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Alcoholism is a serious problem in America today. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) estimates that about 18 million people in the United States either abuse alcohol or are alcoholic. Across all age groups, men are four times as likely as women to be heavy drinkers. But the truth is that alcoholism at any age can cause major health-related problems, and some 100,000 people die each year from alcohol-related problems.
The harmful physical effects of alcoholism are well documented and include liver disease, lung disease, compromised immune system, endocrine disorders, and changes to the brain. In adolescents, particularly those who begin drinking at an early age (at or before age 14) and continue to heavy drinking, harm can result to the liver, bones, endocrine system, and interfere with brain growth. It is important to note that adolescents’ brains are still in the process of developing during the teenage years.
While alcoholism is a chronic and progressive disease, the early symptoms are generally behavioral and not physical. The majority of medical problems typically occur in the later, or chronic, stage of alcoholism. If you are waiting to see if these physical signs to appear to make a determination that your loved one is an alcoholic or has alcoholism, it may already have progressed to a serious debilitating condition.
Fortunately, diagnosis of alcohol abuse or dependence can be made earlier and treatment can be initiated to get the affected individual on the road to recovery.
Following are some of the problems – general symptoms and major body systems – that are involved in late-stage alcoholism:
In addition, heavy drinking during pregnancy can result in Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), causing a range of physical, behavioral, and learning effects in the developing fetus.