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Ask your Pharmacist: Alcohol health risks Part 1

Tuesday, 25th February, 2014 3:16pm

Ask your Pharmacist: Alcohol health risks Part 1

Eamonn Brady is a pharmacist and the owner of Whelehans Pharmacy, Pearse St, Mullingar. If you have any health questions e-mail them to

lcohol is safe if drank in moderation. Alcohol releases endorphins in the brain which is why it makes us feel good (and why it is so addictive); it also affects the area of the brain that causes inhibition which is why it makes us talk more and feel more relaxed. With Lent starting on March 5th, it is a time many people give up something such as alcohol so for the next few weeks I will discuss the dangers of alcohol if taken in excess. This is the first of three articles on the subject.

Tonic or poison?

Alcohol can be described as both a tonic and a poison. The difference between “tonic and poison” lies in the dose. Moderate levels of alcohol can be beneficial for the heart and circulatory system, and may protect against diabetes and gallstones. However excessive alcohol intake can cause many health problems and premature death. While alcohol is an enjoyable social lubricant, we must also remember that alcohol is drug. The drug in alcohol is “ethanol” which affects the brain, heart, stomach, liver and gallbladder. It affects many other common functions including inflammation, coagulation (blood’s ability to clot), cholesterol and insulin levels. It also alters mood, concentration, and coordination. These affects lead to serious health problems if used in excess. As alcohol is a drug, it also interacts dangerously with many medicines, including paracetamol and other painkillers, antidepressants, epilepsy drugs and sedatives. Alcohol is very addictive and your tendency to become addicted is also thought to be hereditary (ie) those with a family history of alcohol problems are more at risk.

How do you know if you’re drinking too much alcohol?

You could be drinking excessively if: You feel you need to cut down on drinking. You feel guilty or ashamed about your drinking. Other people are critical of how much you drink. Sometimes have memory loss of drinking sessions. You need a drink first thing in the morning to settle nerves or ease a hangover. Drink at least a few drinks every day. Regularly go binge drinking. Not doing as expected due to drinking (eg) missing an appointment or work due to being drunk or hungover.

Community Alcohol and Drug Service (CADS)

The HSE Community Alcohol and Drug Service offer counselling and treatment services for adults suffering from addiction to alcohol, drugs and gambling. CADS have centres in Mullingar, Athlone and Longford. CADS provides counselling and treatment to help people get over their addiction. CADS also help support family members of people suffering from addiction problems and family members can attend counselling in their own right. All services are totally confidential. You can refer yourself to the service directly. All referrals must be made with the consent of the person being referred. You can contact them at 04493 41630. Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) offer great support to those battling alcohol addiction. (more info on AA in the coming weeks).

To be continued next week

More detailed information and leaflets is available in Whelehans

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