- Excessive amounts of alcohol can have adverse effects on physical, mental and social health.
- Alcohol in the blood is metabolised to form a metabolite called acetaldehyde
- Acetaldehyde is a potent oxidant that leads to the production of free radicals (unstable particles) that cause tissue damage and interfere with bio-chemical processes - this accounts for many of the damaging effects of alcohol in the body.
The issue of alcohol abuse in South Africa
can be traced back to the early years of
Dutch farmers coming to the Cape implemented the 'dop' system (mostly in the Western Cape) in which 'African workers' were paid in alcohol in addition to their wages.
Through this mechanism South Africans became accustomed to heavy drinking and alcohol abuse.
As a result of its history, alcohol has become an important social aspect in the lives of many South Africans of various races and cultures, and consequently has raised many public health concerns.
In the early 1900's laws were made in attempt to control the drinking of the "natives" - with this came the increase of illegal shebeens which lead to "unmonitored drinking" and alcohol abuse.
Binge drinking is common practice in South Africa where people remain without drinking alcohol for a period of time only to drink excessively on weekends and at parties.
ALCOHOLIC LIVER DISEASE
- In South Africa, one of the most common causes of cirrhosis is chronic (and excessive) alcohol consumption It is the 5th leading cause of death and kills approximately 25 000 people a year.
- Cirrhosis refers to the irreversible damage to the liver which is defined by the abnormal regeneration of hepatocytes (liver cells) surrounded by fibrous tissue (dense collagen) - this results in the liver becoming 'nodular', hard and shrunken with over-all architectural disturbance.
- Typical of alcoholic cirrhosis is the micronodular pattern - however macronodular cirrhosis associated with alcoholism can also occur.The fibrosis in the tissue results in intereference with the vascular communication between portal sytems and hepatic veins in the liver parenchyma. This leads to portal hypertension and portosystemic shunts, which contribute to features such as: ascites, oesphageal varices, congestive splenomegaly