Home » Expert Q & A » Alcoholism » Alcoholism: Dr. James Strawbridge

Alcohol Liver Disease

  • anonymous Asks ...

    I am a long time heavy drinker. What are signs that I need to be on the look out for that would point out that I am starting to damage my liver?

  • Dr. James Strawbridge Says ...
    Dr. James Strawbridge

    Alcohol is a drug, and if you are addicted to alcohol, you are an alcoholic. Alcohol is a compound---CH2  CH5 OH---an  ether like substance, a sedative hypnotic drug.

    Addictionologist G. Douglas Talbott, M.D. states that your brain has no more idea than a pussycat does whether you O. D.’d on alcohol, meprobamate, miltown,Equanil, Phenobarbital, Valium, Librium, or any one of dozens of other sedative hypnotic drugs. The brain gets the same message from sleeping pills and tranquilizers as it does from the beverage alcohol. But many aren't ready to look at that yet.

    If you take a bottle of beer or wine or any kind of alcoholic beverage---scotch, bourbon, after-dinner liqueurs, gin, vodka---whatever alcohol beverage you want---take away the color and the taste, stick in a spigot, and drip off the water, you have ether. The body and the brain have no idea whether you’re in an operating room, breathing ether from a mask on your face, or in a field drinking beer. The chemical message to the body and brain is the same.

    Alcohol can damage the liver, leading to inflammation (alcohol hepatitis) and swelling of the liver. Over time, this inflammation and damage progress to form scar tissue, resulting in cirrhosis of the liver. Cirrhosis of the liver is the end stage of alcoholic liver disease. Symptoms of alcohol liver disease include abdominal pain, tenderness, jaundice (yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes), fatigue, and nausea. After cirrhosis has developed, fluid buildup in the legs and fluid collection in the abdomen are common. Bleeding problems may also occur. Malnutrition is a common complication.

    Alcohol liver disease is a serious condition that continues to get worse if alcohol consumption is not discontinued, along with other essential treatment. Late-stage symptoms can also include confusion and mental status changes, excitability, impaired memory, and difficulty with movement. 

    I would suggest that you seek medical care for serious symptoms, such as constant weakness, dizziness, problems with thinking and memory, hallucinations, mood changes such as agitation, extreme fatigue, fainting, fever (especially if combined with a swollen abdomen), vomiting (possibly with blood),   

Featured Experts