The Problem and its Background
Alcohol may be the world's oldest known drug. Fermented grain, fruit juice and honey have been used to make alcohol (ethyl alcohol or ethanol) for thousands of years. The production of products containing alcohol has become big business in today's society and the consumption and abuse of alcohol has become a major public health problem. The effects of alcohol abuse range from a mild hang over to mass destruction, disease and deaths on a huge scale. Alcohol use in moderation has little or no ill effects either for the user or those around them. But the misuse of what has become one of the world's most dangerous drugs takes a devastating toll on both the drinker and on society as a whole. Most agree that the occasional alcoholic drink never hurt anyone. The real danger lies in binge drinking and the development of a tolerance to alcohol, which causes the drinker to consume every greater quantities of booze in a bid to regain that original but elusive feeling of well being. Some of the neuro chemical effects of alcohol are:
| * Increased turnover of norepinephrine and dopamine
| * Decreased transmission in acetylcholine systems
| * Increased transmission in GABA systems
| * Increased production of beta-endorphin in the hypothalamus
| Chronic drinking can lead to dependence and addiction to alcohol and to additional neurological problems. Typical symptoms of withholding alcohol from someone who is addicted to it are shaking (tremors), sleep problems and nausea. More severe withdrawal symptoms include hallucinations and even seizures for young drinkers. Chronic alcohol use can:
| * Damage the frontal lobes of the brain
| * Cause an overall reduction in brain size and increase in the size of the ventricles.
| * Lead to alcoholism (addiction to alcohol) and result in tolerance to the effects of alcohol and variety of health problems.
| * Cause a vitamin deficiency. Because the digestion system of alcoholics is unable to absorb vitamin B-1 (thiamine), a syndrome known as "Wernicke's Encephalopathy" may develop. This syndrome is characterized by impaired memory, confusion and lack of coordination. Further deficiencies of thiamine can lead to "Korsakoff's Syndrome". This disorder is characterized by amnesia, apathy and disorientation. Widespread disease of the brain is a feature of both Wernicke's and Korsakoff's Syndromes.
If alcoholism is a disease, then it is one of the greatest epidemics of modern times. While no real consensus exists among experts in the field concerning how alcoholism in the youth should be defined, recent statistics indicate that 10 million American students are classified as alcoholics (i.e., those with chronic, problematic drinking patterns). According to a recent Gallup Poll, one out of three persons reported that alcohol abuse had caused trouble in their families. Heavy drinking is involved in 60% of violent crimes, 30% of suicides, and 80% of fire and drowning accidents. Every 22 minutes a drunk driver kills someone. Alcoholism is involved in a quarter of all admissions to general hospitals, and its abuse years estimated to cost our society 50 billion dollars per year.In light of these statistics and the personal experience of many people who struggle with this issue as a daily burden, addressing the problem of alcoholism cannot be regarded as optional. The analysis of alcoholism in the youth as an essentially moral problem is not without biblical support. Consider Paul's words in Eph. 5:18, "Do not get drunk on wine which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit." This passage is of particular importance for two reasons. First, it clearly teaches that drunkenness is a sin (cf., Gal. 5:19). This does not, of course, teach that drinking per se is wrong. Rather, it teaches that being controlled by the substance is...
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