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What medical health risks does alcohol addiction cause?

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Addiction Medicine Specialist
Practicing since : 2002
Answered : 1486 Questions
My husband is an alcoholic. He is 43. He has been drinking since I met him 23 years ago and was drinking prior to us meeting. He drinks roughly 5-7 beers Mon - Thur. Friday, Saturday, Sunday probably another 30 beers. Only drinks beer, sometimes wine or spirits. Here are some of the things that have happened in the past few years. He went to a dermatologist for some skin condition. They ordered lab tests. He had the blood tests done and was unable to receive medication for the skin condition due to the results of the lab tests. He didn't tell me why, but chose to continue to drink rather than improve his health and get the medication. He's contracted pneumonia twice in past 3 years. He has a fat face and a large beer gut. I notice him itching the top of his belly (beer gut) on occassion. He snores. He has bad breath. When he sleeps I notice fast shallow breathing. Has involuntary leg 'kicks' while sleeping. Coughs up phlem every morning. Complained the other day of his right foot being swollen. Seems to be complaining of heart burn more and more. Balding. I think his short term memory is going to hell. I will tell him something and he will ask me the same question I just told him 5 minutes ago. He repeats himself sometimes. He has totaled 2 cars in past 2 years, but yet has never had a DWI. He is crabby in the morning. Picks fights with me and accuses me of crazy stuff. Seems fatigued. Often takes 2-4 hour naps on Saturday and Sunday. Does go to work everyday. There have been a few occasions he has called in sick due to being out drinking the night before. His tolerance seems to be very high. He rarely seems 'drunk,' even after 12 beers. Noticed he starts drinking around 9 am on the weekends. Drinks and drives (literally). Urine seems more orange rather than light yellow. Rarely vomits from drinking. Seems healthy, but complains of colds and sore throats a few times a year (more than what I would consider normal). He is overweight, close to obese. 6'1 225 Lbs. Was at a party, fell and broke collar bone. I picked him up, went to ER, got some Vicodin and went BACK TO THE PARTY! Another instance was he was at a party and got up from the chair and fell flat on his face. He blacked out for that second or two and didn't know what was going on until he got up from the floor. Of course he was drinking both those instances. Otherwise I don't think he ever blacks out. Woke one morning after a long night of drinking and complained of sore ribs - like they were bruised. That was the upper left side of his ribs. Also complained of a bruise on the back of his head. He does not recall how he could have gotten these 'bruises.' He is lazy, doesn't exercize. His personality has changed. Often irritated, negative, and has become very selfish. He has never stopped drinking (even when taking medications for pneumonia and broken collar bone), so I would not know if he would experience withdrawal symptoms. He hasn't had a physical since I have known him and I asked him to see a Dr. not too long ago. His response was that he won't see a Dr. until he has 6 more months to live. Therefore, he doesn't believe he has a problem, in fact I am the one with the problem because I 'perceive' he has a problem. I am wondering about those lab tests. I am thinking his liver enzymes were elevated and that is why he could not get the medication. Or were those tests done for his kidneys? As I said, he won't see a Doctor because he doesn't have a problem. I realize you cannot give anyone a 'prognosis' without seeing a patient, but I am wondering with all of these circumstances, could you give me a heads up as to what I am looking at? Compared to other alcoholics with similar symptoms, what was their outcome? This is extremely frustrating and hurtful for myself and my children. I would appreciate any thoughts or advise. I am concerned with my husbands health, not mine so please don't advise Me to seek help, I already have. Thank You
Posted Thu, 30 Jan 2014 in Smoking and Alcohol Addiction
Answered by Dr. Preeti Parakh 59 minutes later
Brief Answer: As below. Detailed Answer: Hi, Welcome to Healthcare Magic! You have rightly perceived that your husband has a problem with alcohol, though he himself is willing to accept that. I also agree with you that the dermatologist most probably found elevated liver enzymes. Regarding his prognosis, I guess it will still take a few more years for his liver to become irreversibly damaged. That is, if he stops now, I feel that with time, most of the damage can be reversed. Once the damage progresses and cirrhosis of liver sets in, quitting alcohol does not make much of a difference but just delays the progression. It is true that there a quite a few years before he reaches that stage, but there is always the risk of getting into accidents and sustaining injuries because of being drunk. You have already narrated some such incidents. These can harm him more than the liver damage right now. Since he is unwilling to accept that he has a problem, there is no point in your seeking help from doctors. But in my opinion, you should enlist the help of family members or friends whose opinion he holds in high regard. Perhaps if someone other than you talks to him, he may listen. Or it may be a word from his boss in office, if you can arrange that without your husband coming to know about it. The other thing you can do is to make him take B complex vitamin supplements to counter some of the damage that is occurring, especially to his brain. I hope something good comes out of this. Please feel free to ask if you need any clarifications. Best wishes. Dr Preeti Parakh MD Psychiatry
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