Physical complications

The mortality rate in alcoholics is about three times the general population rate.

Liver damage includes acute hepatitis, fatty infiltration, and cirrhosis. In men, cirrhosis seldom develops until heavy drinking has continued for at least 5 years, but women are more vulnerable. Cirrhosis has a high mortality rate even in those who become totally abstinent.

In pregnancy, heavy drinking may cause abortion, stillbirth, or the 'foetal alcohol syndrome', comprising microcephaly and other deformities, and learning disability.

Other physical consequences include peptic ulcer, pancreatitis, gastritis, cardiomyopathy, myopathy, gout, vitamin deficiencies, drug interactions (the effect of psychotropic drugs may be either enhanced or reduced), and raised susceptibility to infections, including tuberculosis and malignancies.

Accidents, including road accidents, and accidental deaths are common. Suicide is the cause of death in about 15 per cent of alcoholics, and 50 per cent of nonfatal self-poisonings are combined with alcohol.

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