According to the World Health Organization 2013, spinal cord injuries (SCI) overuse and abuse alcohol at twice the rate of the general population. With a litany of reasons such as a decline of independence, a decline of mobility, a loss of a marital stress, health problems, isolation and unemployment at a 60% global rate, alcohol dependence among SCI is not surprising. However, in my cohort of individuals the consequences of such alcohol abuse can be far more adverse and devastating than in the general population.
In SCI, body systems already compromised and not functioning at an optimum may suffer serious health problems from regular alcohol intoxication. Alcohol can speed up or slow down the effects of prescription drugs whilst in combination with antibiotics can result in alcohol intolerance. Alcohol intolerance may lead to rapid pulse, vomiting, palpitations, breathing too fast to name but a few ill effects.
SCI tend to take more medications and mixing of such with alcohol is a dangerous cocktail. Alcohol in conjunction with daily medications may result in drowsiness, impaired coordination and lack of judgement leading to all sorts of problems. Weight shifting or transferring safely may be affected causing major safety issues especially for SCI living alone due to risks of falls.
Pain is a serious problem for the majority of SCI with chronic pain lasting anything from three months to a number of years. Those using alcohol as a method to ease pain can often heighten their problems by increasing symptoms of depression. An estimated 20-30% of people with spinal cord injury already show clinically significant signs of depression. Those suffering from depression are highly susceptible to pain and thus binge drinking for analgesic purposes have a knock on effect of ultimately making the pain worse.
Finally, alcohol use causes water loss, making you urinate more often. A binge can disrupt a SCI regular catheterization program resulting in the development of a bladder or kidney infection. Water loss from the skin can also increase the risk of pressure sores, detrimental to the health of a SCI.
So next time you feel like reaching for the bottle fellow SCI, consider the cons before making your decision as to whether it is a worthwhile endeavour or not!!!