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The overconsumption of alcohol (also known as ethanol) is a national and global problem. Since 2015, chronic alcohol abuse was the cause of death for 9-10% of examined natural deaths at the Travis County Medical Examiner’s Office. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, it is recommended that men do not consume more than four alcoholic beverages in a day or more than 14 in a week. For women, it is recommended that no more than three alcoholic beverages in a day or 10 in a week be consumed. This refers to standard size drinks, such as 12 oz of beer, 5 oz of wine, or 1.5 oz of hard liquor. Binge drinking is when a person routinely consumes enough alcohol to have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of greater than 0.08 mg/dL (the legal limit of intoxication), which typically comes out to at least 4 drinks for women and 5 drinks for men within a 2 hour period.

When a person consumes alcohol, it is metabolized by the liver, causing temporary liver inflammation and the storage of fat in the liver cells. Over years of increased chronic alcohol consumption, this inflammation leads to permanent scarring of the liver or cirrhosis. As the liver metabolizes drugs and produces important proteins for the body, liver failure due to cirrhosis is ultimately fatal without a liver transplant. Classically, a person with end stage liver disease can develop bright to dark yellow discoloration of the skin and sclerae (whites of the eyes), also known as jaundice and icterus respectively. Fluid can buildup in the body cavities, often leading to painful distention of the abdomen which may need to be drained at the hospital every few days. Liver cirrhosis also increases the risk of liver cancer.

Alcoholism also affects other organ systems, even before cirrhosis is fully formed. Like the liver, the pancreas can also become inflamed, which can lead to significant abdominal pain, vomiting, pancreatic scarring, and death if not treated. High blood pressure is also a consequence of alcoholism, which increases the risk of sudden death by an abnormal heart rhythm. Liver cirrhosis leads to the dilatation of the veins adjacent to the stomach and esophagus, causing them to be prone to rupture and bleeding. The stomach and intestines are also at increased risk of developing ulcers, which can also bleed and leading to vomiting (often resembling coffee grounds) or bloody or tar-like diarrhea. The spleen can be enlarged secondary to liver cirrhosis, sometimes retaining platelets (minute blood clotting cells) and increasing the risk of bleeding. The kidney function can also decrease with liver function, and the accumulation of toxins due to decreased liver function can affect the brain, leading to confusion or even coma.

If a person has a history of heavy alcohol consumption, it is not recommended to completely stop drinking alcohol, particularly without medical supervision, as alcohol withdrawal can lead to dangerous seizures. Other symptoms of alcohol withdrawal include hallucinations, anxiety, insomnia, sweating, nausea/vomiting, and shaky hands. More severe withdrawal symptoms, also known as delirium tremens or DTs, include seizures, racing heartrate, high blood pressure, fever and vivid hallucinations or delusions. Alcohol withdrawal seizures can even occur weeks after cessation.  

TAX RATE: TRAVIS COUNTY ADOPTED A TAX RATE THAT WILL RAISE MORE TAXES FOR MAINTENANCE AND OPERATIONS THAN LAST YEAR'S TAX RATE. THE TAX RATE WILL EFFECTIVELY BE RAISED BY 3.6 PERCENT AND WILL RAISE TAXES FOR MAINTENANCE AND OPERATIONS ON A $100,000 HOME BY APPROXIMATELY $11.00.

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