The Anatomy Lesson of Dr Moore

Article excerpt

DRINK

VICTORIA MOORE gets red-faced at the surgery

For the first time in years, I went to see a doctor. I try to avoid doctors because I consider them to be people who will tell me that I am diseased, rather than people who heal. Anyway, the doctor asked me about my alcohol consumption, which I already knew to be way too high.

On that particular day, I had tasted six wines the night before and drunk a shot of very nice tequila for breakfast (I was interviewing someone about his new off-licence--it wasn't my fault), so I drew a deep breath and confessed to 30 units a week. "You do know it should be no more than 14," said my doctor. I nodded, and no more was said. But it prompted me to look at some of the short-term effects (I could not face the long-term ones) that alcohol has on the body.

Alcohol is absorbed through the stomach lining (about 20 per cent) and the small intestine. It can take as little as five or ten minutes to reach the bloodstream, which then takes it on a sort of hooligan' s tour of the cells of almost all the organs in the body.

We are all familiar with the effects of alcohol, if not in ourselves, then at least in other people. First comes that cosy feeling of warmth and mild relaxation that has you curling comfortably into your chair. Then, as relaxation deepens, you slough off the residues of the working day and remember that you are a human being with a spiritual life and a limitless capacity for love. This is about the point at which judgement becomes impaired. If you are at an office party, this is also the point at which you should stop drinking, because your inhibitions will be in steady decline and you are probably just one vodka tonic away from either photocopying your bottom or telling your boss that you have never much liked his taste in ties, but that you still find him very attractive anyway.

After this, you will experience increased impairment of judgement and muscular performance, slowing of reflexes, staggering gait, slurred speech, double vision, memory and comprehension loss, inability to stand, vomiting, incontinence and unconsciousness. In roughly that order. This all happens thanks to ethanol, the substance that causes a desperate battle between the brain, which keeps wanting more, and the liver, which recognises its toxicity and, at great cost (cell death and inflammation) to itself, gallantly does its level best to remove it from the bloodstream. …