Q:

What does alcohol do to the lungs?

A:

Alcohol depletes the lungs of the antioxidant glutathione and can cause a person with a chronic drinking problem to develop acute respiratory distress syndrome. Acute respiratory distress syndrome, also called ARDS, kills around 50 percent of those affected by it. The average age of death from those with chronic drinking issues who contract ARDS is around 30, where the normal age of someone with cirrhosis of the liver is between 60 and 65.

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A group of scientists working at the University of Colorado teamed with several other locations across the country to try to discover the connection between chronic drinking and various health ailments. The team discovered that chronic drinkers had a four to one chance to contract the illness, where previous studies had stated a two to one chance in 1996. The doctors also discovered that once a chronic drinker had stopped drinking for a few days, the levels of glutathione did not immediately go back up to normal levels. Chronic drinking can also make a person more prone to upper respiratory infections and pneumonia. Outside of diseases, it is possible for someone who has been drinking to vomit in their sleep and aspirate or inhale some of the fluid, which can cause them to develop a dangerous type of pneumonia or even develop lung abscesses. There is also the chance that the person could suffocate in their sleep.

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