Effects of Alcohol & Wine

The Effects of Drinking Wine 

Imam Sadiq (MGB) expressed the reason why we are forbidden to drink wine or alcoholic drinks:

إنَّ مُدْمِنَ الخَمْرِ كَعابِدِ وَثَنٍ، ويُورِثُهُ الارْتِعاشَ وَيَهْدِمُ مُرُوَّتَهُ وَتَحْمِلُهُ عَلى أنْ يَجْسُرَ عَلى المَحَارِمِ مِنْ سَفْكِ الدِّماءِ وَرُكوبِ الزِّنا، وَلا يُؤْمَنُ إذا سَكِرَ إنْ يَثِبَ عَلى مَحارِمِهِ.

“An alcoholic is like an idol-worshipper. He will suffer from shivering. His manliness will disappear. He will dare to violate the forbidden. He will commit fornication and bloodshed. Moreover, even his closest relatives [1] are not secure from being molested by him when he is drunk.”[2]

The Physical Effects of Alcohol

Alcohol can easily enter the bloodstream after consumption and can quickly spread throughout the body. Alcohol has a profound effect on almost every organ and system in the body.[3]

1-      Alcohol will influence our brain[4] and disable our brain cells. It might cause the rupturing of the tine blood veins, coagulation of blood, or stoppage of the circulation of blood in the brain. Thus, it will lead to a partial or a severe brain stroke that will sometimes cause a drop in blood pressure and result in becoming crippled.[5]

2-      Alcohol will cause various illnesses such as shaking of the hands or the feet, lack of control of our body parts[6], and weakness of our senses[7]. It will also cause insomnia[8].

3-      Alcohol will harm the tongue and our sense of taste. It will reduce the amount of saliva and cause a disorder in its reproduction. It will also cause stomach upset, indigestion, throwing up mixed with clogged blood. It will cause many illnesses in our stomach and intestine and result in ulcer and serious diarrhea.

4-      It will weaken the liver[9], and cause it to swell. It will harden the kidneys and cause pain in the stomach. It might even cause jaundice.[10]

5-      Alcohol is not usable in the body. Therefore, if we drink, it will enter our blood stream and destroy the white blood cells. It might even cause such a drop in our blood pressure that we might have a brain stroke.

6-      One of the major ill effects of drinking alcohol is its influence on the lungs. Alcohol will travel along with our blood stream into our lungs, and it will irritate the lung and cause it to swell. This will result in destruction of calcium and end in tuberculosis.

7-      Another ill effect of drinking alcohol is damage to the cardiovascular system. [11]

Alcohol Causes Insanity

Alcoholic drinks are the main cause of insanity. The statistics[12] show that most insane people are those who have been drinking for many years in their life. There are nearly two hundred thousand such cases in France. Nearly ninety percent of the insanities in England have been alcohol related.[13]

Genetic Effects of Alcohol

Alcohol has a bad effect on the cells of a baby. A German scientist has proved that this influence will genetically affect three generations, even if they do not drink.[14] That is why Islam has forbidden drinking alcohol. Imam Sajj¡d (MGB) stressed that we should keep our stomachs void of forbidden things. The Prophet (MGB) said:

مَلْعونٌ مَنْ جَلَسَ عَلى مَائِدَةٍ يُشْرَبُ عَلَيها الخَمْرُ.

“Whoever sits with those who are drinking is deprived of God’s Mercy.”[15]

Ayatollah Dastghayb quoted from Sayyid Abul Ali Mawdoody’s Tangh¢¦: “The U.S. government used many ways to fight alcoholism. It used magazines, newspapers, lectures, and seminars, even movies to combat alcoholism. It spent more than eight million dollars, and published more than ten million pages of advertisement against it. Over a period of fourteen years, it spent over two hundred fifty million dollars to enforce the law to abolish alcoholic beverages. It imprisoned three hundred and thirty-five persons, fined people over sixteen million dollars, and seized over four hundred and fifty million dollars worth of property. All this was of no use. It finally gave up and abolished that law in 1932 and totally freed drinking alcohol.”[16] On the other hand, even though drinking alcoholic beverages was like drinking water for the Arabs in the Age of Ignorance, when Islam came it forbade drinking alcohol and abolished it in a very short time. Thus, it saved Muslims from all the ill effects of alcohol and alcoholism. Scientists today are well aware of the physical effects of alcohol. However, they cannot measure its moral impacts on the loss of manliness and moral values.

Some people are careful about the cleanliness of their living quarters, and the suitability of their food. Should they suspect the least bit of poisoning in their food, they will refuse to eat it. However, they do not care at all about their spiritual well being, and listen to anything. Imam Ali (MGB) said:

مَالي أرَى النّاسَ إذا قُرِّبَ إلَيهِمُ الطّعامُ تَكَلَّفوا إنَارَةَ المَصابِيحِ لِيُبصِروا ما يُدْخِلونَ بُطونَهُم ولا يَهْتَمّونَ بِغِذاءِ النَّفْسِ بأنْ يُنِيروا مصَابِيحَ ألْبابِهِم بِالعِلْمِ لِيَسْلَمُوا مِن لَواحِقِ الجَهَالَةِ وَالذُّنوبِ في اعْتِقادَاتِهِم وَأعْمالِهِم؟

“I am amazed at the people who turn on the light to see what they eat when they want to dine in the dark, but do not care about food for their mind. They do not care to illuminate their intellect with the light of knowledge to be safe from making mistakes out of ignorance and wrong beliefs.”[17]

Imam Hasan (MGB) said:

عَجِبتُ لمَنْ يَتَفَكَّرُ في مأكولِهِ كَيفَ لا يَتَفَكَّرُ في مَعْقولِهِ فَيُجَنِّبَ بَطْنَهُ ما يُؤذِيه وَيُودِعَ صَدْرَهُ ما يُرْدِيهِ!

“I am amazed at the people who consider what they eat but do not think about the food for their mind. They guard their stomachs from harmful things, but do not guard their hearts and minds against things that will harm them.”

There are many traditions in Islam about proper diet, and proper things to eat or drink. There is a lot of information about useful or harmful meats, fats, sweets, confectioneries, beans and vegetables. Suayd ibn Ghofleh went to see Imam Ali (MGB) once at lunchtime. He narrated: “I saw that Imam Ali (MGB) was sitting down around the tablecloth with a dried piece of bread made of whole barley. I went to his servants and asked them why they were so inconsiderate not to grind the barley to make flour for the bread for the Imam (MGB). They said it was based on his personal orders. Then I returned to the Imam (MGB) and asked him the reason. Imam Ali (MGB) said that he had learned this from the Prophet (MGB).”[18] Imam Sadiq (MGB) said: “Solomon’s (MGB) bread was made of whole barley.”[19] Ahmad ibn Harun went to see Imam Reza (MGB). Imam Reza (MGB) ordered food to be served. They spread the tablecloth and brought some food. There were no fresh green vegetables there. The Imam (MGB) did not eat, and told his servant: “Do you know that I will not eat unless there are some green vegetables on the table? Go and bring some.” Then the servant went and brought some green vegetables, and the Imam (MGB) started to eat.”[20]

[1] He might commit incest.

[2] Ibid.

[3] In the following footnotes we present the effects of alcohol on the most researched organs or organ systems.

[4] The brain is the seat of human thought and consciousness. Therefore any impairment of the brain’s function can lead to drastic changes in a person’s personality and behavior. Even though the brain makes up only two percent of the body’s weight, it takes up about 20 percent of the body’s blood. Since blood is the main medium through which alcohol is spread in the body, the brain is flooded with alcohol whenever you drink. Alcohol can affect the brain’s function and the function of the nervous system in general by several methods including: direct toxic effects, withdrawal, nutritional deficiency, liver disease, and head trauma among others. One of the direct toxic effects of alcohol is its ability to change the production of neurotransmitters. Alcohol has a detrimental affect on many neurological processes such as: temperature regulation, sleep cycle, and coordination. Also, chronic alcoholics may suffer from a condition known as Korsakoff’s syndrome. Korsakoff’s syndrome (KS) is a neurological disorder in which one’s short term memory is nearly nonexistent. Those that are afflicted with KS are unable to remember events that occur after the onset of the symptoms. Perhaps the most obvious effect of alcohol is the actual, physiological damage that it does to the brain of an alcoholic person. Some of the factors that determine how and to what degree one’s brain is damaged by alcohol include age, gender, and family history but are not just limited to these. In order for the nervous system to function properly, signals must be relayed to and from the brain. Neurotransmitters are essential for nerve-to-nerve communication. Neurotransmitters travel between the junctions, known as a synapse, between two nerve cells. Neurotransmitters stimulate receptors on the surface of nerve cells, which in turn carry the signal down the nerve and on to other nerves. The production of receptors is very sensitive and can fluctuate in response to chemical and environmental factors. Factors that increase the sensitivity of receptors tend to down-regulate, or decrease the production of receptors while factors that inhibit a receptor tend to up-regulate, or increase the production of receptors. Up- and down-regulation allow the nervous system to maintain a balance of neurotransmitters and receptors. Glutamate, an amino acid, is the major excitatory neurotransmitter in the human brain. There is sufficient research to support the fact that even in small doses, alcohol can affect the function of glutamate. This interference can affect memory among other things and may cause the loss of short-term memory during the periods of overdrinking. Alcohol has an inhibitory effect on glutamate, which causes the glutamate receptor to be up-regulated, especially in the hippocampus, an area of the brain responsible for memory and is related to epileptic seizures. Alcoholics suffering from alcoholic withdrawal often suffer from glutamate over activity due to the up-regulation of the glutamate receptor. Glutamate over activity has been related to cell death as caused by strokes and seizures. Malnutrition in alcoholics results in a deficiency in thiamine and magnesium, which may also contribute to glutamate over activity. Another neurotransmitter that is affected by alcohol is gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). It is the main inhibitory neurotransmitter of the central nervous system. Alcohol acts as an inhibitory agent for GABA much like it does for Glutamate. GABA receptors are up-regulated in alcoholics and when the inhibitory effect of the alcohol is lost, GABA over-activity occurs. GABA over-excitation often results in withdrawal seizures – delirium tremens (DT) also know as rum fits. Alcohol also disrupts the function of various other neurotransmitters including serotonin, endorphins, and acetylcholine. Serotonin affects moods, appetite, and sleep. Stimulation of serotonin in conjunction with the release of endorphins cause the feeling of pleasure that many people get when intoxicated. Acetylcholine is the key neurotransmitter in controlling cardiovascular mechanisms, including the dilation of blood vessels. It has also been suggested that alcohol may affect levels of catecholamines, a neurotransmitter that has been observed to be suppressed in patients with Korsakoff’s syndrome. The toxic effects of alcohol may cause the nervous system to lose control of many of its functions.

[5] A study published in the February issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research utilized sophisticated brain scans called functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). The research was headed by Susan F. Tapert, Ph.D., UCSD assistant adjunct professor of psychiatry and a clinical psychologist at the Veterans Affairs Health Care System. She notes that “our findings suggest that even young and physically healthy individuals risk damaging their brains through chronic, heavy use of alcohol.”

[6] Another effect of long-term alcohol consumption is the loss of muscular coordination. Alcohol damages a part of the brain known as the cerebellum. The cerebellum controls coordinated actions such as walking or swinging a bat. Damage to the cerebellum results in loss of coordination and can appear as imbalance and staggering.

[7] Drinking alcohol has subtle effects on personality and emotions. It also impairs cognitive abilities such as perception, learning, and memory. One of the most severe side affects of chronic alcohol consumption is Korsakoff’s syndrome (KS). Patients suffering from KS have virtually no short-term memory. This condition is also known as anterograde amnesia. Alcoholics that develop KS can remember nothing past the day that the syndrome first set in. Though KS does not affect long-term memories in effect, leaving a persons IQ intact, KS sufferers often are no longer able to function as normal members of society due to their complete lack of short-term memory. Perhaps the most obvious effect of alcohol on the nervous system is the physiological damage that it does to the brain. The areas of the brain that are most affected include the limbic system, diencephalon, cerebral cortex, and cerebellum.

[8] Chronic insomnia is complex and often results from a combination of factors, including underlying physical or mental disorders. One of the most common causes of chronic insomnia is depression. Other underlying causes include arthritis, kidney disease, heart failure, asthma, sleep apnea, narcolepsy, restless legs syndrome, Parkinson’s disease, and hyperthyroidism. However, chronic insomnia may also be due to behavioral factors, including the misuse of caffeine, alcohol, or other substances; disrupted sleep/wake cycles as may occur with shift work or other nighttime activity schedules; and chronic stress.

[9] The liver is where all alcohol must eventually go to be processed and neutralized. It follows that the liver is damaged from heavy, chronic alcohol consumption.

[10] Scientists have long understood that alcohol abuse can lead to chronic diseases like cirrhosis of the liver. But in recent years, researchers have discovered that alcohol-in some cases only a few drinks a day-can make the liver and pancreas more susceptible to injury.

[11] The heart can pump over 300 liters of blood in an hour. Since the blood is the primary medium for transporting ingested nutrients, in this case alcohol, it delivers alcohol straight to the heart and other portions of the cardiovascular system. In recent studies, it has been shown that heavy drinking causes serious damage to various parts of the cardiovascular system. For example, it causes the heart muscles to develop a disease known as cardiomyopathy. Also, heavy drinking increases the risk of unsteady heartbeat, high blood pressure, and hemorrhagic stroke.

[12] Published statistics indicate that there are over 18 million alcoholics living in America.

[13] Balahaye Ejtemayee, quoted from Tandorost Magazine.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Safinat ul-Bihar, v.1, p.427.

[16] Gonahane Kabire, v.1, p.253.

[17] Safinat ul-Bihar, v.2, p.84.

[18] Koodak (Goftar-i-Phalsaphy), v.1, p.249.

[19] Mustadrak al-Vasa’el, v.3, p.103.

[20] Koodak, v.1, p.251.


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