Ever since her early 20's, Beverly Pickorer had been a heavy drinker, to the point that she was eventually consuming 40 beers a day. By the time she reached age 35, she was on her deathbed due to severe cirrhosis of the liver. She'd also lost all her teeth as well as her ability to speak (along with pretty much everything else), and she spent her last months in a care facility.
Her partner, Anthony Howard, stayed by her side throughout her ordeal. He watched for five and a half years as she gradually deteriorated further and further. He released these photos as a warning to everyone else about the potentially fatal outcomes of alcohol abuse.
According to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), there are four major conditions that can result from prolonged alcoholism, with cirrhosis being one of them. The others are fibrosis, alcoholic hepatitis, and steatosis (fatty liver). Too much drinking can also lead to pancreatitis, as alcohol causes the pancreas to produce a toxic byproduct. A heavy night of drinking also compromises your immune system for a full 24 hours afterwards.
Severe, problematic drinking habits have also been listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) as a psychological disorder, much like depression or ADHD. Society has long put a stigma on addiction, but psychologists feel that we need to view these issues in a different light.
The NIAAA states that alcoholism is a clinical disorder affecting nearly 17 million Americans in 2012 alone. The condition is diagnosed on a scale (mild, moderate, and severe) based on how many of the following 11 criteria are met by an individual in a 12-month span.
- Had times when you ended up drinking more, or longer than you intended?
- More than once wanted to cut down or stop drinking, or tried to, but couldn’t?
- Spent a lot of time drinking? Or being sick or getting over the aftereffects?
- Experienced craving — a strong need, or urge, to drink?
- Found that drinking — or being sick from drinking — often interfered with taking care of your home or family? Or caused job troubles? Or school problems?
- Continued to drink even though it was causing trouble with your family or friends?
- Given up or cut back on activities that were important or interesting to you, or gave you pleasure, in order to drink?
- More than once gotten into situations while or after drinking that increased your chances of getting hurt (such as driving, swimming, using machinery, walking in a dangerous area, or having unsafe sex)?
- Continued to drink even though it was making you feel depressed or anxious or adding to another health problem? Or after having had a memory blackout?
- Had to drink much more than you once did to get the effect you want? Or found that your usual number of drinks had much less effect than before?
- Found that when the effects of alcohol were wearing off, you had withdrawal symptoms, such as trouble sleeping, shakiness, irritability, anxiety, depression, restlessness, nausea, or sweating? Or sensed things that were not there?
If you or someone you care about meets two or more of these criteria, it may be cause for concern. Do not, however, use this information as the sole basis for your diagnosis - always consult with a licensed health professional.
Pickorer's tragic story is a stark reminder to us all of just how destructive addiction can be. Traumatic events can push any of us down these dark paths, but if treatment is readily made available, there is still a chance to save these lives. We also need to re-evaluate our stigmas around addiction, so that addicts can seek help without fear of judgment or prosecution.
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