How Does Alcohol Abuse Damage the Body?

How Does Alcohol Abuse Damage the Body?

Alcohol abuse damages many parts of the body: the brain, heart, liver, pancreas, immune system, and can even raise cancer risk

When you drink too much, over time, there are many different negative effects on your body that can result. But how much is too much? Looking to a specific number of drinks can be somewhat misleading. The key to alcohol abuse is that at the core, it is focused on behavior. When you reach a point where there is an established pattern of drinking showing that drinking is a vital part of your life, there is a definite problem. Drinking may lead you to not being able to fulfill your duties at work, school or home. You may find yourself drinking in dangerous situations such as driving a car or operating machinery. You may even drink despite having relationship problems that are caused by or agitated by drinking. [1] When problematic drinking becomes severe it is given the medical diagnosis of “alcohol use disorder” or AUD. Approximately 7.2 percent or 17 million adults in the United States ages 18 and older had an AUD in 2012. This includes 11.2 million men and 5.7 million women.[2] There are many different ways that drinking alcohol can and does damage the body.

Alcohol changes the brain.

Alcohol abuse has been shown to both shrink and disturbs brain tissue. Heavy alcohol consumption – even on a single occasion – can throw the delicate balance of neurotransmitters off course. The reason for this is that alcohol can cause your neurotransmitters to relay information too slowly. As a result, you feel very drowsy or tired. Mood and behavioral changes, including depression, agitation, memory loss and even seizures can come from the chemical balance in your brain being altered. Long-term drinking actually has been shown to cause reductions in the size of brain cells.

Alcohol abuse weakens the heart.

Long-­term heavy drinking can damage your heart in several different ways. One way is through a condition called alcoholic cardiomyopathy. Basically this is a weakened heart muscle. Your heart droops and stretches so it cannot pump your blood effectively to the rest of your body. In some cases, this could cause a blood flow shortage, which could then damage your organs.

Another possible heart condition is called atrial fibrillation. This is where the upper chambers of your heart shudder weakly but do not contract like they should. As a result, blood could clot leading to a stroke, embolism or a blood vessel blockage. A ventricular tachycardia is when alcohol induced damage to heart muscles makes your heart contract too many times. It essentially overworks your heart and your body does not get enough blood. Dizziness, cardiac arrest and even sudden death can occur.

Alcohol damages the liver.

The liver breaks down alcohol. The more you drink, the harder your liver has to work. The process of breaking down alcohol makes toxins that are even more harmful than alcohol and actually damage liver cells. Over time, this can disrupt your metabolism and even impair the function of other organs within the body.

Alcohol has several other consequences.

There is also a high possibility of experiencing pancreas damage when you abuse alcohol. When you drink, alcohol damages pancreatic cells and can alter the metabolic processes involving insulin. This process leaves the pancreas open to dangerous inflammations.

Drinking too much alcohol weakens the immune system, making your body a much easier target for disease. Chronic alcohol use reduces the ability of white blood cells to effectively engulf and swallow harmful bacteria. Alcohol abuse is even shown to increase the risk for various forms of cancer such as mouth, esophagus, liver, larynx and breast cancer.

These are some of the physical consequences to your body of alcohol abuse. There are other areas to consider, such as your mental health. Because alcohol is a depressant, if you struggle with depression, it can actually make your depression worse. The regret and guilt from mistakes you have made or things you have done, and possibly forgotten, will create a disturbance in your life. Stress will continue to build which can also accelerate some of these other physical health conditions. The relationships around you will suffer. Instead of spending time with friends, you will find yourself drinking. Instead of being with your family, you will be passed out drunk.

The good news is that you can reach out and get help. You do not have to settle for a life filled with substance abuse. Depending on how serious your condition is, in many cases you can get healthy again with proper care and by living a balanced life. You can get the help you need. Our helpline is available to help you right now. Just pick up the phone and you can talk to a professional substance abuse counselor who can give you the support and information you need to start living a healthier life. You do not have to settle for a life focused on drinking. You can move forward and live a healthy, sober life.


 

[1] https://www.psychologytoday.com/conditions/alcohol-abuse

Alcohol Abuse

[2] http://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/alcohol-use-disorders Alcohol Use Disorder

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