Most of us enjoy a drink every now and then. Alcohol can give you a boost of confidence and a way to temporarily let go of the burdens of day to day life.
But all these feelings are limited, and the long-term effects of alcohol use can be much more deadly. These significant and permanent physiological effects of alcohol can threaten your quality of life and even expose you to the dangers of addiction.
An estimated 88,000 people in the U.S. die of alcohol-related deaths each year. Alcohol is one of the leading preventable causes of deaths in the country.
As soon as alcohol enters the bloodstream, it can wreak havoc on the entire body. Physically, psychologically, and emotionally, alcohol has the potential to cause serious damage when abused over the long term.
Let’s take a closer look at exactly what effect alcohol can do to your mind and body.
The Physiological Effects of Alcohol
Alcohol affects every part of your body–from your skin to your organs to your mind. The impact goes much deeper than just visible changes.
Abusing alcohol over a long period of time can seriously alter your body and your life. Here are some ways that alcohol damage could impact you or your loved ones.
Just 30 seconds after your first sip, alcohol already begins to interfere with your brain. But the impact can be much more severe down the line.
Alcohol affects the communication pathways of the brain, making it harder for you to form clear and coherent thoughts. This can impact movement too–your motions might be slower and less coordinated.
You might find yourself struggling with short-term memory and taking in new information. It also can cause irritability, mood swings, and difficulty controlling anger.
It’s more than just a temporary change–long-term alcohol use can actually change the structure of your brain. These changes in mental function, behavior, and even personality can be permanent.
In some cases of alcoholism, individuals can develop thiamine deficiency. Thiamine is a vital part of body function, especially the brain. This can also lead to the development of brain disorders, including Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome.
Your heart is especially sensitive to long-term alcohol abuse. Over time, excessive use of alcohol can weaken the functions of your heart. Oxygen and nutrients that are meant to be delivered to other vital organs in your body may be depleted.
It also triggers the increase of triglyceride, which is a type of fat present in your blood. High levels of this fat increase your chances of developing health conditions like diabetes or heart disease.
Your heart may struggle to perform its regular function, and effects like irregular heartbeat or high blood pressure can lead to more problems down the line. In the worst case scenario, long-term alcohol use can cause stroke and cardiac arrest.
One of the most well-known risks of heavy alcohol use is damage to your liver. The liver is one of the vital organs that helps your body process alcohol. It breaks it down and removes the toxins from your blood.
But too much alcohol over a long period of time can overwhelm the liver’s process and lead to serious illnesses or other challenges.
Fatty liver is a chronic condition that occurs when bad fats build up in the liver. This can cause obesity, diabetes, or liver failure.
Other serious liver complications that may occur with alcohol use is alcoholic hepatitis, fibrosis, and cirrhosis. Although all of these conditions are treatable with an intensive medical care plan, alcohol use can still result in liver failure and death.
Your pancreas is a big part of the digestion process–and alcohol consumption can throw it off track.
The pancreas regulates blood sugar in your body. With high levels of alcohol over the years, you can develop pancreatitis, which is when the blood vessels around your pancreas swell up.
This condition can increase your risk of developing pancreatic cancer–which spreads rapidly and could be life-threatening. An acute pancreatic attack can cause symptoms like abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea, and fever. While pancreatitis can be managed with medication, it’s very hard to cure entirely.
These diseases are often hard to detect in their early stages. It’s likely that they’ll be left untreated until they develop into more severe conditions.
5. Other Effects
There are other long-term side effects that come with heavy drinking over a long period of time. These symptoms depend on the amount of alcohol consumed and the length of time that one is addicted to alcohol.
If you’re currently dealing with alcohol abuse, struggling with relapse, or even if you’ve been clean for years, these effects can linger for years–or even a lifetime. Here are a few long-term effects you should be aware of:
- Cardiovascular disease
- Respiratory infections
- Nerve damage
- Damage to memory
Long-term alcohol abuse can have other impacts on your life, affecting both you and those around you. You may get into legal trouble, financial issues, or struggle with poor performance in work or school. Alcoholism can also affect your relationships with partners, family, or friends.
Alcohol Abuse Treatment
Overcoming alcohol abuse is a huge turning point in someone’s life. Avoiding the physiological effects of alcohol can improve every aspect of your life–including keeping your mind and body healthy.
Getting help for serious alcohol abuse may be the line between living a healthy life and exposing yourself to potentially fatal diseases.
Whether it’s you or a loved one struggling with alcohol abuse, we can help you explore which treatment options are available for you.
Looking for immediate help? Contact us today for a confidential assessment.