Last Updated on December 10, 2019 by Valarie Ward
It’s no secret that alcohol consumption can cause major health problems related to the liver. After all, the liver is the body’s filter. It is exposed to every drop of alcohol you consume. But the long-term effects of consuming too much alcohol—of alcohol abuse—are not limited to this one organ. According to WedMD, researchers have linked alcohol consumption to some 60+ diseases, and they still aren’t fully aware of all the ways alcohol affects the body.
The Short Term Effects of Alcohol
The amount of alcohol a person consumes directly affects how their body reacts. The short-term effects can range from a sensation of relaxation to a total blackout. According to DrugFreeWorld.com, the most commonly experienced short-term effects of alcohol include:
- Slurred speech and drowsiness
- An upset stomach, vomiting, and diarrhea
- Headaches the night of or morning after drinking
- Distorted vision and hearing
- Breathing difficulties
- Impaired judgment and a decrease in coordination and perception
- Blackouts, memory lapses, and unconsciousness
The more often a person drinks, and the larger the volume, the more advanced these short-term effects grow. Continued alcohol use and binge drinking will impact the entire body, specifically vital areas such as the brain and heart.
Alcohol’s Effects on the Brain
The short-term effects of alcohol make it clear liquors and beers affect the brain. Mental impairment can be detectable after just one or two drinks and quickly dissipate once drinking stops. But for the person who drinks heavily over a long period, the brain can develop chronic defects and deficits that remain apparent even after sobriety:
- Depression: Heavy drinking often goes hand-in-hand with depression. But which came first? Researchers have proven that drinking often leads to depression or a higher state of depression, both of which improve when a drinker jumps on the wagon.
- Dementia: As we age, our brains shrink. On average, we lose 1.9 percent every ten years. Prolonged alcohol abuse speeds up this process, shrinking key areas of the brain. Memory loss and symptoms of dementia result. If consumption isn’t discontinued, the effects are irreversible.
- Blackouts and Memory Lapse: They might not seem like a huge deal, but think again. When a car crash victim sustains a severe head trauma, the damage to the brain causing a blackout or memory lapse can be permanent. Additionally, continued blackouts and memory lapses can occur, even when the victim has sustained no new injury. Likewise, blackouts and memory lapses associated with alcohol abuse are serious. At their most severe, they can cause irreparable brain damage resulting in a coma or vegetative state.
Prolonged Alcohol Abuse and the Heart
Did you know heavy, prolonged drinking could be the cause of a heart attack or stroke? Heavy drinking, particularly bingeing, can cause blood platelets to clump together forming blood clots. The clots can then lead to a heart attack or stroke. A landmark study was conducted by Harvard researchers in 2005, and they found binge drinking doubled the risk of death among individuals who had initially survived a heart attack.
If the increased risk of a sudden, life ending or changing event like a heart attack or stroke isn’t enough to make one reconsider continued heavy drinking, consider the following conditions that can also develop:
- Cardiomyopathy: It’s a potentially deadly condition. The heart muscle itself weakens and fails. In some cases, heart rhythm abnormalities are developed, including ventricular and atrial fibrillation.
- Ventricular Fibrillation: The heart’s main pumping chambers (i.e. the ventricles) develop a chaotic twitch. It can result in a rapid loss of consciousness and culminate in sudden death if untreated.
- Atrial Fibrillation: The heart’s upper chambers (i.e. the atria) develop a chaotic twitch, which replaces their normal, steady rhythm. The result is often blood clots, which can lead to a stroke.
Avoiding Alcohol Abuse
Psychology Today reported that according to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, approximately 75 percent of the people who recover from an alcohol dependency do so without seeking help. Only about 13 percent receive specialty (rehab) alcohol treatment via programs.
What does this mean to you? It means two things:
- You can avoid alcohol abuse.
- You can kick alcohol abuse and a dependency.
But how? That’s the million-dollar question, isn’t it?
In the battle against abusing alcohol, one of the most important things you can do is educate yourself. Learn about abuse and addiction. Know the signs. And do a little self-evaluation now and then. Struggling with alcohol abuse or addiction does not make anyone weak; refraining from getting help when it is needed is the second most dangerous part of addiction—second only to the danger the body is in.
Kicking the Addiction
Kicking an alcohol addiction won’t happen overnight. Acquiesce, an addiction clinic near by explains addiction as a steadily built dependency that can take hold before someone realizes it. It takes time to build, and it takes time to kick. If you or someone you know is in this fight, keep these actionable tips in mind:
- Recognize the Issue: Why has alcohol been the answer? Venture to understand just why it was the thing turned to and work toward finding a substitute.
- Limit Temptation: If seeing or smelling alcohol causes you to want it, separate yourself from it. Don’t keep it around the house, and don’t go out alone to places that serve it. Bring a close friend or family member who knows the battle you’re fighting and lean on them. There’s nothing wrong with the occasional drink, but it can negatively impact recovery.
- Get Support: Beating addiction is rarely a solo act. Some have done it, but it’s next to impossible. Find a support team. There are plenty of programs available if you prefer support from professionals, and your family and friends can be a huge help.
By avoiding and stopping alcohol abuse, you will save your mind and body from harmful long-term effects. Want to learn more about the health benefits? Check out 3 Ways Cutting Back on Alcohol Improves Your Health.