Even though there has been a lot of attention paid to the short-term effects of alcohol consumption, alcohol-related issues can also extend years down the road. Alcohol use disorder is one of the most common mental health issues that people might develop, and binge drinking or heavy drinking can lead to significant health problems.
For example, many people know that alcohol abuse can lead to severe liver disease, also known as cirrhosis; however, alcohol affects numerous other organ systems as well.
Learn more about how drinking alcohol can lead to alcohol dependence, and discover how the amount of alcohol someone consumes can leave them at an increased risk of other health issues.
According to information published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), there are numerous health issues that can develop if someone continues to drink alcohol. The health risks can be particularly severe, so it is important for everyone to seek the help of a healthcare professional if they feel like they have a problem drinking.
Some of the organs that can be impacted by heavy drinking include:
Individuals who drink heavily could be at risk of developing heart disease. There are a variety of ways alcohol can have an impact on the cardiovascular system, and people who drink heavily could be at risk of developing high blood pressure. When someone has high blood pressure, the heart has to work harder to pump blood to various portions of the body, which can lead to cardiomyopathy, which is the weakening of the heart muscle.
Individuals could also be at an increased risk of developing a heart attack or heart failure. Therefore, individuals need to be aware of how much they drink and make an effort to limit their alcohol consumption.
Alcohol can also have a significant impact on the liver. For example, acute alcohol poisoning could lead to irritation and inflammation of the liver, also known as alcoholic hepatitis. If someone continues drinking, they could develop alcoholic fatty liver disease, scarring of the liver, and cirrhosis. If this continues, the liver could fail completely, which could be life-threatening.
Down the road, individuals who drink heavily are also at risk of developing liver cancer. Because the liver is responsible for metabolizing alcohol, it is often one of the organs that are most impacted by heavy drinking.
Drinking heavily can also have an impact on the pancreas. The pancreas is responsible for helping the body digest a variety of nutrients, and the pancreas is also responsible for regulating the body’s blood sugar level.
Heavy drinking can lead to pancreatitis, which is inflammation of the liver. This is a serious medical condition, and it requires immediate treatment. If someone does not seek help for pancreatitis, it could lead to severe metabolic issues.
Drinking heavily can also increase someone’s risk factors for developing esophageal issues as well. Alcohol addiction could increase someone’s chances of vomiting, and if someone vomits regularly, the stomach acid could irritate the lining of the esophagus, and it could start to damage the cells in this area. This could even increase someone’s chances of developing esophageal cancer, which is one of the biggest reasons why people need to stop drinking.
Drinking alcohol can also have a significant impact on the central nervous system. For example, excessive drinking could cause someone to develop a syndrome called Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, which could lead to brain damage. This condition develops when someone has a thiamine deficiency, and it can lead to confusion and coordination issues. Individuals who drink heavily could also develop other mental health problems, including memory loss.
Even moderate drinking could cause someone to develop gastritis, stomach ulcers, and heartburn. While vomiting might be one of the most common short-term effects of alcohol, heavy drinking can also cause someone’s intestines to stop digesting food, which can make it hard for someone to absorb the vitamins and nutrients they need.
Heavy drinking can also cause someone’s immune system to weaken. The immune system is responsible for protecting the body against dangerous conditions. Therefore, individuals who drink heavily could be at a greater risk of developing an infection, such as pneumonia, the flu, and various stomach bugs.
If someone continues to drink, their white blood cell count could drop, making it even harder for the body to fight off infections. Individuals who want to remain healthy need to make every effort to limit the amount of alcohol they consume.
Clearly, there are a variety of organ systems that could be impacted by someone’s heavy drinking. At the same time, there are several additional long-term effects of alcohol that need to be addressed.
If someone has developed a high alcohol tolerance, they may start to drink more often. Eventually, they become addicted to alcohol, which means that they go through alcohol withdrawal when they stop drinking.
Alcohol withdrawal syndrome can be life-threatening because it could cause someone to develop a condition known as delirium tremens. This condition can lead to seizures, hallucinations, a fever, and numerous other severe symptoms. That is why it is critical for someone to go through alcohol withdrawal and the presence of a medical professional who can help them make sure they are safe.
If someone drinks while they are pregnant, their unborn child could develop something known as fetal alcohol syndrome. This can cause significant impacts on an unborn child, including mental disabilities and physical deformities. The most obvious symptom of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder is a lack of a philtrum, which is the two ridges just beneath the nose and above the upper lip.
Children with fetal alcohol syndrome may develop severe behavioral problems, and they could fall behind their peers in school. It is unclear exactly how much alcohol consumption while pregnant is enough to cause this disorder, so it is better for someone to abstain from alcohol use entirely while pregnant.
Although there are some people who may be able to control their drinking, there are plenty of other people who have issues with alcohol use. Some of the signs that someone may have trouble with their drinking include:
The side effects of alcohol consumption impact not only the individual but also his or her family members and friends. That is why it is critical to contact a substance abuse medical professional or addiction treatment facility.
It is not unusual for individuals with issues controlling their drinking to start with an inpatient treatment program. An inpatient treatment program is beneficial because it allows people to detox from alcohol use in a safe location and focus entirely on getting sober.
Then, once someone graduates from an inpatient program, they often continue to work with a medical professional on an outpatient basis to develop the skills they need to prevent substance use disorders from coming back. They might even participate in group therapy, where they can learn from other people who have developed drinking problems and obtained sobriety as well.
There are plenty of treatment programs available, and our expert team would be happy to help you and your family overcome alcohol use issues.
If you or a loved one is having trouble controlling alcohol use, our expert team is here to help you. At Riverside Recovery, we provide you with access to the best treatment professionals in the local area. We use the latest treatment programs and techniques to provide you with an opportunity to get sober and stay sober.
We will customize our treatment programs to meet your needs, so give us a call today to learn more about how our programs can help you overcome alcohol use disorder.
Rehm, J. (2010). The Risks Associated With Alcohol Use and Alcoholism. Alcohol Research & Health, 34(2), 135-143. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3307043/
Nutt, D., Hayes, A., Fonville, L., Zafar, R., Palmer, O. C., Paterson, L., & Lingford-Hughes, A. (2021). Alcohol and the Brain. Nutrients, 13(11). https://doi.org/10.3390/nu13113938