Alcohol Addiction Effects on the Body
Alcohol is a powerful substance that causes severe damage throughout the human body during prolonged abuse. Although most are aware drinking alcohol can cause serious problems with the liver as well as impaired judgment, did you know alcoholism could also lead to cancer, heart problems and seizures?
The bottom line is this: quitting drinking will help your body and your mind grow stronger. The longer you wait to stop drinking, the worse your problems will become.
When a person drinks alcohol, the body converts it into a carcinogenic (cancer-causing) substance called acetaldehyde. Areas that have greater exposure to alcohol become more susceptible to cancer.
Cancer of the mouth and throat, esophagus, larynx and liver all occur more frequently in chronic heavy drinkers. Colorectal cancer and breast cancer are also more common in heavy drinkers. Add tobacco to the list of bad habits, and the risk of developing cancer rises even higher.
Alcoholics and people who binge drink are more likely to suffer from a heart attack or stroke. People who binge drink — defined as consuming more than four to five alcoholic drinks in two hours or less — are twice as likely to die from a heart attack despite surviving it initially.
Alcohol abuse also weakens the heart muscle and disrupts its rhythm. This can cause blood clots that lead to stroke. Without nearly instant treatment, sudden death can occur quickly.
Mental Health Issues
Alcoholism is strongly associated with both dementia and depression. As we grow older, our brains naturally shrink, and our capacity for clear thinking and executive function diminish.
Alcoholism, unfortunately, increases the rate at which we lose executive function. The keys areas affected by heavy drinking include memory, judgment, problem-solving and planning. Also, because alcoholism negatively affects appetite, nutritional deficiencies speed other issues associated with dementia.
Depression is another common side effect of alcoholism. Although some who develop alcoholism may unknowingly self-medicate depression by drinking, most who have both conditions suffered alcoholism first — and quitting drinking improved the depressive symptoms.
Nerve Damage and Seizures
If you or your loved one drink heavily, and you’ve noticed numbness or weakness in the extremities, a pins-and-needles feeling, sexual problems, incontinence or constipation, you are feeling the effects of alcoholic neuropathy. Also known as nerve damage, alcoholic neuropathy develops because of alcohol’s toxic chemical makeup as well as poor nutrition.
Alcoholism also causes seizures and contributes to the development of epilepsy. In addition, people who take medicine for seizures and who drink alcohol heavily may find their medication ineffective.
Sexual Problems and Other Infectious Diseases
The immune system, which provides our ability to fight infectious diseases, can be suppressed by alcoholism. People who drink heavily are more likely to contract serious infections such as pneumonia, sexually transmitted diseases and tuberculosis.
In fact heavy drinking triples the risk of developing a sexually transmitted disease such as HIV/AIDS. This is because those who are drinking are more likely to have unprotected or risky sex following a lapse in judgment.
Gastrointestinal Problems and Chronic Pancreatitis
Chronic alcohol abuse damages the stomach as well as the lower gastrointestinal tract and pancreas. Severe stomach irritation and chronic pancreatitis are common physical problems suffered by the alcoholic.
Although stomach irritation may subside, chronic pancreatitis often persists indefinitely. Severe pain and constant diarrhea are the hallmarks of chronic pancreatitis — some compare the effects to having gallstones.
High Blood Pressure
Drinking heavily damages how the brain manages the blood vessels’ responses to stress. When this system doesn’t work properly, blood pressure rises — often forever and sometimes to dangerous levels. That is why people who drink too much are more likely to suffer from a stroke, a heart attack or kidney failure.
Drinking alcohol heavily damages liver tissue that is responsible for cleaning the blood of toxins. When the liver becomes damaged, quitting drinking can reverse the damage. Cirrhosis, however, is not reversible and may lead to liver failure. Cirrhosis is often fatal.