A recent study found that more and more people are drinking alcohol. Adult alcohol use increased from 65 to 73 percent, which is nearly an 11 percent increase.
We don’t have to tell you that alcohol consumption damages your body. The hangover the morning after is evidence enough of that. But do you how alcohol affects the body after long-term abuse? Read on to find out.
What Is Alcohol Abuse?
The definition of alcohol abuse is the consistent misuse of alcohol. Alcohol abuse disorder is when a person’s regular drinking causes harm both physically and emotionally.
How much is too much alcohol? The Mayo Clinic says that you should drink moderately, which is about one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men. Those who drink more regularly need to consider long-term effects.
Here is a breakdown of drinks and sizes for moderate amounts:
- Regular Beer: 12 fluid ounces
- Craft Beer: 8-9 fluid ounces
- Malt Liquor: 8-9 fluid ounces
- Wine: 5 fluid ounces
- Hard Liquor: (80 proof): 1.5 fluid ounces
It is important to bear in mind that depending on the hard liquor or the mixed drink, one drink may be more than the standard drink size. Take note of all the alcohol included in a drink.
There are a few forms of alcohol abuse including heavy drinking and binge drinking. If a man drinks five or more standard size drinks in two hours, that is considered binge drinking, and binge drinking for a woman is more than four standard drinks in two hours. Binge drinking will make your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level higher than 0.08 which can lead to alcohol poisoning.
Heavy drinking is not as concentrated but spread out over a period of time. If a man drinks more than 15 drinks a week, that is considered heavy drinking. If a woman drinks more than eight standard drinks in a week, this is also heavy drinking, which can cause problems with the body’s organs.
How Alcohol Affects the Body
Alcohol is a depressant for the central nervous system and effects all the organs and functions in the body. The body absorbs alcohol through the bloodstream and circulates it to all organs. Long-term alcohol abuse can cause cancer of the throat, stomach, liver, tongue, esophagus, and mouth.
Long-term alcohol abuse affects these organs:
Age, gender, medications, and physical health all determine how much the alcohol effects the body. Too much alcohol can severely harm anyone’s body regardless of how young and healthy they may be.
Alcohol inhibits how the brain communicates with the body. After long-term abuse of alcohol, the brain’s function and structure can change. If someone misuses alcohol for a long time, it can lead to more serious conditions which may be irreversible.
In addition to the physical effects, alcohol can also cause emotional problems like anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorders. These cases are referred to as co-occurring disorders because they are effecting a person both mentally and physically.
Heavy drinking is extremely hard on the liver. Liver enzymes metabolize the alcohol so it can be digested.
The liver can only do this for small amounts of alcohol at a time. If there is too much alcohol, the liver can’t metabolize and it circulates through the body. Excess drinking can lead to alcoholic hepatitis, fatty liver, cirrhosis, and fibrosis.
Alcohol interferes with digestive functions even in small amounts. The alcohol makes the stomach create more acid, leading to inflammation of the stomach’s lining and acid reflux.
Other digestive problems include vomiting, internal bleeding, diarrhea, ulcers, and nausea. If someone abuses alcohol for too long, it could lead to stomach cancer.
Kidneys remove the harmful substances out of the blood. If someone drinks heavily, it can cause high blood pressure which can cause kidney disease.
If someone gets liver disease from misuse of alcohol, the kidneys will start to overwork. This leads to kidney disease.
Heavy drinking can cause many heart problems. When blood with high alcohol content is circulated to the heart, there are numerous long- and short-term effects.
Long-term drinking is the leading cause of heart disease. Other issues include arrhythmias, stroke, high blood pressure, and cardiomyopathy (stretching the heart muscle).
The pancreas helps the body digest food by delivering two hormones that regulate sugar levels in the bloodstream. Drinking alcohol leads the pancreas to start producing a chemical that is damaging to the body.
Long-term alcohol use makes the blood vessels around the pancreas swell, which causes pancreatitis. This is a deadly disease that doesn’t always have noticeable symptoms, meaning people often do not realize they require treatment until it is too late.
Signs and Symptoms Of Alcohol Abuse
Most people don’t think they have a drinking problem until they develop a disorder. If you know the signs ahead of time, it may prevent the disorders listed above and curb the long-term effects of abuse.
A person with alcohol abuse disorder:
- Drinks more than they intend to
- Wants to cut back or stop drinking but can’t
- Spends a great deal of time drinking or recovering
- Has a strong urge to drink
- Realizes that alcohol is meddling with his or her job, school, and family
- Cuts back on other activities to drink
- Has withdrawal systems when alcohol leaves their system
- Develops a higher tolerance
Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal include anxiety, restlessness, sleep issues, shakiness, sweating, and nausea. Severe withdrawal symptoms include hallucinations, fever, and seizures. These severe symptoms show the person has a strong alcohol dependence or alcoholism.
Treatments for Alcohol Use Disorder
It is best to have a medical detox program to safely treat withdrawal symptoms and any complications. Alcohol withdrawal can be fatal if not treated properly. Medical help will ensure the person has all the necessary tools to detox safely and can monitor the person’s body.
After the person completes the detox program, he or she will then need to work on the mental and emotional damages. Everyone is affected differently, so a personalized plan is the best approach.
The person needs to be armed with the right tools and coping mechanisms to make sure the alcohol dependence does not return. Aftercare is also extremely important to sustain recovery.
Looking for Alcohol Addiction Treatment?
Now you know how alcohol effects the body and when a person may require professional support to stop drinking. Contact us today to discuss a personalized treatment for you or a loved one.