Drinking a few sips of alcohol here and there is not a problem for some people. Some may be able to drink in moderation while others are unable to control drinking habits, falling into binge or heavy drinking behaviors which can have harmful effects of a long period of time. Abuse of alcohol is a societal problem many face but what happens to the body is the most detrimental of all. Explore the physical and mental consequences of drinking over time.
Effects on Brain
Alcohol impacts the brain in many ways. Strokes, hypertension, heart arrhythmias and cardiomyopathy are just a few of the ways alcohol affects a person’s body. Long-term consumption may lead to changes in how the brain looks and functions. Mood, behavior, coordination and the ability to learn may be impacted by drinking behavior. Binge drinking may cause blackouts, memory loss and anxiety.
Heart and Immune System
The heart is greatly impacted by excessive drinking. Hypertension and high blood pressure can create a dangerous situation for an individual who drinks too much. The risk of heart attack and stroke greatly rise as the myocard (heart muscle) weakens which can lead to heart failure. The immune system experiences increased susceptibility to certain diseases as physicians have observed such as:
- Increased risk of liver damage
- Hepatitis B
- Hepatitis C
- Other life-threatening complications of alcoholism
Effects on Liver and Pancreas
The main way in which alcohol affects the liver is through development of fat deposits in the liver which may permanently scar and damage the liver. Inflammation of the liver (alcoholic hepatitis) or liver cirrhosis may also occur along with an increased risk of liver cancer. Heavy or prolonged use of alcohol can cause the pancreas to produce toxic substances which can lead to pancreatitis, dangerous inflammation and swelling of the blood vessels in the pancreas which may become fatal.
The effect of alcohol on mental health cannot be understated. Individuals who use alcohol to help cope with tough life situations and emotions or reduce anxiety find it can also lead to:
- Insomnia and sleep problems
- Personality disorders
- Risk-taking behaviors
- Suicidal thoughts and actions
Women who are pregnant are advised against drinking alcohol for many reasons. Government guidelines suggest women who wish to become pregnant avoid excessive drinking also as it affects the menstrual cycle, can cause irregular periods or increased risk of miscarriage in the event of pregnancy. A fetus can be physically and emotionally damaged from the effects of excessive drinking. Drinking during pregnancy can influence a baby’s susceptibility to illness in infancy, childhood and beyond as well as impact the child’s ability to learn and grow properly. Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) is a strong possibility for women who drink excessively while pregnant which causes birth defects and mental retardation of the fetus.
Individuals who drink irresponsibly can put others and themselves at risk of harm. If drinking has gotten out of control and you are not able to stop on your own, there is help. The Villa can provide resources and tools to support your journey to recovery. Call us to find out more information.