Alcohol is the most commonly abused drug worldwide. In the U.S. alone, nearly 15 million people suffer from alcohol use disorder.
Drinking excessively can lead to serious health risks, including addiction, organ damage, depression, and overdose.
Rehab centers like Vertava Health of Massachusetts provide comprehensive treatment to help people recover from the effects of alcohol abuse.
If a person stops drinking, many of the effects of alcohol abuse can be reversed. However, conditions such as fatty liver disease and pancreatitis can cause permanent damage to the body.
Long-Term Effects Of Alcohol Abuse On The Body
Many people are aware that drinking can have significant impacts on a person’s physical health. However, they may not realize that this drug is the third-leading preventable cause of death in the nation. An estimated 88,000 people die from alcohol-related causes every year.
People who abuse alcohol may notice that the drug has an immediate effect on the body. Even one instance of heavy drinking can lead to changes in heartbeat, slowed breathing, and dehydration.
Over time, alcohol abuse can result in long-term health conditions, including:
- liver cirrhosis
- stomach ulcers
- heart damage
- compromised immune system
- hormonal imbalances
- cancer of the mouth, esophagus, liver, colon, and breast
While alcohol use disorders are more common among men, women are at an increased risk for alcohol-related health hazards. This is because male and female bodies metabolize the drug at different rates.
Alcohol can also have a more significant effect on young people. Underage alcohol abuse interferes with adolescent brain development and raises a young person’s risk of bodily injury, sexual assault, and death.
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Long-Term Effects Of Alcohol Abuse On The Brain
Excessive alcohol use can also alter a person’s mental well-being. Even short periods of alcohol abuse can impact a person’s memory, coordination, and ability to think things through.
Long-term use of the drug can cause permanent damage to the brain, which means the effects occur even when they don’t have alcohol in their system.
Alcohol abuse can have additional long-term effects on the brain, including:
- nerve damage
- trouble with balance
- decreased attention span
- difficulty forming thoughts
- Wernicke’s encephalopathy
- Korsakoff’s psychosis (“wet brain”)
What Is Alcohol Abuse?
Since alcohol is a legal substance, many people are unsure about the difference between moderate, “social” drinking and alcohol abuse.
While some people can have an occasional drink without consequence, millions of others struggle to control their alcohol intake.
Alcohol abuse is an umbrella term that includes binge drinking as well as heavy drinking behaviors. Binge drinking is defined as a pattern of alcohol consumption that brings blood alcohol concentration levels to 0.08.
This typically happens to women who have four or more drinks over several hours, and men who have five or more drinks over a period of two hours.
On the other hand, heavy alcohol use occurs when a person binge drinks on five or more days during a month. The liver can only process approximately one alcoholic drink per hour. Therefore, even occasional episodes of binge drinking can lead to long-term damage.
To fully understand alcohol abuse, it’s important to acknowledge the meaning of a standard drink. When people don’t realize the amount of alcohol in one standard drink, they may underestimate how much they are drinking.
One standard drink of alcohol includes:
- 12 ounces of beer
- 8 ounces of malt liquor
- 5 ounces of wine
- 1.5 ounces of liquor
When a person drinks more than one standard drink per hour, they are at risk for intoxication. Being under the influence can put people in dangerous situations, and drinking to the point of intoxication raises a person’s risk of both physical and mental health hazards.
What Are The Signs Of Alcohol Abuse And Addiction?
A person does not have to be an alcoholic to suffer from alcohol abuse. People can struggle with binge drinking and heavy alcohol use without developing the disease of alcoholism. However, each of these drinking patterns falls under the category of alcohol abuse.
If you are concerned that someone close to you is battling alcohol abuse, it may be helpful to familiarize yourself with the signs of alcohol abuse and addiction.
Being knowledgeable about the signs of alcohol abuse can help you empower your loved one to get the help they need.
A person struggling with alcohol abuse may show certain signs, including:
- “blacking out” while drinking
- short-term memory loss
- sneaking drinks
- hiding alcohol around the house or workplace
- defensive attitude about alcohol
- drinking alone
- minimizing their actions while intoxicated
- denying they have a problem
- drinking more than intended
- unsuccessful attempts to cut back or stop drinking
People who abuse alcohol may also experience symptoms of withdrawal. If a person is dependent on alcohol and stops drinking for a period of time, their body may begin to enter a state of withdrawal.
Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can include:
- shaky hands
- pounding heart
- feeling jumpy
- loss of appetite
- seeing or hearing things that are not there (auditory and visual hallucinations)
Getting Treatment For Alcohol Abuse And Addiction
Alcohol use disorder is the most common substance use disorder worldwide and affects thousands of American families.
If you or someone you love is battling alcohol abuse and addiction, effective treatment is available. Rehab centers like Vertava Health of Massachusetts provide comprehensive care to individuals and families who are suffering from the effects of alcohol abuse.
The first step in alcohol addiction treatment is medical detoxification. Alcohol withdrawal can have life-threatening symptoms, and should always take place under medical supervision. Once a person has successfully detoxed from alcohol, they can begin formal addiction treatment.
At Vertava Health of Massachusetts, we offer on-site medical detox as well as a blend of traditional and alternative therapies. Patients engage in customized treatment tracks that may include family counseling and medication-assisted treatment (MAT).
Instead of using a “one-size-fits-all” approach to addiction treatment, Vertava Health of Massachusetts is committed to offering personalized treatment plans for every patient.
Many of the long-term effects of alcohol abuse can be reversed with proper treatment. To learn more about the effects of alcohol abuse, or for more information about Vertava Health of Massachusetts, reach out to a treatment specialist today.
- National Institutes of Health: National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism — Alcohol Alert, Alcohol's Effects on the Body, Alcohol Facts and Statistics
- National Institutes of Health: National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism — What Is A Standard Drink?
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus — Fatty Liver Disease
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus — Alcohol withdrawal