Effects on body systems
Central Nervous System
Drinking impairs judgment, thinking and concentration and also leads to drowsiness and even coma. Occasional loss of memory is common in regular drinkers. Persistent alcohol use has harmful effects on brain and nerves.
Alcohol reduces the absorption of thiamine from the gut and hinder with how thiamine is used in the body. Thiamine deficiency can cause life threatening disorder called Wernicke’s encephalopathy. Alcohol can damage the cerebellum which is responsible for balance and coordination. It can disrupt the sleep cycle and result in insomnia. Drinking can cause blurred or double vision and alcohol poisoning leads to loss of vision.
Chronic use of alcohol increases the risk of heart diseases like heart failure, irregular heartbeats and dilated cardiomyopathy. Drinking can also increase blood pressure. Alcohol consumption increases the risk of heart disease in women compared to men.
Alcohol can cause damage to the digestive system by disrupting its normal function. It can affect every part of the digestive tract starting from the mouth to the colon. Alcohol abuse can injure the salivary glands and can result in gum disease, tooth decay, and even tooth loss. It also results in ulcers, acid reflux and heartburn. Abdominal ulcers and gastritis are common in regular drinkers.
Inflammation of the pancreas compromises with its capacity to assist digestion and regulate metabolism. Injury to the digestive system can cause gas, abdominal fullness, and diarrhea. Chronic drinkers can experience internal bleeding, which may be due to ulcers, hemorrhoids or due to cirrhosis.
Alcohol disrupts absorption of nutrients and B vitamins and thus causes malnutrition. Drinking increases the risk of mouth, throat, and esophagus cancers.
Diabetic patients have an increased risk of low blood sugar levels, particularly if they are on insulin therapy. Deficiencies in vitamin B6, vitamin B12, thiamine, and folic acid can lead to decreased blood counts.
Muscular & Skeletal System
Alcohol use results in various types of injuries, including injuries from road traffic accidents, falls etc. This are typically because elevated levels of blood alcohol weaken the brain function and the coordination of muscles, causing difficulty in movement. Chronic alcohol use disturbs the absorption of calcium and bone formation and can in fact lead to osteoporosis.
An immune system damaged by alcohol has a tough time fighting off viruses, germs, and all types of diseases. Chronic drinkers are more prone to infections after surgery, burns, trauma, hepatitis C infection, HIV/AIDS, meningitis, pneumonia and tuberculosis compared to non alcoholic individuals. Alcohol abuse increases the risk of many types of cancer.
Sexual and Reproductive Health
Alcohol abuse is directly linked to erectile dysfunction in men. It can also hinder hormone production, alter testicular function, and cause infertility.
Extreme drinking in women disrupts the menstrual cycle and in turn leads to infertility. It can also augment the risk of miscarriage, premature delivery, and stillbirth. Alcohol has a bad impact on fetal development. It can cause physical abnormalities, learning difficulties, and emotional troubles.
Alcohol use increases breast cancer risk in women.
It is believed that alcohol helps to handle complex situations and emotions, and that it decreases stress or alleviate anxiety, but alcohol is in fact connected with a variety of mental health problems including depression, anxiety, personality disorders and schizophrenia.
Alcohol has also been associated to suicide. Studies suggest that one third of suicides among younger age group take place while the person is intoxicated.
Heavy drinking can interrupt normal sleeping patterns, resulting in insomnia and a lack of peaceful sleep, which can add to stress and anxiety.
Alcohol is a diuretic (causes water to be lost from the body through the kidneys).Excess consumption of alcohol leads to dehydration. Alcohol can also cause the loss of vital minerals and salts from the body such as magnesium, calcium, phosphate, sodium and potassium, either directly or through vomiting. Decreased levels of these elements can produce many problems ranging from irregular heartbeats to seizures.
Chronic alcohol use can cause the pancreas to produce toxic substances that obstruct with proper functioning. The major function of liver is to break down harmful substances, including alcohol. Heavy drinking contributes to alcoholic hepatitis which can progress to the development of jaundice. Chronic liver inflammation can cause severe scarring known as cirrhosis. This formation of scar tissue can damage the liver. When the liver stops functioning, harmful substances remain in the body. Liver disease is highly lethal. Women are at increased risk for alcoholic liver disease than men, because women’s bodies tend to take up more alcohol and take longer to process it. Alcohol abuse also elevates the liver cancer .
Liver cancer treatment in India is successfully performed under competent surgeons with an affordable cost compared to western countries.
Alcohol abuse treatment
Quitting alcohol is usually a more gradual practice. In the initial stages of recovery, denial is a major barrier. Even after acknowledging the drinking problem, the individual may create excuses and drag the feet. Setting the goal with utmost determination is the most important step in recovery. Following tips may help in recovery:
- Connect with supportive people or group
- Stay away from triggers and triggering people
- Get ready to face the withdrawal symptoms
- Anticipate setbacks - it is essential to be practical about the recovery
- Adopt healthy life style habits like exercise, a balanced diet, and adequate amount of sleep
- Acquire more knowledge about recovery by reading the related articles
Some people can quit drinking on their own, while others need medical help in order to withdraw from alcohol securely and happily. Rehabilitation centers or professional treatment helps in recovery, but to stay away from alcohol for the long term needs strong determination and will power.
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