Drinking alcohol can affect the body in many ways. While we are very familiar with the outward manifestations of alcohol consumption, the short and long-term effects of alcohol use and abuse on the body and brain need to be acknowledged and addressed. Although these effects are not easily visible, the continued use and subsequent abuse of alcohol can have significant health risks over time. It is essential to understand both the short-term as well as the long-term effects of alcohol consumption.
Short-Term Effects of Alcohol Consumption
When alcohol is consumed, approximately 20 percent of it is absorbed rapidly into the bloodstream while the remainder is processed through the gastrointestinal tract. Once alcohol enters the bloodstream, it can be absorbed and diffused into every major organ because the cell membranes of all the major organs are highly sensitive to alcohol. The effects of alcohol depend on a person’s weight, age, and gender. Additionally, a person’s body composition, overall health, and history of drinking also play crucial roles in regards to alcohol’s overall effects on the body.
When people begin consuming alcohol, they may initially feel increased relaxation, self-confidence, happiness, and social, but these can progress into more negative behaviors. Alcohol consumption leads to slower reflexes, reduced coordination, impaired thinking, poor judgment, depression, impaired memory, and a decreased ability to control motor functions. Additionally, alcohol use has been linked to violent behavior and an increase in risk-taking like unprotected sex among young adults.
What Are the Increased Risk Factors?
Alcohol also increases the risk of becoming a victim of sexual assault. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), about 25 percent of American women experience some form of sexual assault, including forced touching, kissing, and rape. Half of those cases involve alcohol. There are a number of possible factors that contribute to alcohol-involved sexual assault. Alcohol lowers inhibitions in individuals that may be considering sexual advances and may hinder the motor skills and cognitive ability of potential victims. This creates an environment increases your likelihood of experiencing unwanted sexual advances and assault.
Alcohol’s tendency to inhibit safe decision-making and motor skills also increases your risk of motor vehicle accidents, suicide, injury, domestic violence, and drowning. Alcoholism is often used to self-medicate for depression and other mental issues. However, since alcohol is a depressant, it may exacerbate poor moods and mental illness caused by chemical imbalance. Studies show that alcohol is a factor in a significant number of suicides and is affected by age, race, and the suicide method.
Alcohol use can also cause alcohol dependency, which leads to compulsive use, better known as alcoholism. Since alcohol can cause significant health issues over time, it is important to understand those complications.
Alcohol can cause both physical and psychological dependence. As of 2013, it has been classified as the disease known as alcohol use disorder by the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Your body will build up a tolerance to ethanol (the chemical name for drinking alcohol) and you will need more to achieve the same effects.
Can Alcoholism Cause Cancer?
When alcohol is continuously consumed over a long period of time it begins to affect the body in several ways. One of the negative effects of chronic alcohol abuse is a cancer risk. Alcohol is a known carcinogen, especially when consumed in excess over a long period of time.
Studies show that alcohol is a clear cause for site-specific cancers like in the oral cavity, pharynx, esophagus, colorectal, liver, larynx, and female breast. However, there is some controversy as to whether cancer is caused in other organs. A 2014 study, reviewed alcohol’s effect on 23 different cancer types and confirmed the positive correlation between alcohol use and site-specific cancer.
It also found mounting evidence that alcohol causes other types of cancer like prostate cancer, pancreatic cancer, and melanoma. Long-term and excessive consumption of alcohol increases your risk for these cancers but “occasional drinkers” had a much lower risk factor.
Alcoholism and Heart Disease
Heavy drinking can also have significant effects on the heart. Though some have purported that moderate alcohol use is actually good for your heart health, there are many assumptions that have to be made to support that theory and it might not be true at all. What we do know is that excessive alcohol use can lead to heart disease.
Some conditions that can be brought on by alcohol abuse include cardiomyopathy, which causes the heart muscle to expand and droop. Another potentially serious heart condition is myocarditis, which is the inflammation of the heart muscle. Other complications can include irregular heartbeat, increased cholesterol and greater risk of heart attacks and stroke.
Other Health Complications Caused by Alcoholism
Excessive drinking can cause fatty deposits to build in the liver, which can lead to hepatitis, a condition that can cause the liver to not absorb nutrients. Cirrhosis of the liver can also take place with excessive alcohol use. Cirrhosis is the scarring of the liver and with the excess of scar tissue can bring forth complications such as jaundice, fatigue, and loss of appetite.
Additionally, excessive drinking can accelerate the rate of bone deterioration and increase the risk for bone fracture and osteoporosis. Calcium is necessary for strong, dense bones and when alcohol is consumed, it acts as a diuretic and flushes calcium from the bones making them weaker and more susceptible to fracture. When alcohol is consumed excessively, it can also cause cell damage in the central nervous system creating a condition known as neuropathy. Neuropathy causes alternating feelings of weakness, burning, pain, and numbness in the feet and hands.
Seeking Help for Alcoholism
Knowing the dangers of both the short and long-term effects of alcohol is an important tool in the journey of recovery. Being aware of complications brought on by excessive use physically, emotionally and psychologically can act as a great motivator to pursue the path of recovery. If you or a loved one has a problem with alcohol, find out what the treatment options for alcohol abuse are at the Palm Beach Institute, Call the addiction specialists at 855-534-3574 at any time to get the answers you need to start your journey toward recovery.