What are the Long-Term Effects of Alcohol Abuse?
Having addressed the short-term effects of alcohol abuse in another post, we turn our attention to the potential long-term effects which include alcoholism, liver disease, pancreatitis, malnutrition, and cancer.
Alcohol is a depressant, affecting the body as it is absorbed into the bloodstream. While the effects of alcohol on each individual’s body varies due to other life factors such as age, weight, overall physical health, medications, comorbidities, and the amount of alcohol consumed, the risks of overindulgence are serious.
Defining Long-Term Alcohol Abuse
Alcohol abuse has long been understood as the persistent and/or habitual misuse of alcohol. Turning to alcohol as a coping, masking or avoidance mechanism for life, family or career stresses and pressures, for instance, is an all-too common segue to abuse. Since 2013, the American Psychiatric Association published the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM–5), combining alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence under the broader mantle of an alcohol use disorder (AUD), differentiating between the levels of mild, moderate, or severe.
Signs and Symptoms of Long-Term Alcohol Abuse
People usually don’t realize they have a drinking problem until they’ve experienced a number of the symptoms outlined in the DSM-5. Recognizing the signs of an AUD early can help you seek treatment in a timely manner, preventing you from experiencing any long-term effects.
Take an honest inventory: How many of these symptoms have you experienced?
- Occasions of drinking more and/or for longer than you intended
- Desire to stop or cut back your alcohol consumption, but you’ve been unable
- Spending an inordinate amount of time drinking and/or recovering from drinking
- Having a strong or compelling urge to drink
- Recognizing that your drinking interferes with family, life, career or school obligations
- Continuing to drink in spite of recognizing the above-mentioned difficulties
- Neglecting other activities in order to drink
- Getting into regrettable and/or dangerous situations while you are drinking
- Drinking in spite of its contributing to your depression, anxiety or other mental health issues
- Increased tolerance, or in other words having to drink more to feel the same effects
- Withdrawal symptoms when alcohol’s effect is wearing off, such as insomnia, restlessness, nausea, sweating, fever, or seizures
According to DSM–5, if you’ve answered YES to any 2 of 11 criteria listed below you would be diagnosed with AUD. If 2-3 apply, your AUD would be classified as mild, 4-5 moderate, and 6 or more, severe.
How did you score? We can help. At Honey Lake Clinic, our licensed and experienced staff of recovery professionals understand your struggle, what you’re going through, and we can help you get sober. Don’t wait. Call right now.
Alcohol Abuse’s Long-Term Effects
Alcohol functions as a depressant, slowing the functions of your mind and body, impeding coordination and balance and clouding judgment and decision making. Whereas the short-term effects of alcohol abuse are typically worsening experiences of these phenomena, and improve when you stop drinking, the longer-term effects of alcohol abuse can lead to permanent (and sometimes fatal) organ damage.
Organs at risk with Long-Term Effects of Alcohol Abuse
- Stomach – Alcohol disrupts the digestive system, causing more acid to be produced in the stomach than normal, which can lead to reflux, irritation of the stomach’s lining (gastritis), nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, internal bleeding, and ulcers. Long-term abuse can lead to stomach cancer.
- Liver – The liver produces enzymes which aid in digestion. Heavy alcohol consumption can overwhelm the liver, leading to conditions which can become life-threatening such as fibrosis and cirrhosis.
- Kidneys – Our kidneys remove harmful substances from the bloodstream. While moderate drinking doesn’t harm the kidneys, heavy drinking which leads to the liver being overwhelmed causes our kidneys to work harder, increasing risk of kidney infection and/or kidney disease.
- Pancreas – The pancreas releases hormones which affect the level of sugar in the blood. Long-term alcohol abuse can cause inflammation around the organ, leading to pancreatitis, a potentially fatal condition.
- Heart– Heavy drinking has been linked to many heart issues. Because the heart receives blood from the liver and circulates it throughout our bodies. When the liver sends contaminated blood to the heart, risks include cardiac arrhythmias, high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke.
- Brain– Alcohol abuse can lead to changes in the structure and function of our brains. It can cause serious and sometimes irreversible changes to our limbic system (the part of our brain related to behavioral and emotional responses), cerebellum (coordinating and regulating muscle function) and cerebral cortex (central to consciousness). Alcohol can complicate and worsen depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder. The coexistence of a mental disorder and alcohol use disorder is referred to as co-occurring or dual disorders.
Long-Term Effects of Alcohol Abuse in the US
Long-term Alcohol abuse takes more lives in the United States than any other substance. An estimated 18 million American adults suffer from an AUD. Alcohol abuse greatly increases the risks of injury, automobile accidents, assaults, and accidental overdose when combined with other substances and medications. Alcohol is believed to contribute to 90,000 deaths each year in America.
Don’t become a statistic. Let us help you put alcohol abuse behind you. At Honey Lake Clinic, our recovery professionals will walk with you through every step of the process, from medically-assisted detox through therapy and aftercare. Call and speak with someone confidentially, today.
The Honey Lake Clinic Difference
At Honey Lake Clinic, we recognize that alcohol abuse doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Our faith-based treatment program, encompassing your spiritual, physical, and mental health, helps you address not only the alcohol abu se, but the life issues which contribute to and trigger the abuse. Health and wholeness are not only possible—they await you!