Long-Term Effects of Alcohol

Long-Term Effects of Alcohol | Harmony Recovery Center

Long-Term Effects of Alcohol – Consuming too much alcohol can have dramatic effects on one’s health and overall well-being. Liver disease, hypertension, heart arrhythmia, pancreatitis, and several types of cancer are all associated with the long-term misuse of alcohol.

Moreover, drinking more than the recommended daily allowance (1-2 drinks for women and men, respectively) can result in the development of at least sixty different diseases and significantly impact one’s mental health and social life as well.

Physical Effects

Alcohol dependence – Abusing alcohol for an extended period can lead to a condition known as dependence. Dependence occurs when the brain adapts to the presence of a substance, such as alcohol, and becomes unable to function correctly without it. This results in unpleasant and possibly life-threatening withdrawal symptoms when the person attempts to quit or cut back, often compelling him or her to relapse to avoid these effects.

Alcohol tolerance – Tolerance develops as a result of the brain’s propensity to reduce the effects of a psychoactive substance over time – moreover, “repeated exposure = diminished response.” When this occurs, the user is compelled to consume increasing amounts of the substance in order to achieve the desired effect.

Tolerance is dangerous and ill-suited for a healthy life for several reasons. For one, consuming alcohol in higher amounts becomes correspondingly riskier concerning health, mental, and social effects. Along with this comes an increased chance of death due to alcohol poisoning. And finally, there are financial repercussions – money spent on alcohol and legal issues or other problems related to alcohol abuse.

Liver cirrhosis – The liver is instrumental in the process of alcohol metabolism. Repeated overuse of alcohol can lead to the liver becoming damaged and replaced by scar tissue. Over time, the liver may become unable to heal itself or perform its normal functions, leading to life-threatening problems and end-stage liver disease.

Cancer – Drinking alcohol at high levels is the second leading cause of cancer after smoking. Exceeding the daily limit of alcohol, even by just a small amount, can lead to a higher risk of developing the following cancers:

  • Mouth
  • Pharynx
  • Oesophagus
  • Larynx
  • Breast
  • Stomach
  • Colon
  • Rectum
  • Liver

Hypertension – Consuming an excessive amount of alcohol can increase blood pressure to unhealthy levels. Having more than three drinks in one session raises blood pressure temporarily, but repeated binge drinking can lead to long-term increases.

Injuries – Intoxicating effects of alcohol can result in numerous injuries from falls or misadventure – bruising, broken bones, etc. According to the World Health Organization, alcohol is involved in up to 30% of adult hospital admissions, particularly those to emergency departments.

Mental Effects

Long-Term Effects of Alcohol | Harmony Recovery Center

Alcohol is a depressant and using alcohol as a means to self-medicate often leads to the opposite effect of what a person intends. Alcoholism can increase depression, anxiety, and exacerbate symptoms of pre-existing mental illness such as bipolar and borderline personality disorders.

What’s more, alcohol use interferes with medications such as antidepressants that are intended to treat mood disorders, and can also be very dangerous when used in conjunction with other central nervous system depressants, such as benzodiazepines.

Brain Damage

People who consume large amounts of alcohol for an extended period have an increased risk of developing severe and persistent changes in the brain. For example, people who suffer from alcoholism (up to 80%) often have a deficiency in thiamine (B1), an essential nutrient required by all tissues in the body, including the brain.

Some of these individuals will go on to develop a serious brain disorder such as Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome (WKS), a disease that is characterized by two separate syndromes, a short-term but severe condition called Wernicke’s encephalopathy and a long-lasting and highly debilitating illness known as Korsakoff’s psychosis.

The symptoms of Wernicke’s encephalopathy include confusion, paralysis of the nerves that move the eyes, and impaired muscle coordination.

Social Effects

When alcohol becomes a common feature of someone’s life, it’s not just the person drinking that feels the impact. Those close to him or her, such as family and friends, are affected as well. Drinking habits and problematic behavior become a source of arguments and frequently result in relationship conflicts.

Financial and legal consequences are also common. And these, in turn, can lead to debt, unemployment, license suspension, and incarceration. Alcoholism also contributes to violence, such as physical and sexual assaults.

Treatment for Alcohol Addiction

Long-Term Effects of Alcohol | Harmony Recovery Center

Alcohol addiction is most effectively treated through the use of a comprehensive, evidence-based approach tailored to the individual. Such an approach should include psychotherapy, counseling, group support, and holistic practices such as yoga and meditation.

Our center offers these services in both rehab (inpatient) and intensive outpatient formats. Residents stay with us 24/7 for 30 days or longer while they receive medical and mental health care around-the-clock. Outpatient treatment is beneficial for those who have already completed an inpatient stay while they transition back to society, or need more flexibility to attend to essential life responsibilities.

Our aftercare planning services help patients locate resources outside of the center for ongoing therapy and support after initial treatment has concluded.

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