The Long-Term Effects of Alcohol on the Body
If you’ve ever had too much to drink, then you’ve experienced firsthand some of the painful effects alcohol can have on the body. Nausea, vomiting, and a pounding headache are just the beginning, though. The long-term effects of alcohol on your body may not be as immediately discernible as a terrible hangover, but they can wreak havoc on your health over time. Read on to learn more about the lasting effects too much alcohol can have on your body.
What areas of the body are affected by drinking alcohol?
You may be surprised to learn that alcohol can harm nearly all of your body’s major organs and systems. The brain, heart, liver, pancreas, immune system, and more are all affected by too much alcohol.
Too much alcohol can cause a variety of heart problems, including an irregular heart beat (also known as arrhythmias), cardiomyopathy, high blood pressure, and even stroke. The liver, responsible for detoxifying chemicals in your body, can also undergo serious stress, resulting in steatosis, alcoholic hepatitis, fibrosis, or cirrhosis.
Those who drink excessive amounts of alcohol can also weaken their immune system, increasing their likelihood of contracting diseases or infections. Too much alcohol also puts you at an increased risk of cancer of the mouth, esophagus, liver, throat, breast, and more.
How much alcohol is too much?
Drinking too much alcohol can lead to devastating health effects—but how much is too much? The US Department of Health and Human Services and US Department of Agriculture defines “moderate drinking” as up to 1 drink per day for women and up to 2 drinks per day for men.
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines binge drinking as “a pattern of drinking that brings blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels to 0.08 g/dL,” which usually occurs when women have 4 drinks or men have 5 drinks across two hours. Binge drinking for 5 or more days across a month qualifies as “heavy alcohol use” and can lead to serious health effects or an alcohol use disorder.
Although these guidelines are helpful, it’s also important to remember that some people in certain circumstances shouldn’t drink alcohol at all. If you plan to drive, take medicine that interacts with alcohol, have certain medical conditions, or are pregnant, any amount of alcohol can be “too much.” Talk to your doctor if you have any questions about safe alcohol use.
Are the negative health effects of alcohol reversible?
If you or a loved one has abused alcohol in the recent or distant past, you may be wondering if the health effects mentioned above are reversible. Some conditions, such as cirrhosis in the liver or stomach ulcers, can be reversed—at least to a certain extent. However, it’s important to eliminate alcohol altogether in order to give your body a chance to heal. Your doctor may also prescribe certain medications to help with the healing process.
Other conditions suffered by long-term alcohol abusers, such as cardiomyopathy (the stretching and enlargement of one’s heart), aren’t reversible, though treatments can be helpful in managing some of the painful effects.
What’s the first step to healing the body after alcohol abuse?
If you have a history of alcohol abuse, you may have experienced some of the short-term and long-term health effects of alcohol abuse firsthand. How do you pursue healing from the stress and strain your body has endured?
The key to reversing some of that damage and preventing further health issues is learning how to live a sober lifestyle. If you’re addicted to alcohol, you may fear that this “key” is impossible—or at least unattainable for you.
However, here at Hawaiian Island Recovery, our staff is ready and equipped to guide you through detox and rehab in a beautiful, tranquil, and supportive environment. Our holistic approach will guide you (or your loved one) towards healing of the body, mind, and spirit with the help of experiential and evidence-based interventions.