Alcohol abuse is considered to be a habitual misuse of alcohol. Where the person is using alcohol as an escape mechanism to let loose and have fun, or to escape their own reality in some way. Anyone can abuse alcohol, it does not mean that there is an addiction (alcoholism) present, only that there is a higher likelihood for addiction to occur.
The more alcohol in the blood, the higher the risk for serious side-effects to occur. Which include increased risks for certain cancers, damage to the liver, brain, and other organs, and unintentional injury or violence.
The recommended drinking amount is 2 drinks a day for men and 1 drink a day for women. Drinking more than this is considered to be problematic drinking and can result in permanent damage to the body.
Alcohol’s Effects On The Body
When first consumed, 33 percent of alcohol gets absorbed immediately into the bloodstream, via the lining of the stomach. The rest is slowly absorbed by the small intestine. When someone abuses alcohol, they consume more than the amount their body can handle, and the amount of alcohol that is in their blood increases more quickly.
Once in the blood, alcohol makes its way to the brain, heart, and most other biological tissues.
Alcohol’s Effect On The Brain
Alcohol abuse can produce a significant amount of alcohol in the blood that supplies the brain. When the brain is flooded by alcohol it interferes with the brain’s neural messaging network by causing a disruption to the neural pathways. These disruptions can result in sudden mood changes, or changes in general behavior. And make it more difficult to think clearly, or be coordinated.
Alcohol’s Effect On The Heart
Abusing alcohol can cause serious heart malfunctions. When habitually abused, over a long time period it can cause the muscles in the heart to sag or droop (cardiomyopathy), irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia), stroke, and high blood pressure.
Alcohol’s Effect On The Liver
Heavy drinking can take a huge toll on the liver over time. The liver is the organ responsible for detoxifying your body of harmful substances. When alcohol is introduced into the system, the body recognizes it as a contaminate. The pancreas and liver begin producing and releasing enzymes that break down the alcohol and make it less toxic to the body.
Overtime, abusing alcohol causes the liver to become overworked and injured. Because most people who abuse alcohol attempt to remain a little drunk all the time, in order to avoid the withdrawal symptoms of alcohol leaving their system. As a result of the damage this constant state causes the liver to become inflamed.
The inflammation can appear as:
- Steatosis (fatty liver)
- Alcoholic hepatitis
- Fibrosis (scarring of the liver)
- Cirrhosis (chronic degeneration of liver cells)
Depending on how long the person has abused alcohol.
Alcohol’s Effect On The Pancreas
With the constantly raised levels of alcohol, the pancreas can only produce enough enzymes to break down a little of the excessive amount. This causes the pancreas to be flooded with toxic substances that, over time, lead to inflammation (pancreatitis).
Pancreatitis is dangerous because the swelling of the blood vessel prevents the body from being able to digest things properly, which can damage multiple other systems throughout the body.
Alcohol abuse can lead to long-term irreparable damage to these major organs. It can also cause the body to slowly shut down over time. It’s essentially like slowly poisoning yourself because your organs become to damaged to properly detox your body.
Alcohol Abuse Causes An Increased Risk Of Cancer
Abusing alcohol can increase risk of cancer to the mouth, esophagus, and throat. This is thought to result because the majority of alcohol is consumed orally. The mouth, esophagus, and throat all become exposed to habitual abuse, and the cells within the tissues that initially consumed the alcohol degenerate from the inside out once the remaining alcohol enters the blood.
Alcohol abuse has also been shown to increase the risk of getting liver and breast cancer. The increased risk to liver damage will happen when the liver becomes overworked and the damage sets in. The increased risk to breast cancer is thought to be because of the increased fat cell content in this tissue, because fat cells are more susceptible to alcohol penetrating their cell membranes than normal body tissue cells.
Decreased Immune System
With time, alcohol abuse can also lead to a less than optimal immune system. Typically when the body encounters a foreign substance it sees as harmful it will produce white blood cells to fight and destroy that substance to return the body to homeostasis.
Abusing alcohol lowers the body’s ability to do this by damaging internal organs and keep the body constantly in a state of fluctuation. This is why people who drink chronically, are more likely to contract diseases like pneumonia and tuberculosis, over people who rarely drink. It is important to note that even after a single binge drinking session the body’s ability to ward off infection is lower than normal for up to 24 hours after getting drunk.
Alcohol Has Different Effects With Age
How the body handles alcohol can change with age. And alcohol abuse symptoms are sometimes easily mistaken for common problems among old people, like balance issues. This can be dangerous because it can make it more difficult for doctors to understand their elderly patients symptoms, and they are more likely to be misdiagnosed. The increased risk of elderly becoming confused and forgetful often lead to the misdiagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease.
It is possible for elderly people to feel the effects of alcohol without increasing the amount they drink. Because the body breaks down with age, making it more difficult to build up a tolerance. This can lead to increased risk for falls and fractures.
Abusing alcohol has also been shown to worsen some health conditions like osteoporosis, diabetes, high blood pressure, ulcers, and mood disorders in older people.
Get Help For An Alcohol Problem Today
Still have questions regarding alcohol abuse and its effects? Contact one of our treatment specialist at Vertava Health to find out more about these topics. Abuse is the borderline to addiction, reach us today if you or a loved one is in need. We are here to help.