Alcohol is a central nervous system (CNS) depressant, which means that it slows functions involved with the body and mind. Alcohol affects vision, coordination, judgment, ability to multitask, reaction time, sleeping, and decision-making skills. Because of the decreased reaction time from alcohol use, people are unable to do simple tasks, like driving a car. In many cases, the short-term effects of alcohol are more harmful than the long-term effects.
If you’re wondering how alcohol affects the body, it can be helpful to talk to experts. At Vertava Health, our team of addiction specialists can offer you more information about alcohol and its effects on your body. We’re here to help you through every step of recovery, so please don’t hesitate to reach out today at 844.451.0263.
What Are the Short-Term Effects of Alcohol?
The short-term effects of alcohol may include:
- Slurred speech
- Slowed reaction time
- Difficulty breathing
- Nausea or vomiting
A small dose of alcohol slows a person’s brain function, reduces tension, and lowers inhibitions and the ability to concentrate. A medium dose of alcohol causes slurred speech, altered emotions, poor vision, increased blood flow to the surface of the skin, increased urination, and sleepiness.
A high dose of alcohol produces breathing difficulties, uncontrolled urination/defecation, alcohol poisoning, coma, and possible death. Alcohol poisoning is a body’s reaction to overconsumption of alcohol. It causes the body to shut down completely and may be fatal. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, alcohol poisoning kills six people every day in the United States.
Understanding Alcohol Use
The definition of alcohol use is the habitual misuse of alcohol. Alcohol use is a type of alcohol use disorder (AUD) that is characterized by problem drinking that becomes severe. Alcohol use disorders frequently lead to health problems, legal trouble, and difficulty meeting obligations at work, school, or home.
For some people, the effects of alcohol are detectable after one or two drinks, while others may be able to mask it better. The short-term effects of alcohol use vary and may depend on the following factors:
- How much and how often a person drinks
- The age at which a person first began drinking and how long they’ve been drinking
- The person’s age, level of education, gender, or genetic background
- Whether a person suffered prenatal alcohol exposure
- The individual’s overall health
There were 139.7 million alcohol users in 2014, and about 17 million met the criteria for alcohol use disorder. A person struggling with alcohol use isn’t necessarily addicted to alcohol, although they’re at a much greater risk of developing alcoholism. Alcoholism is the most severe form of AUD.
Different Types of Alcohol Use
There are several forms of alcohol use in which the short-term effects of alcohol will be intensified. Types of alcohol use include binge drinking, underage drinking, and heavy alcohol use. People who should avoid alcohol altogether are those who are on medications, planning to drive, have a mental illness, or are pregnant. A person under the legal drinking age may be at an increased risk of developing health problems from alcohol use.
Binge drinking is a pattern of alcohol consumption that brings a person’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels to 0.08 or higher. It is defined as five drinks for men and four drinks for women in about two hours. Binge drinking may increase the likelihood of drunk driving, decreased sexual inhibitions, alcohol poisoning, and injury.
Heavy alcohol use is a type of high-risk drinking which is defined as binge drinking on five or more occasions in the past month. Heavy alcohol use increases the risk of liver disease, heart disease, depression, sleep disorders, and internal stomach bleeding. It may also lead to alcohol blackouts, unconsciousness, and anemia, meaning the loss of red blood cells.
Signs and Symptoms of Alcohol Use
It isn’t always easy to determine if a person is abusing alcohol. Some people use alcohol as a way to cope with mental illness, environment, trauma, or grief. Any of these types of drinking is considered alcohol use.
A person may be abusing alcohol if they can’t control the amount they drink or if their drinking causes problems in their relationships. A person struggling with alcohol use may give up things that they were once passionate about, such as their career goals or extracurricular activities. Men and women with an alcohol use disorder may go to great lengths to get alcohol, even if it’s hurting them or their loved ones.
Health Risks Associated with Alcohol Use
Alcohol use, either over time or on a single occasion, can cause serious health complications. Alcohol use may even lead to cancer of the mouth, esophagus, throat, liver, or breast. There is no amount of alcohol that’s considered safe for pregnant women because alcohol can cause a condition known as fetal alcohol syndrome.
Alcohol use can damage the following organs:
- Brain — Alcohol interferes with the brain’s reward pathway. Alcohol can affect how the brain appears and functions. Disruptions in the brain’s function can change mood and behavior and cause a person to lose coordination. Alcohol can cause permanent brain damage and even contributes to certain mental disorders.
- Heart — Alcohol can damage the heart and how it functions. Even on one single occasion, alcohol use can lead to cardiomyopathy, arrhythmia, stroke, and high blood pressure. Some studies have shown that moderate alcohol use can be beneficial to the heart. There are safer ways to improve heart health that don’t involve alcohol, like exercise and nutrition.
- Liver — Alcohol use can cause liver inflammation and other problems. The liver is responsible for filtering alcohol and turning it into a digestible chemical. Too much alcohol, even on a single occasion, can result in alcoholic hepatitis, fibrosis, cirrhosis, and steatosis.
- Pancreas — Alcohol causes the pancreas to produce a toxic chemical that may lead to pancreatitis. Pancreatitis is a dangerous inflammation and swelling of the blood vessels in the pancreas, which stops the body from being able to digest food properly.
Drinking too much can weaken a person’s immune system, making the body an easier target for disease. Drinking a lot on a single occasion slows the body’s ability to ward off infections, even up to 24 hours after getting drunk.
Alcohol Use Disorder Treatment
Alcohol use disorder is considered a chronic illness with relapse rates similar to diabetes, asthma, and high blood pressure. Treating alcohol use disorder as a chronic illness can help a person avoid adverse health consequences and remain abstinent from alcohol. One of the biggest problems with treating AUD is that alcohol affects each person differently.
An individualized treatment at Vertava Health treats alcohol use disorder as it pertains to each person and their illness. Many people need a medical detox to overcome the physical malady of alcohol use. Detox is merely the first step to overcoming alcohol. Behavioral treatment helps a person deal with all the mental and spiritual conditions of alcohol use. With the help of trusted professionals at Vertava Health, freedom from alcohol is within reach.
Consider Treatment at Vertava Health Today
If you or someone you love is struggling with an alcohol use disorder, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. The addiction treatment specialists at Vertava Health can create a tailored treatment plan that meets your unique needs. We offer a variety of evidence-based treatments and therapies, such as:
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
- Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT)
- Motivational interviewing (MI)
- Family therapy
- Adventure therapy
Contact Vertava Health today to learn about treatment for alcohol use.