Effects of Alcohol Abuse
Do you know alcohol can be toxic to your heart? Over the longer term, alcohol abuse can lead to high blood pressure, enlarged and weakened heart, congestive heart failure and stroke. Binge drinking can be associated with atrial fibrillation, a problem with the rate or rhythm of the heartbeat. If the heart's components don't work together properly it can even lead to a stroke, advises the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. The scary thing is that you may not even feel the symptoms.
All of these are reasons why your doctor encourages you not to drink alcohol. You can take care of your heart through good nutrition, regular exercise and maintaining a healthy weight. Other effects of alcohol abuse include:
Expert Insight Dr. John Larson
People enjoy drinking alcohol for many reasons, but no matter what the reason, its effects on a person's brain, both short- and long-term, are profound... Learn More >
Corporate Medical Director
Gateway Treatment Centers
- Alcohol abuse increases the risks of cancer. For women, even moderate drinking can increase chances of developing breast cancer by 10%.
- Although alcohol can make you feel energetic or uninhibited, it is actually a depressant. Alcohol shuts down parts of your brain. When the amount of alcohol in your blood exceeds a certain level, your respiratory system slows down markedly, and can cause a coma or death because oxygen no longer reaches the brain. This is referred to as alcohol poisoning.
- Daily alcohol intake may impact the ability of adults to produce and retain new cells, reducing new brain cell production by nearly 40%.
- Alcohol abuse is related to cirrhosis, fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FAS), malnutrition, ulcers, hepatitis, among other things
- Poorer outcomes from surgical procedures due to alcohol's effects on the person's health, malnutrition, and the depressive effects of alcohol on the body
- Heavy drinking affects the body's ability to stop bleeding because the liver has difficulty producing the proteins that cause clotting
- Alcohol abuse can result in brain damage, slower thinking, unsteadiness and slurred speech
- Alcohol doesn't mix well with many prescription drugs
Can the body recover from excessive drinking?
Research suggests the body can bounce back once a person stops drinking. The liver, one of the few organs that can compensate by growing new cells, has remarkable regenerative powers. A liver mildly inflamed by alcohol can recover fairly rapidly once the drinking stops. Even a scarred liver can halt the process of cirrhosis if alcohol abuse is stopped in time.
Drinking alcohol leads to a loss of coordination, poor judgment, slowed reflexes, distorted vision, memory lapses and even blackouts.
Alcohol can damage every organ in your body. It is absorbed directly into your bloodstream and can increase your risk for a variety of life-threatening diseases, including cancer.
Alcohol depresses your central nervous system, lowers your inhibitions and impairs your judgment. Drinking can lead to risky behaviors, such as driving when you shouldn't, or having unprotected sex.
It Can Kill You
Drinking large amounts of alcohol at one time or very rapidly can cause alcohol poisoning, which can lead to coma or even death. Driving and drinking also can be deadly. In 2003, 31% of drivers age 15 to 20 who died in traffic accidents had been drinking alcohol.
Research even suggests that brains too can recover from damage caused by alcohol abuse.
Studies have found that after a month of sobriety, an alcoholic's brain begins to repair itself, and brain volume, which tends to shrink from excess alcohol, is increased by a few percentage points. Patients' ability to concentrate is also improved.
Teens & Alcohol
Teens' brains and bodies are still developing; alcohol use can cause learning problems or lead to adult alcoholism. People who begin drinking by age 15 are five times more likely to abuse or become dependent on alcohol than those who begin drinking after age 20. "Binge" drinking means having five or more drinks on one occasion. Studies show that more than 35% of adults with an alcohol problem developed symptoms--such as binge drinking--by age 19.
Is Drinking In Your DNA?
Drinking habits are often ingrained well before one reaches the legal drinking age. Heredity, culture, economic standing, family and lifestyle all play a role in shaping how much an individual drinks. If alcohol abuse runs in your family, it is particularly important to be vigilant about sticking to moderate drinking guidelines because you are more susceptible to developing alcohol dependency than someone without a family history of alcohol abuse