Author: Alex Thompson

Alcohol use disorder Symptoms and causes

long term alcohol effects

Over time, it causes heart muscles to droop and stretch, like an old rubber band. Your heart can’t pump blood as well, and that impacts every part of your body. The pancreas helps regulate how your body uses insulin and responds to glucose.

long term alcohol effects

The long term effects of drinking refer to the ways in which prolonged alcohol consumption alters our wellbeing over an extended period of time. These changes can be harder to recognize since they often develop gradually over the years, and include increased risk of various diseases and cancers. Learning about the long-term effects of alcohol and speaking with your physician can help prevent more severe damage and reduce alcohol-related risk. Heavy drinking can affect the liver, which is our body’s natural detoxifying organ. Alcoholic liver disease is a spectrum of disease that includes steatosis, where an excess of fat builds up in the liver, and alcoholic hepatitis, where liver cells are chronically inflamed. The most severe form of liver disease is alcoholic cirrhosis, which is where fatty liver tissue is replaced by scar tissue and can no longer function.

Alcohol Use and Your Health

Alcohol addiction is a disease characterized by a strong craving for alcohol, and continued use despite a negative impact on health, interpersonal relationships, and ability to work. If the person stops drinking, they will experience withdrawal symptoms. Excessive alcohol consumption heightens the risk of different types of cancer, including those of the liver, throat, esophagus, mouth, and breast. The combination of alcohol and tobacco exacerbates cancer risk substantially. Any amount of alcohol can cause an increased risk of headaches, with symptoms worsening with greater consumption.

Excessive drinking often leads to conflicts, misunderstandings, and a lack of trust. Individuals with alcohol use disorder (AUD) may prioritize alcohol over their relationships, causing emotional distance and isolation. Alcoholism can have severe implications on mental health, affecting various aspects of cognitive and emotional well-being. Considering these hormonal dysregulations, unhealthy alcohol use can also contribute to low bone density for older men and post-menopausal women. Low bone density can increase the likelihood of osteoporosis, vertebral fractures, wrist fractures, and hip fractures. So how exactly can heavy alcohol use affect someone in the long-term?

  1. Tolerance and dependence can both happen as symptoms of alcohol use disorder, a mental health condition previously referred to as alcoholism, that happens when your body becomes dependent on alcohol.
  2. It then travels to the brain, where it quickly produces its effects.
  3. Alcoholic beverages can hinder brain development in youth, impacting memory, learning, decision-making, and emotional regulation, potentially causing long-term cognitive and behavioral issues.
  4. With these conditions, you’ll only notice symptoms during alcohol intoxication or withdrawal.
  5. Low bone density can increase the likelihood of osteoporosis, vertebral fractures, wrist fractures, and hip fractures.
  6. This condition affects blood circulation, which can lead to other health problems.

Alcoholic beverages can hinder brain development in youth, impacting memory, learning, decision-making, and emotional regulation, potentially causing long-term cognitive and behavioral issues. Alcoholism’s societal repercussions extend beyond individual lives. It contributes to various societal problems, including alcohol-related accidents, violence, and legal issues.

Medical Professionals

It makes your body release stress hormones that narrow blood vessels, so your heart has to pump harder to push blood through. Over time, heavy drinking makes the organ fatty and lets thicker, fibrous tissue build up. That limits blood flow, so liver cells don’t get what they need to survive.

Drinking with a meal slows the rate of absorption, resulting in fewer side effects and less intoxication. Within minutes of consuming alcohol, it is absorbed into the bloodstream by blood vessels in the stomach lining and small intestine. It can also be difficult for the body to process, putting extra pressure on the liver, the digestive system, the cardiovascular system, and other functions. Learn about the link between seasonal affective disorder and depression and find support at The Recovery Team. Evidence-based therapies like cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), medication management, engaging activities, and holistic treatments support your journey.

Alcohol makes you dehydrated and makes blood vessels in your body and brain expand. Your stomach wants to get rid of the toxins and acid that alcohol churns up, which gives you nausea and vomiting. And because your liver was so busy processing your drinks, it didn’t release enough sugar into your blood, bringing on weakness and the shakes. Your brain helps your body stay well-hydrated by producing a hormone that keeps your kidneys from making too much urine. But when alcohol swings into action, it tells your brain to hold off on making that hormone. That means you have to go more often, which can leave you dehydrated.

Our kidneys help regulate our body’s natural fluid balance through what’s called the renal system. Heavy fluid intake, such as excessive amounts of alcohol, can disturb this natural functioning. These conditions have very serious consequences, and can even manifest as heart attacks and strokes when blockages prevent blood flow to the brain or heart. These powerful chemicals manage everything from your sex drive to how fast you digest food.

If a person consumes large amounts of alcohol regularly, their tolerance can increase, and the body requires more alcohol to achieve the desired effect. Of major concern is the number of young people who consume alcohol. Research suggests that 20 percent of college students meet the criteria for AUD, and the condition affects some 623,000 adolescents aged 12 to 17 years. Since the liver can only process the equivalent of one drink at a time, the body may remain saturated with the alcohol that has not yet left the body. When the amount of alcohol in the blood exceeds a certain level, this can lead to alcohol toxicity, or poisoning. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 15.1 million people aged 18 years and over in the U.S. had alcohol use disorder (AUD), or 6.2 percent of this age group.

Impact on the Digestive System

During this time, a person may do things that they do not remember later. In severe cases, alcoholism can lead to alcohol-induced psychosis, marked by hallucinations, delusions, and disorganized thinking. This condition can be distressing and dangerous, necessitating immediate medical attention. Alcohol weakens the immune system over time, making the body more susceptible to infections and impairing its ability to fight illnesses, leading to increased vulnerability to diseases.

Seizures, hallucinations, and delirium may occur in severe cases of withdrawal. Difficulty absorbing vitamins and minerals from food can cause fatigue and anemia, a condition where you have a low red blood cell count. Ulcers can cause dangerous internal bleeding, which can sometimes be fatal without prompt diagnosis and treatment.

Drinking can lower testosterone levels and cause sexual dysfunction. This can also create a negative correlation between alcohol and sex drive. This can deregulate menstrual cycles, cause or worsen infertility, and most disconcertingly, be a risk factor for some estrogen-mediated breast cancers.

50-70% of people who drink heavily are found to have varying degrees of cognitive impairments. The severity of this form of dementia is “dose-dependent,” meaning a person who drinks five drinks daily will typically have fewer symptoms than someone who drinks ten drinks daily. Memory blackouts are also a side effect of binge drinking and heavy drinking, which can put an individual’s safety at risk. Most people are aware that alcohol can negatively affect sleep quality. However, the connection between alcohol and various sleep disorders is often lesser-known.

Learning more about the specific impact alcohol has on the body’s organ systems can provide a helpful, and even life-changing perspective. While the harmful effects of alcohol can be disconcerting, healing and risk-reduction is within reach. Working with a physician can help you create a personalized plan for making a change. Alcoholism is a chronic condition characterized by an individual’s inability to control or stop drinking despite negative consequences on their health, relationships, and daily life. It’s considered a substance abuse disorder, ranging from mild to severe, and it can have various causes, including genetic, environmental, psychological, and social factors.