Hive Health Media

Consequences of Drinking Alcohol

For most people, an occasional drink is fine and it may even have some health benefits. But too much drinking can have both short-term and long-term effects that harm your body and can even shorten your lifespan. People who drink heavily (2 or more drinks a day for men) or binge  drink (4 or 5 drinks in 2 hours) are at increased risk for short-term and long-term harm.

Drinking heavily or binge drinking doesn’t automatically make you an alcoholic or dependent, but it can put in you dangerous situations. About 80,000 deaths each year are directly linked to excessive alcohol use, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Start keeping track of how much you drink to get an idea of how much is too much. Some of the short- and long-term consequences of drinking too much may surprise you.

Consequences of Alcohol

consequences-of-alcohol-infographic

 

Short-Term Effects of Alcohol

The short-term health risks of excessive drinking are immediate and usually obvious. From the moment you drink and the liver metabolizes it, alcohol affects your body. Alcohol in the bloodstream goes to your brain and impairs your ability to make good decisions. You may stumble or slur your speech. Impaired judgment means risky behavior like driving drunk, unprotected sex or other loss of inhibitions. When you can’t think right, you neglect your own safety and the safety of others.

Excessive drinking can also cause seizures, especially among binge drinkers. Certain short-term health problems can turn into long-term ones: Drinking increases your risk for depression and high blood pressure, both serious problems if they become chronic.  Memory loss is another short-term drinking problem that can become a bigger problem over the years.

Alcohol can also increase your risk of infectious diseases. Drinking too much can suppress your immune system, making you more susceptible to colds, pneumonia or even tuberculosis. Lowered inhibitions can mean more risky behavior, which increases your risk for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.

But short-term effects to your daily life are not the only thing to consider. There are also long-term risks and health problems that are major and life-threatening when alcohol is abused.

Long-Term Effects of Alcohol

Alcohol abuse affects your body over time. The longer your alcohol abuse continues, the more organs like your liver and pancreas are damaged.  Alcohol increases your risk for cancer, too. Cancers of the mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, colon and the breast are all real threats when you drink too much.

The liver takes the brunt of long-term alcohol abuse. Alcohol is a toxic substance that damages liver cells. The liver cells that metabolize food into energy become scarred – absorption and filtering suffer. This scarring over time makes the liver diseased and hardening called cirrhosis occurs.  Cirrhosis prevents the liver from doing its job of filtering and metabolizing. Liver function is vital—you cannot live without your liver and there is no medical substitute for its function.  The only treatment for a failed liver is a transplant.  Women take note—cirrhosis affects women who drink more quickly than it affects men.

Alcohol abuse is also a threat to your pancreas.  Heavy drinkers can develop chronic pancreatitis, inflammation of the pancreas where blood vessels are blocked and the digestive process is disrupted. Nearly half the patients with chronic pancreatitis developed it after prolonged alcohol use.  The disruptions of pancreatitis can mean chronic diarrhea, severe pain and may lead to diabetes if insulin production is affected.  The scary part is that most people who develop pancreatitis never experienced symptoms until the disease was well advanced.

Chronic high blood pressure from drinking can increase your risk of stroke. Drinking can also increase the likelihood of other cardiovascular problems, like arrhythmias and heart muscle problems (cardiomyopathy).

How to Cut Back on Drinking

If you are thinking about cutting back on alcohol, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has some suggestions:

  • Keep track – Keep track of how much you drink. Making note of each drink before you drink it may help you slow down.
  • Set limits – Decide how many days a week you want to drink and how many drinks you’ll have on those days. It’s a good idea to have some days when you don’t drink.
  • Pace and space – When you drink, pace yourself. Sip slowly. Have “drink spacers”—make every other drink a nonalcoholic one, such as water, soda or juice.
  • Avoid triggers – If think you have to drink in certain places or with certain people, avoid them. Change the situations so you only see certain friends in places without alcohol.

If you are unable to use tips and other recommendations to curb or stop your alcohol abuse in less than two months, you may need professional help at an alcohol rehab treatment facility. The risks to your health drop dramatically if you can cut back or stop drinking.

Article Sources:

  1. www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/alcohol.html
  2. www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/alcohol-use.htm
  3. www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/alcohols-effects-body
  4. rethinkingdrinking.niaaa.nih.gov/Strategies/TipsToTry.asp
  5. www.webmd.com/mental-health/alcohol-abuse/features/12-health-risks-of-chronic-heavy-drinking
  6. www.webmd.com/digestive-disorders/cirrhosis-liver
  7. www.webmd.com/digestive-disorders/digestive-diseases-pancreatitis

Bio:

Jason Adams is an inbound marketing strategist for Lakeview Health Systems, a Florida alcohol addiction treatment facility. His primary objective is to share helpful tips and information for individuals or loved ones who are struggling with alcohol and drug addiction related issues.

Jason Adams is an inbound marketing strategist at Lakeview Health Systems. He is dedicated to providing valuable content for friends, families and individuals who may be struggling with drug and alcohol related problems. Follow Jason on twitter @JasonSteelz.

4 Comments

  1. Lisa H.

    June 14, 2013 at 4:35 pm

    As someone who lost a friend due to complications from alcohol-related pancreatitis, I thank you for putting this information out there.

    Years ago, I tried all the tips you listed to cut back on my drinking, but had no success. But I sure did try. Then I got sober.

    For anyone with an alcohol problem, getting sober isn’t the end of the world. It’s the beginning of a beautiful new life.

    Blessings & peace to all.

  2. Jason Adams

    June 13, 2013 at 10:28 am

    @ Joebest, thanks for your feedback, you bring up some interesting points worth thinking about :)

  3. joebest

    June 13, 2013 at 2:25 am

    No doubt, alcoholism is a dangerous path to tread. And this writeup highlights its dangers. However, what is a little bit vague is the measure of drink as mentioned in the article. One or two drinks a day, for example, means nothing in practical terms. As we know alcohol is presented in various forms which also means a measure of each form’s alcoholic strengths. Therefore two drinks of beer even means nothing! Even saying two glasses of beer is still vague. But when one says two drinks of 200ml glassfuls of normal beer, then that begins to convey meanings because ‘normal beer’ in most environments means about 5% alcoholic content. And 200ml glass is an already known volume.

    Then come to the top of the scale, that is, spirits. We can leave those at a level of 40% alcohol. So does the article mean two drinks of a 100ml glass or something? If it meant that, then we see immediately that it is obviously and significantly different from two 200ml glassfuls of normal beer. So the article would have conveyed a better and more salutary message if it had made strong distinctions. The name, ‘alcohol’, in the article is only a generic name that conveys very little meaning.

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