Legacy Healing Center Blog
Long Term Effects and Warning Signs of Alcohol Addiction
Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant that affects every organ in the body. When a person drinks alcohol, it is absorbed into their bloodstream via the stomach and small intestine and then circulated throughout the central nervous system. Alcohol abuse can cause serious long-term effects including severe, irreversible organ damage. Continue reading to learn about the long term effects of alcohol addiction, how to spot the warning signs of abuse, and how to get help.
Organs Damaged by Long-Term Alcohol Addiction
Alcohol abuse can lead to serious, sometimes irreversible damage to the limbic system, cerebellum, and cerebral cortex. Over time, damage to these communication centers within the brain may contribute to mental disorders such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorders and antisocial personality disorder.
Alcohol is metabolized by liver enzymes in order to be converted into a digestible product. The liver is only able to metabolize a small amount of alcohol at a time, which leaves the excess alcohol to circulate through the body. Excessive alcohol intake for prolonged periods of time can cause various liver inflammations, including:
- Fatty liver
- Alcoholic hepatitis
The heart is responsible for receiving blood from the liver and pumping it throughout the body. When the liver sends alcohol-contaminated blood to the heart, it can cause a number of different long-term health effects and heart disease, including:
- Cardiomyopathy (stretching of the heart muscle)
- Arrhythmia/irregular heartbeat
- Stroke and blood clots
- High blood pressure
- Heart attack
The pancreas is responsible for helping the body digest food by secreting two necessary hormones, insulin and glucagon. These hormones increase and decrease the level of sugar in the blood. Long-term alcohol abuse may cause Pancreatitis, a potentially deadly inflammation of the pancreas, and lead to severely impaired digestion. The symptoms of Pancreatitis are not always noticeable, so in many cases it goes untreated.
The kidneys are responsible for filtering harmful substances out of the blood. Heavy drinking is a known cause of high blood pressure, and liver damage. Both of which contribute to kidney disease.
The Stomach and Digestive system
Alcohol causes the stomach to produce more acid than normal, which can wear down the lining of the stomach and contribute to ulcers, acid reflux, nausea, vomiting inflammation and internal bleeding. Alcohol may also alter nutrient breakdown, absorption, transportation, storage, and excretion, leading to nutrient deficiencies and/or trouble fully using nutrients causing anemia. Alcohol can also impair blood sugar control.
The Central Nervous System
Vitamin B1 deficiency associated with alcohol abuse can lead to Wernicke–Korsakoff syndrome. Symptoms may include confusion, impaired coordination, learning problems, and memory difficulties. Liver disease can also harm the brain, leading to sleep changes, mood swings and changes in one’s personality, depression, anxiety, impaired concentration, and incoordination. New brain cell growth is stunted by excessive alcohol intake.
The Reproductive System
Consuming too much alcohol can lead to reproductive problems, including:
- Erectile dysfunction
- Irregular menstruation
- Reduced fertility in both men and women
- Increased risk for miscarriage, stillbirth, and having a child born with a fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD)
Consuming too much alcohol can also cause disruption in the production of vitamin D, which is needed for calcium absorption. The resulting lack of calcium increases the risk of developing osteoporosis, leading to an increased likelihood of bone fractures, causing serious pain and disability.
Signs And Symptoms Of Alcohol Abuse
Most people don’t recognize when their drinking has become a problem. Knowing the signs of an alcohol use disorder helps facilitate an individual in getting the required treatment and avoiding the long-term effects of alcohol abuse.
Signs and symptoms to be aware of include:
- Drinking more or for a longer period than intended
- Attempting to cut down or stop drinking without success
- Having a strong urge to drink
- Alcohol often interfering with family life, job or school
- Drinking that is causing trouble with family or friends
- Foregoing other activities to drink alcohol
- Being exposed to dangerous situations while intoxicated
- Increasing alcohol tolerance
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when alcohol is wearing off
Where to Get Help
If you recognize any of these warning signs either in yourself or someone you love, call us today. Legacy Healing Center can help you determine whether or not alcohol has become a problem. Our comprehensive team has the tools to help set you free from the harmful effects of alcohol and other toxic substances.