Many studies have been done on the effects of consuming high amounts of alcohol over an extended period, and they have consistently shown that alcoholism has long-term and damaging effects on your body. Below, we've listed five major consequences and the most vital organs that alcohol attacks.
1. Your Liver
Over 2 million people in the United States suffer from a form of alcoholic liver disease. The liver detoxes the alcohol and removes it from your bloodstream, preventing it from accumulating and destroying other cells and organs. However, the act of metabolizing the alcohol actually creates substances that are harmful to the liver itself. This can lead to:
- Liver scarring
- Liver failure
2. Your Brain
According to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, studies have consistently shown that people with a history of alcoholism or repeated alcohol abuse have smaller, lighter and more shrunken brains than others of the same age and gender. This shrinkage in the brain has been shown to result in several damaging conditions, including:
- Memory loss
- Alcoholic blackouts
- Damage to brain cells
- Loss of cognitive thinking skills
3. Your Digestive System
Excessive drinking stemming from alcohol abuse or alcoholism has also been shown to damage all parts of the digestive system. If you consume several alcoholic beverages each day, you are at a higher risk for digestive system problems, such as:
- Chronic inflammation of the esophagus
- Gastritis (inflammation of the stomach)
- Stomach ulcers
- Cancer (in esophagus, mouth, throat, colon and rectum)
4. Your Heart
Another damaging effect of alcoholism is heart problems and diseases. At high concentrations, alcohol has been shown to interfere with the pumping action of the heart. It has also been linked to a number of other cardiovascular problems, listed below.
- Loss of heart's ability to beat properly
- High blood pressure
- Coronary artery disease (the leading cause of death in Western society)
- Heart attacks
- Increased risk of stroke
5. Your Immune System
Alcoholics and people who drink heavily suffer from far more infectious diseases than people who drink moderately or not at all. One study found that alcohol abusers were 15 to 200 times more likely to get tuberculosis than nonusers. In extreme cases, the body can cease to accurately distinguish self from non-self, causing the immune system to actually attack your own body.
In addition to all of the health complications of high concentrations of alcohol, the University of Maryland Medical Center estimates that alcoholism can reduce your life expectancy by 10 to 12 years.
But there is hope. When alcoholics enter recovery, many of the affected vital organs begin to repair themselves and the overall health of the patient improves.
Entering into recovery can be a frightening, painful, even dangerous process. To guard the alcoholic's safety and increase the rate of long-term recovery, the first short-term goal is often a proven detoxification program to help alleviate withdrawal symptoms and ease the detox phase. Then the next phase of rehabilitation and recovery can proceed with a better prognosis for success.