Alcoholism & Your Body
Do you really know what alcohol really does to your body? Alcoholism causes a lot more than just a hangover and poor decision making.
Drinking too much alcohol can cause you to pass out, get a DUI, and have a throbbing headache the next morning; but, drinking just a little bit can lead to an increased heartbeat and a bit of a “buzz”.
1 in 3 suicides involves heavy alcohol misuse.
Alcohol has major effects on the brain, nervous system, heart, liver, and the rest of the body. In 2013, 86.8 percent of people ages 18 or older drank alcohol at some point in their lifetime; and, one in three suicides involves heavy alcohol misuse.
Alcoholism & Your Brain
When under the influence of alcohol you might experience difficulty walking, slurred speech, blurred vision, slower reaction times, and impaired memory.
80 percent of alcoholics have a deficiency in thiamine and will develop brain disorders such as Wernicke–Korsakoff syndrome.
Blackouts are common among social drinkers and should be viewed as a potential consequence of acute intoxication when the drinker is clinically dependent on alcohol.
There also exists a short-lived but severe condition called Wernicke’s encephalopathy and a long-lasting and debilitating condition known as Korsakoff’s psychosis.
But how does alcohol really affect the brain?
Alcohol affects the brain in different ways. It depresses the behavioral inhibitory centers, making the person less inhibited by slowing down the processing of information from the eyes, ears, mouth and other senses, making it difficult to think clearly.
Alcohol also affects the center of movement and balance, resulting in an off-balance staggering or swagger that we associate with the so-called “falling-down drunk.”
Alcohol depresses nerve centers in the hypothalamus that control sexual arousal and performance. This decreases sexual performance while increasing sexual urge. Alcohol also slows breathing and lowers body temperature which induces sleepiness while increasing the release of dopamine in your brain’s “reward center.”
However, over time, the dopamine effect diminishes until it’s almost nonexistent. But at this time, the drinker is enjoying just the feeling of the dopamine release, even though they’re no longer getting it.
Alcoholism & Your Liver
Exposure of liver cells to bacterial toxins may contribute to liver disease.
Alcohol can cause liver disease, alcoholic hepatitis, and cirrhosis. This is attributed to the metabolism of alcohol and is caused by the inflammation induced by the direct toxicity of metabolic by-products. Escalating liver injury can lead to fibrosis and, ultimately, to cirrhosis. There are three main Types of alcohol-related liver diseases.
Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease
Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease is caused by the deposition of fat in liver cells. This is the earliest stage of an alcohol-related liver disease. There are usually no symptoms except for fatigue, weakness, and discomfort in the right upper abdomen.
Liver enzymes may be elevated. However, tests of liver function are often normal. Many heavy drinkers have fatty liver disease, but it may be reversible with abstinence from alcohol.
Symptoms may include loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, fever, and jaundice.
Alcoholic Hepatitis is fat deposition in liver cells, inflammation and mild scarring of the liver.
Liver enzymes elevate and tests of liver function may be abnormal. Around 35 percent of heavy drinkers develop alcoholic hepatitis and 55% already have cirrhosis. Alcoholic hepatitis can be mild or severe.
Mild alcoholic hepatitis may be reversible with abstinence. Severe alcoholic hepatitis may occur suddenly and lead to serious complications including liver failure and death.
Alcoholic Cirrhosis is the most advanced type of alcohol-induced liver injury. It is characterized by severe scarring and disruption of the normal structure of the liver. The hard scar tissue replaces soft healthy tissue.
Between 10 and 20 percent of heavy drinkers develop cirrhosis.
Symptoms of cirrhosis may be similar to those of severe alcoholic hepatitis. Cirrhosis is the most advanced type of alcohol-related liver disease and is not reversed with abstinence. Abstinence may improve the symptoms and signs of liver disease and prevent further damage.
Alcoholism & Your Heart and Immune System
Drinking a lot damages the heart and causes problems such as the stretching and drooping of the heart muscle, an irregular heartbeat, a stroke, and high blood pressure.
Drinking too much weakens your immune system and makes your body a much easier target for disease.
Chronic drinkers are more liable to contract diseases like pneumonia and tuberculosis than people who do not drink too much.
Consuming a lot of alcohol on a single occasion slows your body’s ability to ward off infections for up to 24 hours after your last drink. Drinking too much alcohol can also increase your risk of developing certain cancers of the Mouth, Esophagus, Throat, Liver and Breast Cancer.