Alcohol addiction, and the long-term effects of daily drinking or binge drinking, are far-reaching. Beyond the typical “hangover feelings” of nausea, tiredness, headache, and difficulty concentrating, alcohol can also contribute to a myriad of different health conditions.
At America’s Rehab Campus, we help people struggling with alcohol addiction find the right treatment to help them on the sober path. Part of our treatment includes education about the effects of alcohol on the body, and how it can cause both physical and mental addictions. Today, we’re looking at three powerful long-term effects of alcohol on the mind and body.
Increased Risks of Heart Disease and Cancer
Drinking for a prolonged period of time, or an excessive amount in one sitting that raises your blood alcohol content (BAC) too high can have several negative effects on your heart. These include cardiomyopathy, which is drooping and stretching of the heart muscle, irregular heartbeats, or arrhythmias, high blood pressure, and stroke.
Heart conditions aren’t only potential terminal diseases that alcohol abuse leads to. Drinking, even in moderation, over a long period of time can increase the risks of several types of cancer, such as esophageal cancer, liver and colon cancer, and for both men and women, elevated risk of breast cancer. Alcohol also increases the risk of several types of head and neck cancer, too.
Decreased Cognitive Function
You may have heard about “wet brain,” or the kind of fuzzy thinking that long-term drinkers experience. Alcohol converts the neural pathways in your brain, and can even cause neurons to die altogether, which, in turn, makes it harder for you to think clearly. It can cause memory issues and cognitive decline, too, and for people who have been heavy drinkers, it can also lead to early-onset dementia.
Drinking too much also causes difficulty concentrating and headaches, both of which make it hard to focus on work or school. Plus, over time, these effects can become cumulative, meaning that connections in your brain that were there before, simply aren’t anymore. Alcohol also leads to the loss of both white matter and grey matter in the brain, shrinking it. It’s not just your thoughts and ability to operate intellectually that are impaired by alcohol use – other parts of the brain, those that control your nervous systems and involuntary activity, like digestion and breathing.
Liver Disease and Failure
Liver disease is perhaps the best-known complication of prolonged and excessive drinking. The liver filters the toxins from your body, including removing alcohol from your bloodstream. If your BAC is too high, it impedes the function of your liver. Plus, over time, excessive alcohol use, and the resulting harder time your liver has to work, leads to scarring of the liver, making it less effective. Eventually, your liver will become unable to process alcohol and other toxins out of your blood system, and the liver will shut down completely.
Liver damage includes:
- Steatosis, or fatty liver
- Alcoholic hepatitis
Do You or a Loved One Need Help?
If you or a loved one are struggling with alcohol addiction, you aren’t alone. America’s Rehab Campus can help you find the right treatment plan, from medically supervised detox to group therapy, Intensive Outpatient therapy, or even inpatient care. Call one of our intake counselors today for help finding the right compassionate, professional treatment for your alcohol addiction.