The Effects of Alcohol Abuse
Alcohol, in any amount, has an effect on the body, ranging from unnoticeable to significant.
Whilst consuming the occasional glass of wine or can of beer is no cause for concern, consuming alcohol excessively can have both severe short-and-long-term consequences, consequences that are both physical and psychological. Here, we explain the various impacts of alcohol abuse on the body and the mind.
The impact of various levels of Blood Alcohol Content (BAC)
To give you a good understanding of why excessive alcohol consumption has so many negative effects, we will take some time to explain the different percentages of Blood Alcohol Content or BAC.
Essentially, this refers to how much alcohol you have in your system and how that alcohol will affect your central nervous system. Now, this often depends on a person’s tolerance level. One person may become intoxicated at a lower BAC percentage than another. But the following includes some basic guidelines for how BAC percentages affect the body.
1. A Blood Alcohol Content percentage of 0.033-0.12%
This is when you first start to notice alcohol’s effects kicking in. They aren’t as severe as higher BAC levels, but they are risky for those who cannot control their alcohol consumption, as they only encourage them to drink more.
The symptoms seen at this BAC percentage include:
- More self-confidence.
- Less anxiety. Someone might become more outgoing than they usually are.
- Lower coordination.
- Poorer judgment. The part of the brain responsible for good decision making is being affected, and so a person may have a harder time determining what’s a good idea and what isn’t.
- A flushed, red face.
- A better overall mood.
This is typically the stage where people start to feel “buzzed.”
2. A Blood Alcohol Content percentage of 0.09-0.25%
At this stage, symptoms become a bit more severe:
- A person may experience memory loss, or not be able to understand what others are saying to them. Basically, their comprehension levels are decreasing
- Delayed physical reactions. They will begin to move slower and have less fine motor skills, which result in the next symptom
- A person will begin having trouble balancing
- Their senses will be affected. Their vision will become blurry, they may not be able to process sounds very well, etc
3. A Blood Alcohol Content percentage of 0.25-0.40%
This is when an individual becomes severely intoxicated:
- They won’t be able to balance well at all and will be staggering and stumbling rather than walking
- Their mind is not retaining information, and so, once the intoxication has worn off, they will not remember the events taking place during this stage. Essentially, they are “blackout drunk”
- Nausea and vomiting will occur as the body tries to rid itself of the alcohol
- Eventually, the individual may pass out or go in and out of consciousness frequently
4. A Blood Alcohol Content percentage of 0.35-0.80%
Now, the symptoms are not just dangerous. They are deadly:
- The person’s heart rate will decrease drastically
- Their pupils will not respond to light
- They will enter a coma
- Their respiratory system could stop functioning properly
- If they do not receive fast medical attention, they could die
Essentially, a person’s Blood Alcohol Content percentage determines the symptoms they will experience. And these symptoms range from mostly harmless to deadly.
When a person drinks excessively, they frequently experience severe symptoms such as vomiting, passing out, losing fine motor skills, and losing memories. If a person struggles with Alcohol Use Disorder, they experience these symptoms regularly, and so the long-term consequences become more and more severe.
The short-and-long-term effects of excessive drinking
Before going into more detail on the effects of alcohol abuse, we will briefly go over some of the short-and-long-term effects that the habit causes.
The short-term effects of excessive drinking include:
- Poor coordination skills
- Poor decision making
- Slurring your speech
- Passing out
- Severe mood swings
The long-term effects of excessive drinking include:
- Nerve damage
- Cardiovascular problems
- Liver damage
- Memory problems
- Respiratory problems
The physical effects of alcohol abuse
Frequent, excessive consumption of alcohol often leads to serious health problems. Problems that could pop up even many years after someone has given up drinking. The following will go over some of the key physical health issues that are likely to arise as a result of alcohol abuse.
1. Liver inflammation and disease
The liver’s role in your body is to break down and get rid of harmful substances that have entered your body. This includes alcohol. When someone consumes too much alcohol, the liver is hard at work getting rid of the substance. If a person drinks too much too often, their liver will get more and more worn out as the years go by.
The liver will become inflamed and scarred, which hinders the process of removing harmful substances. The resulting liver disease leads to a buildup of toxins, which causes even more severe health issues, and even death.
Excessive drinking causes the pancreas to produce more digestive enzymes than it usually does. And when this occurs frequently, a person develops a high risk of developing pancreatitis. This inflammation of the pancreas can cause some severe digestion problems, which will lead to other health issues.
3. Poor blood sugar control
Due to the damage done to the liver and pancreas, your body will not be able to control your blood sugar levels as it did before. You could experience hypoglycemia, which is a low blood sugar level. You could also experience hyperglycemia, which is a high blood sugar level. As these problems continue with more and more drinking, one could develop diabetes.
4. A damaged digestive system
Alcohol abuse wears down the lining of your stomach. This is due to the substance itself, frequent vomiting, and the increased production of stomach acid as a result of both the alcohol and the vomiting.
Alcohol abuse can also lead to your digestive system functioning poorly as a whole. The breakdown, absorption, and transportation of nutrients will be altered, as well as excretion.
This makes it harder for your body to receive the nutrients it needs and can hinder the functions of your body, leading to more health issues alongside the already-existing digestive health problems.
5. Cardiovascular diseases
Studies have shown that there is a significant link between frequent, excessive alcohol consumption and cardiovascular problems. Problems that can be life-threatening.
These include high blood pressure, blood clots, irregular heartbeat, stroke, or even a heart attack. Many people have died due to cardiovascular diseases that were a long-term result of alcohol abuse.
6. A weaker immune system
The body’s immune system often becomes weaker and weaker the longer someone deals with an alcohol problem. This leads to the person becoming more prone to illnesses since their body can no longer fight them off as well as it used to.
These illnesses can also have increased severity due to other health issues (such as the ones stated above) that one could be dealing with as a result of alcoholism.
7. Reproductive health problems
Men who drink excessively can experience lower libido and erectile dysfunction. Women could experience irregular or eliminated menstruation. Both men and women could experience lower fertility.
Pregnant women who drink excessively are likely to experience particularly dangerous reproductive health issues. She is putting herself at a higher risk of premature delivery or miscarriage and putting the child at a higher risk for fetal alcohol syndrome or even death.
8. Weaker bones and muscles
Alcohol abuse limits your body’s ability to process nutrients. This causes, among other problems, your bones and muscles to become weaker and more worn down as time goes by. You become more likely to fracture a bone if you fall, and you may also experience more muscle cramps and, eventually, atrophy
The psychological effects of alcohol abuse
Excessive alcohol consumption doesn’t just have a negative impact on your body’s health. It also has a negative impact on your mental health. Which is no surprise.
Alcohol is known for how it affects the central nervous system. It acts as a depressant to the CNS, having varied results on the individual’s behaviour. This can be seen in the form of excessive excitement or sedation, depending on what part of the brain is being affected the most.
Your mind’s ability to retain information eventually becomes impaired, which results in memory loss of what happens while you’re intoxicated. The part of your brain responsible for good judgment is also impaired, which can lead to dangerous decision making.
When these chemical reactions in the brain are caused frequently, there can be significant symptoms, both in the short-and-long-term. Various parts of the brain get damaged and result in various issues.
1. Your frontal lobe can become damaged
This is the part of the brain that is responsible for decision making, control of your emotions, and short-term memory. It is no surprise that alcohol has a significant effect on this part of the brain, because, as we stated before, alcohol results in poor memory, poor decision making, and severe mood swings.
Though, the effects are not just short-term. In the long-term, this part of your brain will be damaged to the point where your ability to retain long-term memories is impaired. You will have more trouble thinking clearly, and you will have less control over your emotions.
2. You could develop Alcohol Use Disorder
Alcohol Use Disorder, or AUD, is a result of excessive drinking that causes even more excessive drinking, and even more health problems. AUD occurs when your brain becomes dependent on alcohol. Without it, you could experience terrible withdrawal symptoms, which makes it incredibly difficult to put a halt to any bad drinking habits.
The symptoms of withdrawal could include:
- Severe anxiety
- High blood pressure
- Nausea and vomiting
These symptoms make it difficult for an alcoholic to recover. This is why many people suffering from Alcohol Use Disorder require professional help to heal.
Detoxification is a very difficult process, but it is different for everyone. Some need to be staying in a rehabilitation centre in order to get through it. Others can stay at home but frequently attend rehab. In any case, a strong support system and professional assistance are two important parts of the healing process.
3. Other mental health issues that are linked to alcohol abuse
There are many mental health problems associated with alcoholism. Oftentimes, the problems developed before alcohol abuse began.
Many people suffering from severe depression, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, schizophrenia, severe anxiety, etc., will turn to substance abuse as a way to cope. They may come to believe that alcohol is the best way to eliminate the psychological pain they are dealing with, either to replace it with more positive feelings or to just numb it.
Other side effects of alcoholism could add to mental health issues. Alcohol abuse often creates trouble in a person’s personal life.
Relationships start to crumble, family relations become tense, etc. This only adds on to the person’s preexisting mental health problems, which urges them to drink more, which leads to more trouble in their personal life. It is an awful cycle that is hard, but not impossible, to break.
Alcohol abuse results in struggles for both the person and their loved ones. It is not worth the risks
Alcohol abuse causes a plethora of health problems, both physical and psychological. It also causes a person’s connection to their loved ones to become strained.
When a person begins drinking excessively on a regular basis, they may not know or may not care about the risks. They may think that they’ll be the one to do it without becoming addicted. To do it without experiencing alcohol poisoning. To do it without experiencing long-term health problems.
But it is simply not worth the risk. Because, sadly, many people end up down one or all of those paths. Many people become dependent on alcohol. Many people die from alcohol poisoning. Many people experiencing severe health problems, even many years after they quit drinking. And many people end up losing loved ones.
The risks of alcohol abuse are not worth the experience of being intoxicated. If you know that you are at a high risk of developing alcohol-related problems, it is best to avoid drinking altogether.
If you are struggling with alcohol addiction, now is the time to seek help.
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