The perfect picture of an alcoholic in Orange County, CA, is someone who takes one too many drinks and whose life is jumbled because of alcohol addiction. But that’s not truly the case. Alcoholism, also clinically known as alcohol use disorder (AUD), is a common, chronic, and possibly progressive medical condition characterized by compulsive consumption of alcohol.
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, Alcoholism involves loss of control over alcohol use, the experience of negative emotions when not using alcohol, and an irresistible drive to drink. AUD is interchangeably used with alcoholism.
A survey by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), showed that an estimated 16.6 million Americans aged 12 years and older had an alcohol use disorder in 2018. Even worse, only 1.1 million of the people with a diagnosable AUD received any addiction treatment in the same period.
The Impact of Alcohol on Your Body
Alcohol’s impact on your body starts from the moment you take the first sip. Even small amounts of alcohol are still linked with the development of various diseases and cancers. Some effects are immediate and treatable, while others develop over time and may irreversible.
Here is our brief rundown of the cumulative effects of alcohol and its toll on your body and brain.
1. Straight to Your Head
You can quickly feel the effect of alcohol on the brain. Thirty seconds after your first sip, alcohol races to the brain and slows down the chemical processes and pathways used for sending messages. This can lead to mood swings, poor reflexes, memory loss and inhibits other cognitive functions of the brain.
Excessive and prolonged use of alcohol interferes with your brain’s structure and functionality. Alcohol has been shown to cause significant damage to different parts of the human brain, such as the cerebral cortex, limbic system, and cerebellum, thus impacting the body’s communication pathways.
Brain damage may also occur due to alcohol-induced deficiencies or alcohol-induced seizures, and liver disease. In pregnant women, alcohol exposure can impact the unborn child’s brain development, leading to fetal alcohol spectrum disorders.
2. Damaging the Liver One Glass at a Time
The liver is an important organ and is particularly useful in detoxification. Detoxification is the process of breaking down and removing toxic substances, including alcohol, from your body. Continuous alcohol consumption inhibits the detoxification, overworks your liver, and increases your chances of developing alcohol-related liver disease ARLD.
The signs and symptoms of ARLD vary with the stage. ARLD has three stages, and they include the following:
- Alcoholic fatty liver disease: This is where fat accumulates around the liver and is the first stage of ARLD. You can easily cure it by quitting alcohol altogether.
- Acute alcoholic hepatitis: The next stage of liver disease is inflammation and is due to continued alcohol abuse. The treatment outcome of this stage depends on the severity of the damage. While treatment can reverse the damage in mild cases, severe cases of alcoholic hepatitis may lead to liver failure.
- Alcoholic liver cirrhosis- This is the most severe stage of ARLD. The liver’s inflammation is scarred due to long-term alcohol abuse, and the damage is irreversible but can be prudently managed through abstinence from alcohol.
As the liver becomes increasingly damaged, it cannot efficiently remove toxic substances from your body, thus causing waste and toxin buildup. The toxic accumulation of waste puts you at risk of developing other major health complications.
3. A Matter of the Heart
Of your body parts that are affected by alcohol consumption, the heart is extremely vulnerable. Consuming too much alcohol over time weakens the heart, affecting how nutrients and oxygen are delivered to other vital organs of the body.
Alcohol abuse causes an increase in triglyceride fat levels in the blood. High triglyceride levels trigger the development of serious health conditions such as diabetes and heart disease. Early side effects of excessive alcohol consumption such as irregular heartbeats, high blood pressure are seen as warning bells that your cardiovascular health is headed for the woods.
Full-blown consequences of alcohol consumption and abuse include stroke, cardiomyopathy (sagging, stretched heart muscle), and heart attack.
The pancreas is responsible for regulating the sugar levels in your body. Excessive alcohol consumption causes abnormal activation of digestive enzymes produced by the pancreas. These enzymes accumulate around the pancreas and can cause long-term health conditions such as pancreatitis.
Pancreatitis is a risk factor for pancreatic cancer, a life-threatening cancer that spreads rapidly. Unfortunately, the early stages of most pancreatic conditions are unnoticeable and thus go untreated. However, in advanced stages, symptoms of the pancreatic disease include diarrhea, pain, nausea, fever, and fast heart rates.
Medication and other treatment interventions can help manage pancreatitis effects. Nonetheless doctors agree that the condition is a challenge to reverse.
5. Digestive System
The link between drinking alcohol and your digestive system is difficult to decipher. But the side effects are only clear after the damage occurs, and the more you drink, the greater the toll on your digestive system. Booze can damage the lining of your digestive tract and inhibit efficient digestion of food and absorption of nutrients and vitamins, thus leading to malnutrition.
Hemorrhoids or ulcers are a common problem for heavy drinkers. Ulcers cause internal bleeding and can be fatal if not diagnosed and treated early. Staying away from alcohol is a great way to manage ulcers. Other digestive complications caused by heavy drinking include:
- Painful stools or diarrhea
- Lack of appetite
6. A Weaker Immune System
Can you link flu to a night of drinking? Alcohol is known to slam brakes on your body’s natural immune system because your body cannot produce enough white blood cells. Persons who abuse alcohol over a long period of time are more likely to contract tuberculosis and pneumonia than the general population.
Research indicates that 10 percent of all tuberculosis cases are tied to alcohol consumption. Besides, drinking alcohol puts you at the risk of getting several types of cancers, including mouth, colon, and breast cancer.
7. Weak Bones and Muscles
Long-term consumption of alcohol knocks off your calcium levels. Low calcium levels in turn result in thin and weak bones. Weaker bones are easy to fracture if you fall and also tend to heal rather slowly.
Alcohol consumption can also lead to muscle weakness, cramping, or atrophy in a worst-case scenario.
Take Your First Step Towards Recovery Today
Covenant Hills Treatment has offers a superior alternative to traditional treatment of substance abuse in California. For more than three decades, we have not batted an eyelid as we fight to set free Orange County from addiction bondages.
We leverage clinical expertise and scientific evidence to create a patient-centered approach that considers patient’s culture, preferences, and risk factors for addiction. Our savant professionals are always on standby to offer you effective treatment for addictive disorders using proven clinical methods and unparalleled therapeutic modalities.
We have an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau, and we are CARF accredited. Covenant Hills is also an affiliate of the America Association of Christian Counsellors. For more information on how alcohol addiction affects your body and how we can help, feel free to contact us today. and we will be more than willing to assist.