Alcoholism is a serious disease, one that has the power to impact each and every part of a person’s life, including his or her health. In order to truly understand all of the physical effects of alcoholism, you first have to understand the disease itself and know how normal drinking turns into a serious addiction that requires professional help to stop. Also keep in mind that, though the physical effects of alcoholism can be devastating and even deadly, there are other consequences as well. Alcoholism can cause relationship problems, legal issues, financial destruction and a wide variety of other issues; in short, it is not something to take lightly at any stage of development.
Most people drink alcohol, and most of those who do drink moderately. Almost every alcoholic, however, started out as a normal or moderate drinker. What causes a person to go from being a normal drinker to being an alcoholic? Usually, the shift occurs when the person changes how or why he or she uses alcohol. A person might go from drinking for enjoyment and socialization, for example, to drinking for stress relief or to ease emotional pain or mental health symptoms. Usually, the drinker will begin to crave alcohol more and more frequently and will develop an increased tolerance for it.
Over time, the person will (usually gradually) increase his or her drinking, eventually becoming unable to control when he or she drinks and the amount of alcohol consumed. If the drinking continues and the person does not get help for his or her behavior, then the person will begin experiencing the negative physical effects of alcoholism. Without help, alcoholism can and often does kill alcoholics, but not until after it has ruined their entire lives and harmed everyone who loves them.
Immediate Effects of Alcohol Abuse
Alcohol is all-consuming, causing devastating health consequences along the way. Not all of these health consequences take time to develop either; in fact, some of the health risks associated with alcoholism present themselves immediately after drinking.
These early, immediate effects of alcohol abuse can include:
- Injuries due to irresponsible or reckless behaviors while drinking
- Increased risk of engaging in unprotected sexual activity, which increases the risk of sexually transmitted diseases and infections
- Decreased fertility
- Damage to the fetus if pregnant
- Alcohol poisoning
Long-Term Effects of Alcohol Abuse
If a person continues to abuse alcohol regularly for an extended period of time, he or she will eventually start to develop some serious health effects. In addition to being at an increased risk for getting into an alcohol-related car accident, long-term alcohol abuse can cause:
- Increased risk of dementia and other neurological problems
- Increased risk of stroke
- Heart problems
- High blood pressure
- Increased risk of developing a mental illness
- Mouth cancer
- Throat cancer
- Esophageal cancer
- Liver cancer
- Colon cancer
- Breast cancer
- Alcoholic hepatitis
- Cirrhosis of the liver
Other Problems Associated with Alcohol Abuse
In addition to the above health effects frequently experienced by alcoholics, many alcoholics will suffer from malnutrition, decreased immune system functioning and a wide range of other health conditions. Alcoholics are also at an increased risk for developing anemia, epilepsy (seizures) and pancreatitis.
The only way to combat these health effects is to stop drinking, and the most effective way to stop drinking is with professional help and support. If you know your loved one is struggling with alcoholism, seek help for him or her as soon as possible, ideally before any of these serious health conditions have a chance to develop. For more information on treatment, contact us here at Black Bear Lodge.