Alcoholism is a serious disease that has the power to impact every aspect of a person’s life. In order to truly understand all of the physical effects of alcoholism, you first have to understand how alcohol use disorder begins and progresses. Alcohol can create both a physical and mental addiction that can even have deadly consequences. 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.1
Alcohol consumption is popular in the United States. Almost everyone intends to drink moderately, but alcohol can impact judgment very quickly. Almost every person who is diagnosed with alcohol use disorder begins 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. This usually leads to new cravings for alcohol that occur more often. Ultimately, the person who drinks regularly will need more and more alcohol to achieve the original effect.
“I used to be in denial, declaring that my problems weren’t related to alcohol,” says Travis C. of Heroes in Recovery. “Even after doctors had to prescribe a benzodiazepine during my overnight visit to soothe minor alcohol withdrawal symptoms.” Travis’ alcohol withdrawal symptoms increased in college, so he began drinking earlier and more often.
Many people who struggle with alcohol consumption increase the amount they drink gradually. They may reach a point when they often drink more than they intended, more often than they intend. If the drinking continues and the person does not get help to stop the pattern, he or she will begin to experience physical effects of alcoholism.
Without help, alcoholism can and often does kill those who can’t stop drinking, but not until after it has ruined their entire lives and harmed almost everyone who loves them.
Immediate Effects of Alcohol Abuse
Alcohol is all-consuming, and it causes 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.
Early, immediate effects of alcohol abuse can include:
- Injuries, accidents, or arrest due to irresponsible or reckless behaviors
- Increased risk of engaging in unprotected sexual activity, which increases the risk of sexually transmitted diseases and infections
- Damage to relationships
- Blackouts, severe dehydration
- Damage to an unborn baby or nursing baby
- 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 effects2. In addition to increasing risk for an alcohol-related car accident, long-term alcohol abuse can cause:
- Increased risk of dementia and other neurological problems
- Increased risk of stroke
- Irregular heartbeat
- Digestion problems and ulcers
- 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 people who struggle with alcohol use, many people who drink consistently eventually 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 or someone you love struggles with alcoholism, seek help as soon as possible, ideally before any of these serious health conditions have a chance to develop. Our recovery professionals at Black Bear Lodge are ready to help.
“I don’t miss the early days of my drinking career,” says a sober Travis C., today. “Now, I focus on the future without obsessing too much. I try my best to treat others with respect, and expect that same courtesy in return; sleeping is a luxury, grocery shopping is fun, going to work is a part of life, and forming meaningful and mutually respectful relationships is a priority. My mishaps and mistakes have allowed me to grow in ways that I once thought were impossible.”
Call Black Bear Lodge today at 706-914-2327, and begin your journey toward sobriety today.
1 Centers for Disease Control. Fact Sheets: Alcohol Use and Your Health. Oct 2016. Accessed 8 October 2017.
2 National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Alcohol’s Effects on the Body. N.d. Accessed 8 October 2017.