Learn about the long term effects on alcohol abuse on your brain, body, and society
Over time, excessive consumption of alcohol takes a devastating toll on drinkers’ brains and bodies, and places a significant burden on society as a whole. The short-term, immediate effects of alcohol consumption such as slurred speech, blurred vision, and mental confusion, are obvious and easily observable. The long term effects of alcohol use are not immediately apparent and may take years to show, but the damage can be so pervasive that it can take years for a person’s health to recover. In some cases, the damage to body and brain may be irreversible. The persistent use of alcohol also causes social issues and associated costs that negatively affect all members of society, even those who never imbibe alcohol themselves. The high price that continuing alcohol abuse may cost you and those around you may surprise you.
Long term effects of alcohol abuse
Drinking too much alcohol has a detrimental effect on virtually every system in the body. The amount of damage suffered by abusers of alcohol is dependent on many factors, including age, genetics, gender, the total volume of alcohol consumed, and the pattern of drinking. Some of the areas of the body that are most damaged by the long term effects of alcohol abuse include the:
Over time, drinking can damage the heart, leading to high blood pressure, heart disease, arrhythmia, and increased risk of stroke.
The liver is responsible for metabolizing alcohol, so it suffers severe damage from years of alcohol abuse. Long-term, heavy drinking typically causes the diseases alcoholic hepatitis (liver inflammation) and cirrhosis (severe, irreversible liver scarring).
- Digestive system
Over time, alcohol can cause inflammation of the stomach lining as well as stomach and esophageal ulcers. The toxic substances the pancreas produces in response to alcohol can cause pancreatitis, the inflammation and swelling of blood vessels that prevents proper digestion.
- Immune system
Abusing alcohol for years can weaken the immune system and damage the body’s ability to fight off infections. Chronic drinkers are more susceptible to contracting pneumonia, tuberculosis, and other diseases.
When alcohol use continues for a long time, drinkers are at an increased risk of developing certain cancers, particularly cancers of the mouth, esophagus, throat, and liver. Women have an increased chance of developing breast cancer.
Chronic alcohol use can cause a lot of damage to different parts of the brain. Drinkers have higher rates of disordered thinking, dementia, and short-term memory loss.
- Sexual function
Heavy drinking can cause erectile dysfunction in men and interrupt menstruation in women.
Social effects of alcohol abuse
The damage that alcohol abuse exacts on the person who is doing the drinking is only one part of the story. The use of alcohol causes a significant health, financial, and social burden on the families of drinkers, as well as the population at large. Even people who do not themselves abuse alcohol are forced to by the results of alcohol abuse by others. The social effects of alcohol abuse can be seen in the increased levels of:
- Violence – According to The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), at least one-half of all violent crimes involve alcohol consumption by the victim, perpetrator, or both. This statistic holds true in cases of sexual assault and domestic abuse.
- Car crashes – The CDC reports that 9,967 people were killed in alcohol-impaired driving crashes in 2014. That means nearly one-third of all traffic-related deaths in the United States are attributable to alcohol use.
- Injuries – Alcohol is a factor in a significant portion of the accidental and intentional injuries in the population, particularly the suicides of teens and young adults
- Employment problems – Absenteeism and poor job performance are often seen in long-time abusers of alcohol. These issues have a negative effect on a person’s prospects for employment and can lead to long-term poverty.
- Mental health –The children and families of alcoholics often suffer significant damage to their mental health and well-being.
- Legal problems – Long-term users of alcohol are likely to have ongoing legal problems including DUIs and arrests for violence, domestic abuse, and public misbehavior.
If you or a loved one needs help with abuse and/or treatment, please call the WhiteSands Treatment at (877) 855-3470. Our addiction specialists can assess your recovery needs and help you get the addiction treatment that provides the best chance for your long-term recovery.