Most people are very well aware of the hellish torture of a brutal hangover. For many, it is enough to never really “over-do” it again, but for those special people who keep trying to play the game, alcohol abuse can cause seriously detrimental and lasting damage to the body.
Sure, in the beginning, a hangover here, a sprained ankle there, doesn’t seem like much – but over time, the continual and heavy drinkers out there will begin to be permanently affected by their alcohol consumption.
Did you know, alcohol-related deaths and illnesses are in the top five list for death rates in the United States? This could be anything from car accidents to cirrhosis of the liver. Any and all of the damage that alcohol abuse creates on the body SHOULD be reason enough for many people to never pick up another drink. So why do people, who have experienced some form or another of alcohol abuse, still continue to do it, and what will their body look like in two, five, and even 10 years down the road?
Alcoholism – Why We Do It
For people who struggle with addiction or alcoholism, it is often baffling to those around us why we continue to be completely obsessed with the desire to drink. Sometimes, we may not even know to ourselves why we continue to do it, we just know that we can’t stop. Many people think that they will be able to control their drinking through a variety of different methods such as:
- Only drinking on weekends
- Never drinking at work
- Only drinking certain forms of alcohol
- Not keeping booze in the house
- Only drinking if… if… if…
The sad truth is that, for heavy drinkers and alcoholics, the pattern will most likely continue, and will most likely progress until some extreme situation or health condition arises that presents an ultimatum; give up drinking, or die.
According to the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, there are two indicating factors that any person wondering if they have a drinking problem can ask themselves. These two qualifying factors are:
- If you obsess over being able to drink, or finding ways to control your drinking
- If you have tried to stop drinking, but have found it impossible
So, for those of us who can relate or who can “qualify” as an alcoholic, what happens to our bodies over time?
The Short Term
The thing about booze is that it doesn’t really matter how long you have been drinking, what matters more is how MUCH you drink when you do. For those people who can have one drink on the weekend and be right as rain, not wanting or needing another, this post is not for you. This post is for the people who get obliterated as much as possible, or tend to overdo it way too often.
The main short term – the next few days, effects from over doing it too often usually consist of:
- Nausea and vomiting (obviously)
- Alcohol poisoning
- Delayed brain activity
- Increased blood pressure
- Memory loss
- Decreased appetite
- Weight loss or gain
- Acid reflux
These side effects don’t bring into account the humiliation, bad decisions, and financial effects that come from short-term alcohol abuse, however, they are just the tip of the iceberg for people that continue on with this behavior pattern.
A Few Years In
Some people outgrow the heavy drinking of their teenage or college years, but for those who don’t, the effects of alcohol abuse can really start to take effect at this stage. Here’s the thing, the way that alcohol is processed in the body is primarily through the liver. The liver can process about two drinks in one hour. For people that drink far more than that, the liver starts to get backed up.
Over time, the functioning of the liver slows dramatically, meaning those people who partake in binge drinking very often can suffer from consequences of liver damage. This won’t look too bad in the first few years, but people will notice:
- Decreased energy or constant fatigue
- Decreased immunity
- Weight gain
On the other hand and working in conjunction, is often the digestive system. The stomach, pancreas, kidneys, and endocrine system work together with the liver, to process the substances and blood in the body. The liver is pretty much the powerhouse of everything else working smoothly, so when the liver breaks down, it creates problems for these other systems such as:
- Acid reflux
- Bladder problems
- High blood pressure
- Increased blood glucose levels
- Constipation or diarrhea
At this point, the circulatory system and the nervous system will also begin to be effected, resulting in side effects such as:
- Irregular heartbeat
- Blood clots
- Difficulty with memory or concentration
Five Years and On
Anyone who has known and loved a grandparent or older family member with an alcohol abuse problem, or who has watched the show Shameless, will be well aware of the long-term effects of alcohol abuse. The body literally starts to deteriorate from the inside out. This is usually due to the damage done to the liver and its inability to regulate and purify the substances of the body. It affects the kidneys, the respiratory and cardiovascular system, the brain, the skin and pretty much every other bodily system.
This stage of long-term alcohol abuse is usually what brings people to their hospital beds, if car accidents, fights, falls, or other injuries of their earlier alcohol abuse didn’t bring them here thus far.
The most common long-term effects of alcohol abuse on the body are severe but common, consisting of:
- Liver disease
- Mouth Cancer
- Esophageal cancer
- Immunity Disorders
- Reproductive System issues (infertility, sterility, erectile dysfunction, miscarriages)
- Osteoporosis, Arthritis
- Colon Cancer
- Kidney Failure
- Depression, suicidality
There’s no pleasant or enjoyable way that people die from long-term complications of alcohol abuse. For the most part, it a slow and painful death, strapped up to tubes and wires in a hospital bed, fighting for a chance at a liver or kidney transplant.
In the early years of drinking, these long-term effects are often not what people are thinking about when going out to the bar or day drinking for a football game. However, alcohol abuse happens among all Americans, all ages, and all walks of life.
Being sober and in recovery does not mean that everything is smooth sailing. There is no straight line to recovery, and it, like other diseases, can be extremely difficult to manage. However, by developing a plan of attack in regards to coping with cravings, you can set yourself up for success.
If you are struggling with alcohol abuse, you are not alone. Reach out to us right now. Our alcohol rehab can help you