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How Does Alcohol Addiction Change Our Bodies?

Person passed out from alcohol addiction

The intention of alcohol manufacturers is for drinkers to take in moderation, but unfortunately, a significant number exceeds the limit by drinking heavily. Heavy drinking is consuming five or more alcoholic drinks on one occasion, even if it’s for a day within the last 30. Heavy drinking often develops into an addiction. Heavy drinkers should know that alcohol addiction changes our bodies by causing harmful effects. The damage to internal organs might not be visible, so it is essential to act upon noticing the first signs of alcoholism.

Alcohol causes harmful effects because it becomes a waste product and the body, through various organs, tries to excrete it. Even a small amount of alcohol affects the body systems. It is worse when the alcohol exceeds the level that your body can process. Intoxication happens as alcohol builds up in your bloodstream and distributes throughout the body to cause some of these changes.

An estimated 95,000 people (approximately 68,000 men and 27,000 women) die from alcohol-related causes annually.

Alcohol addiction changes the body in bits by affecting these different organs.

Liver

Heavy drinking increases the risk of harmful and potentially life-threatening liver issues. The liver is the body part that breaks alcohol down and removes it from blood. Too much alcohol within a short period may overwhelm the metabolism process leading to fatty liver. The challenges to break down alcohol can lead to type 2 diabetes or liver failure. Excessive and prolonged alcohol consumption can cause these other severe liver complications:

  • Fibrosis
  • Cirrhosis
  • Alcoholic hepatitis

The conditions need an accurate diagnosis, kidney medication, and an intensive alcohol addiction treatment plan.

Heart

The heart is vulnerable to excessive alcohol consumption. Heavy drinking can, with time, weaken the heart. A weak heart slows the delivery of blood, oxygen, and nutrients to other vital body organs. Heavy drinking increases triglyceride levels in the blood. Triglyceride is s type of fat that, at high levels, increases the risk of heart disease and diabetes. Some early alcohol-triggered cardiovascular effects like an irregular heartbeat or blood pressure may trigger other problems later in life. Addiction causes long-term consequences including:

  • Stroke
  • Cardiomyopathy
  • Cardiac conditions

Brain

The brain is one of the areas that suffer the effects of excessive alcohol and addiction. Heavy drinking causes temporary complications like loss of memory and coordination. It can, with time, cause long-term, sometimes irreversible side effects. Excessive and prolonged alcohol use may interfere with the brain’s structure and functions. It may also impact the body communication pathways due to damage on different brain regions, especially the:

  • Limbic system
  • Cerebellum
  • Cerebral cortex

Normal functioning reduces, for instance, when alcohol affects the cerebellum, the area of the brain that coordinates motor skills. A loss of balance, emotional response, and memory issues also are signs of how alcohol addiction changes our bodies.

Pancreas

The pancreas helps regulate blood sugar levels and is a part of the digestive process. Drinking alcohol for many years can negatively affect the pancreas leading to lasting health complications. Unfortunately, many pancreatic conditions are not diagnosed in the early stages. They become severe. Lengthy alcohol abuse can gradually cause swelling of blood vessels around the pancreas and the occurrence of pancreatitis.

Pancreatitis increases the risk of developing a rapid spreading and dangerous pancreatic cancer. Alcoholics with symptoms below are likely to have a pancreatic attack.

  • Abdominal pain
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Fast heart rate

Medication and other treatment methods help to manage pancreatitis effects but reversing the condition is very difficult.

In addition to body organs, alcohol addiction changes our bodies by affecting body systems and prevents them from functioning optimally. A body system is a group of tissues and organs that perform crucial functions like growth, survival, and reproduction.

Too much alcohol and addiction affect the following body systems.

Central Nervous system

Alcohol changes our behavior by inhibiting coordination and speaking, causing slurred speech. A weakened central nervous system also affects:

  • Impulse control
  • Ability to make memories these causing blackouts
  • Weakness
  • Numbness
  • Temporary paralysis

Heavy drinking progresses to dependency, and those why try to stop drinking experience severe withdrawal effects. Long-term use may cause the shrinking of the frontal lobes in the brain.

Immune system

The body relies on the immune system to fight off viruses, bacteria, and other illness triggers. Alcohol slows down the immune system and reduces the efficiency of the white blood cells in fighting bacteria. Heavy drinkers compromise their immune systems more, increasing the risk of contracting various forms of cancer and succumbing to illnesses like pneumonia and tuberculosis, even with alcohol addiction treatment.

Excretory system

This system removes waste products, including alcohol, from the body. Consuming excess alcohol can affect normal insulin production by the pancreas and create toxic substances that start destroying it. Too much drinking may harm the liver to slow its job of breaking down the harmful substances in the body. A liver malfunction can cause cirrhosis, a buildup of scar tissue that destroys the liver.

Digestive system

Severe damage occurs quickly in the digestive system. Alcohol steadily causes malnutrition by making it difficult for the intestines to manage bacteria and absorb nutrients.

Skeletal System

Alcohol abuse inhibits the production of new bones. The slow production increases the risk of bone fractures and osteoporosis. The muscles are also more likely to cramp, weaken, or degenerate.

Circulatory system

Alcohol addiction changes our bodies much by impacting heart function. A heart problem is more likely to occur in heavy drinkers than someone who does not drink. Drinking heavily, even for one occasion make can cause heart trouble. The risk for women is more than for men. Heart problems that alcoholism can cause include:

  • Irregular heartbeat
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Poisoning of cells in the heart muscle
  • High blood pressure

Reproductive system

Erectile dysfunction is a common side effect in men who drink excessively. Alcohol inhibits hormone production causing infertility. Alcohol can stop menstruation and cause infertility in women. Additionally, it heightens the risk of breast cancer.

Alcohol addiction also causes short short-time side effects.

  • Slurred speech
  • Mood shifts
  • Memory lapses
  • Slowed breathing
  • Poor or lack of coordination

Some people experience fewer side effects from alcohol addiction, while others suffer from multiple side effects. All of them translate to addiction problems, so it is crucial to seek alcohol addiction treatment under the care of professional alcohol recovery experts. Specialized alcohol treatments programs help overcome the urge to drink and withdrawal symptoms that make people give up.

It is also essential to consult a medical professional when recovering from addiction who can run a series of tests that will reveal the existence of any addiction-related illnesses and recommend treatment.

Enlighted Solutions is a licensed co-occurring treatment facility- we focus on healing the whole person, not just treating the addiction. Our individualized recovery plans combine a range of treatment modalities, including cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), family constellation therapy, art and music therapy, yoga and meditation, acupuncture and chiropractic work, and equine-assisted therapy. Our location near the southern shore of New Jersey allows us to provide optimal healing and relaxation.

If you need relief from addiction, or if someone close to you does, please call us at (833) 801-5483 for more information.