When matched against illicit drugs, alcohol is perceived as harmless. Its legal classification and availability contribute to the UK’s drinking culture and its normalisation. Yet there is in fact great harm behind alcohol consumption, causing many health concerns.
Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant. Alcohol consumption automatically slows down the body and brain, disrupting everyday functionality. Initial and episodic consumption of alcohol can be easily recovered from, as alcohol begins to leave the bloodstream, which stabilises regular processes. Yet constant exposure can result in alcohol abuse, addiction and long-term effects and damages.
Alcohol abuse is found to attack the vital organs, increase the risks of cancer, can result in alcohol poisoning, contribute to poor mental health, and suppress the immune system. With the possibility of causing life-limiting consequences, alcohol is in fact an addictive, toxic and harmful substance.
Here’s some further insight as we answer, ‘what are the long-term effects of alcohol abuse?’. Although difficult to withdraw from, fortunately, alcohol detoxification and rehabilitation are possible. See how to recover with our support at Action Rehab, whilst stabilising and improving wellbeing.
What is considered alcohol abuse?
Alcohol abuse reflects unhealthy and negative relationships with alcohol. The difference between binge drinking and abuse is that abuse begins to resemble a habit. Although physical associations are mostly experienced through alcohol abuse, actions and behaviours can begin to change, whilst cravings can begin to intensify.
All forms of alcohol exposure can be damaging and unhealthy, yet alcohol abuse shows that there is an underlying dependence on the substance and its effects. Misusing and abusing alcohol can trigger further problems, such as an addiction, can influence co-occurring mental health issues, and can increase the risk of drug abuse.
For someone who’s abusing alcohol, signs and symptoms will mostly display intense cravings, hangover-like side effects, withdrawal symptoms and routine-like exposure. Although less invasive than addiction, abuse can develop into alcoholism, carrying long-term effects on the body and brain.
Here’s how damaging such habits can be by considering ‘what are the long-term effects of alcohol abuse?’.
Long-term effects of alcohol abuse on the body and brain
Alcohol abuse and addiction will affect people differently. Just like any drug, factors such as age, gender, existing health, consistency of use and method can all vary the effects of alcohol abuse. Yet due to its toxic makeup, damages are expected to both the body and brain, possible to remain for the long-term. Here’s how alcohol abuse can damage our vital organs and systems and can increase the risks of developing addiction and co-occurring disorders.
Effects on the brain
Recognised to slow down the central nervous system, alcohol is a depressant drug. Over a period of time where alcohol has been abused, brain structures, chemicals and health can all alter. Probable of damaging areas such as the limbic system and cerebral cortex, alcohol can result in long-term effects of memory loss, cognitive impermeant, and disruptive messaging throughout the body.
Long-term effects of alcohol abuse are also linked to co-occurring disorders of dual diagnosis. Mental health issues are commonly co-existing, increasing the risks of depression, anxiety, panic disorders and schizophrenia.
Early-onset dementia, nerve damage, problems with concentration and balance, irrational thought processes, decreased attention span and sleep disorders are also common consequences of alcohol use disorder.
Effects on the liver
Once alcohol enters the body, it’s digested and metabolised by the liver. For someone who’s abused high and consistent quantities of alcohol, traces will however remain to circulate the body.
The liver is built to digest low capacities of alcohol, meaning that alcohol will continue to adjust and disrupt normal functionality, increasing the risks of inflammation, toxicity, and alcohol poisoning.
Liver disease, liver damage, fatty liver and fibrosis are all common through long-term alcohol abuse. Medication, treatment, and some lifestyle modifications will be necessary to treat liver damage.
Effects on the kidneys
The kidneys help to detox the body from harmful substances. Alcohol is a harmful substance that will be eliminated by the kidneys. Yet incapable of filtering high quantities of alcohol, damages can begin to show, increasing the risks of kidney disease.
For those who struggle with alcohol abuse, liver disease is a common primary effect, which will in turn place pressure on the kidneys. Overworked and disrupted, symptoms of kidney disease will likely surface.
Effects on the stomach
The digestive system can be heavily disrupted by excessive alcohol consumption. Whilst the presence of acid is normal in the stomach, excessive levels can be produced through heavy alcohol intake.
Increased levels of acid can result in stomach ulcers, gastric problems, acid reflux and can also increase the risks of stomach cancer. Vomiting, nausea and diarrhoea are all additional symptoms of alcohol abuse that can inflame the stomach and cause discomfort, damage, and long-term digestive problems.
Effects on the pancreas
Long-term effects of alcohol abuse can also be identified in the pancreas. The pancreas is a vital organ that helps to stabilise blood sugar levels. Through alcohol exposure, the pancreas can produce a hazardous chemical, causing inflammation and an imbalance.
Pancreatitis is one of the most common health concerns caused by heavy drinking. If ignored, pancreatitis can be life-threatening.
Effects on the heart
The heart is responsible for pumping blood around the body. Once alcohol has been digested by the liver, remaining traces will circulate through the bloodstream. Arriving at the heart, risks of heart problems are high, due to such contamination.
High blood pressure, cardiovascular problems, risks of heart disease and attacks are all consequences of long-term alcohol abuse. Possible to be life-threatening, an intervention will be required to treat alcoholism and cardiovascular problems.
There are many different consequences of alcoholism to consider whilst answering ‘what are the long-term effects of alcohol abuse?’. The above effects on the vital organs are probable, along with a depleted immune system, malnourishment, and the risk of an unshakeable addiction.
Treatment for alcohol addiction
Heavy drinking is therefore concerning, especially whilst alcohol is abused for the long term. Once consumption becomes an automatic response, the body and brain will adjust to accept its presence. By doing so, alcohol and its effects will take over, causing internal damages and addiction.
Whilst serious, alcoholism can, fortunately, be treated. Health concerns can also be worked through, through various treatments and medications.
Treatment for alcohol abuse/addiction can be sourced here at Action Rehab, through our network of alcohol rehab clinics. Offering the opportunity to withdraw from alcohol, reduce the automatic response of consumption, and rehabilitate the mind, various treatments and therapies can be worked through.
To also benefit the body and brain, lifestyle modifications, healthier choices and relapse prevention planning will all be promoted, to reduce recurring risks.
What are the long-term effects of alcohol abuse if enabled and ignored? Reach out to our team for more information or for guidance on quitting alcohol.