How Alcohol Impacts the Body
Alcohol has its place in our society. Whether you’re drinking celebratory cocktails or melancholy spirits, alcohol seems to fit in with any context.
Often, when people are drinking, they don’t think to count how much alcohol they are consuming. This can lead to alcohol poisoning, a deadly consequence of drinking too much.
Even the slightest bit of alcohol can have negative effects on your body. Let’s take a look at what happens when you consume alcohol:
History of Alcohol Abuse
Over the years, the way addiction has been treated by both society and medical professionals has evolved. When the first edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders was published in 1952, drug addiction and alcoholism were seen as sociopathic personality disturbances. The symptoms of drug addiction and alcoholism were viewed as an underlying brain or personality disorder.
Since then, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders been published four more times to date. Each new publication has changed to include new information, diagnoses, and shifted how the person suffering from alcoholism is perceived by society. With the publication of the fifth edition in 2000, addictions are seen as disorders; for example, alcoholism is now known as Alcohol Use Disorder.
The diagnosis of an alcohol use disorder is based on having 2 of the following within a 12-month period:
- Lack of Control – Drinking more or over a longer period than was intended.
- Inability to Stop – Although you may have a desire to stop, you are unable to do so, and continue to use it despite physical, mental, social, or interpersonal problems caused by its use.
- Loss of Time – Losing time to activities related to getting alcohol, or recovering from its effects.
- Craving Alcohol – Having a strong desire or urge to drink alcohol.
- Inability to Fulfill Obligations – Especially at work, school, or home.
- Loss of Interests – Reduced social and recreational activity due to drinking alcohol.
- Reckless Behavior – Getting high and putting yourself or others at risk for physical danger.
- Tolerance – Many people report just not getting drunk with alcohol anymore, but still wanting to drink it. Or drinking more.
- Withdrawal – Symptoms of withdrawal include sweating, nausea, shakiness, or seizures.
The Range of Alcohol Use Disorder
Alcohol use disorder may range from mild to moderate to severe:
- Mild: 2 to 3 symptoms.
- Moderate: 4 to 5 symptoms.
- Severe: 6 or more symptoms.
Statistics on Alcohol Use Disorder
The prevalence of Alcohol Use Disorder can be categorized between two different age brackets.
Youth between 12-17:
- About 679,000 youth lived with the disorder in 2014.
- Approximately 55,000 youth went through treatment for the disorder in 2014.
Adults 18 and older:
- 3 million adults lived with the disorder in 2014.
- Approximately5 million adults went through treatment for the disorder in 2014.
Levels of Drinking
There are three levels of alcohol use:
- Men: 2 drinks a day.
- Women: 1 drink a day.
2. Heavy, for both men and women:
- 5 or more drinks in a span of 30 days.
- 5 or more drinks on the same occasion.
- Men: 5 drinks for men within in about 2 hours.
- Women: 4 drinks for women within 2 hours.
Effects of Alcohol on the Body
There are many ways alcohol affects the body— it can cause different types of cancer. And impact your immune system, heart, pancreases, brain, and nervous system.
Alcohol consumption can increase your chances of developing cancer, particularly in the mouth, esophagus, throat, liver, or breast. Alcohol weakens the immune system and raising the chances of your body not being able to defend itself against diseases. It impacts your immune system up to 24 hours after your last drink.
- The heart. Drinking alcohol also affects your heart. It can cause high blood pressure, a stroke, an irregular heartbeat, or cardiomyopathy, which is when a heart muscle stretches and drops.
- The liver. Alcohol use can cause inflammation, cirrhosis, fibrosis, steatosis, and alcoholic hepatitis.
- The pancreas. The pancreas is impacted by alcohol. It causes pancreatitis, which affects the digestion system, causing inflammation of blood vessels around the pancreas. Symptoms of the pancreas being affected include vomiting, nausea, and abdominal pain. The pancreas has an endocrine function that assists in regulating your blood sugar and has an exocrine function that aids in digestion. Regular alcohol consumption depresses these functions and ultimately leads to diseases such as type II diabetes.
- The brain and the nervous system. After consuming alcohol, many people experience challenges with walking, vision, speech, and how fast they are able to react to situations. This is because many aspects and areas of the brain are impacted by the consumption of alcohol. Communication between nerve cells is interrupted by alcohol consumption. Tissue and brain cells are destroyed. At the same time, the central nervous system is depressed. These two elements together lead to both memory and cognition challenges.
Get Professional Help
Overcoming alcohol addiction isn’t easy. If you or a loved one are impacted by the effects of alcohol, get some professional help. Reach out to our trained staff to see how our individualized treatment programs can help start you on the road to recovery.
Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.
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