Effects of Alcohol Abuse

While alcohol abuse has become normalized in today’s society, frequent abuse of this substance can lead to lasting physical, psychological, and social effects. The effects of alcohol abuse can become devastating, sometimes leading to death.

According to research, alcohol is responsible for 5% of all deaths and is the fourth leading cause of preventable death worldwide.[1]

From unemployment and social isolation to significant organ and cardiac issues, alcohol abuse is extremely damaging on all fronts.

Understanding Blood Alcohol Content Levels (BAC)

long and short term effects of alcohol

Blood alcohol content (BAC) levels refer to the measurement of how much alcohol an individual has consumed. Additionally, an individual’s BAC determines the side effects they will experience. Individuals with a higher tolerance for alcohol can drink more than those with a lower tolerance, leading to extremely high BAC levels.

The higher an individual’s blood alcohol content levels, they will experience the more severe side effects of alcohol abuse. While low BAC percentages produce effects that dissipate within a few hours, the effects of high BAC percentages may be long-lasting and life-threatening.

Let’s take a look at different blood alcohol content percentages and the effects they cause.

Mild Alcohol Intoxication (BAC 0.033-0.12%):

  • Heightened mood or euphoria
  • Improved self-confidence
  • Lowered levels of anxiety
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Facial flushing (redness of the face)
  • Motor coordination impairment
  • Impaired judgment

Moderate Alcohol Intoxication (BAC 0.09-0.25%):

  • Extreme drowsiness
  • Loss of memory and blackouts
  • Loss of comprehension skills
  • Slowed reaction times
  • Inability to balance and ataxia (lack of muscle control)
  • Blurred vision and inability to perceive sensations

Severe Alcohol Intoxication (BAC 0.25-0.40%):

  • Gaining and losing consciousness or complete unconsciousness
  • Not being able to remember what happened during the intoxication (amnesia)
  • Severe ataxia
  • Vomiting and aspirating
  • Respiratory depression
  • Loss of bladder control (urinary incontinence)
  • Decreased heart rate

Deadly Alcohol Intoxication (BAC 0.35-0.80%):

  • Eyes stop responding to light
  • Deadly levels of respiratory depression
  • Significant decrease in heart rate
  • Coma
  • Death

What Alcohol Does To The Body’s Organs 

short term effects of alcohol on the body

Drinking alcohol in excess can have a serious impact on the body’s organs. Let’s take a look at how each organ is affected by alcohol abuse.[2]

Brain

The reason why alcohol intoxication causes symptoms like slurred speech and impaired coordination is that alcohol negatively impacts the brain’s central nervous system.

In other words, alcohol abuse can change the way the brain works and looks because it interferes with vital communication pathways. This can cause disruptions in mood, behavior, and make it harder to think or move properly.

Heart

Abusing alcohol frequently can cause significant damage to the heart. In severe cases, alcohol abuse can lead to irreversible heart damage.

The effects of alcohol abuse on the heart include:

  • Cardiomyopathy
  • Arrhythmias
  • Stroke
  • High blood pressure

Liver 

Alcohol is metabolized in the liver. Because of this, frequent alcohol abuse can cause extreme damage to an individual’s liver.

Examples of liver damage resulting from alcohol abuse include:

  • Steatosis (fatty liver)
  • Alcoholic hepatitis
  • Fibrosis
  • Cirrhosis
  • Liver cancer

Pancreas 

When someone abuses alcohol, the pancreas begins to create toxic substances in their body. This can lead to:

  • Acute and chronic pancreatitis
  • Inflammation of the pancreas
  • Swelling of blood vessels in the pancreas
  • Pancreatic cancer

Kidneys

Alcohol is known to change the function of the kidneys, making them unable to filter blood properly. Additionally, the kidneys can become dried out due to alcohol causing an inability to regulate fluid and electrolytes in the body. The effects of alcohol on the kidneys can lead to acute kidney failure and lasting kidney damage.

Colon

Alcohol works as an irritant to the gut and digestive tract. This leads to inflammation in the lining of the intestines or colon, rendering the gut unable to absorb nutrients. This can cause individuals to develop conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

Additionally, research has linked heavy drinking to an increased risk of developing colon cancer.[3]

Short-Term Side Effects of Alcohol Abuse

The short-term side effects of alcohol abuse are the symptoms that individuals notice while drinking (or shortly after drinking) alcohol.

The short-term side effects of alcohol consumption include:

  • Feelings of drowsiness
  • Mental and physical relaxation
  • Euphoria
  • Talkativeness
  • Decreased inhibitions
  • Impulsive behaviors and shifts in mood
  • Slurred speech and odd speech patterns
  • Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
  • Head pain like headaches or migraines
  • Changes in hearing, vision, and perception
  • Decreased coordination skills
  • Problems focusing or difficulty making decisions
  • Loss of consciousness and memories (blackouts)

Long-Term Effects of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism

As mentioned, alcohol abuse and alcoholism can have serious and lasting health repercussions. When alcohol addiction becomes long-term, the effects of alcohol abuse begin to worsen.

The long term effects of alcohol abuse and alcoholism include:

  • Frequent mood swings
  • Insomnia
  • Decreased functionality of the immune system
  • Changes in libido and sexual function
  • Shifts in appetite and weight
  • Memory and concentration issues
  • Inability to focus on tasks
  • Increased tension in romantic, platonic, and familial relationships
  • Damage to organs (could include organ failure, permanent damage, decreased functionality, and death).

Psychosocial Side Effects of Alcohol Abuse and Addiction 

Alcoholism often leads to an array of adverse psychosocial effects. This may include decision-making problems, conflict in interpersonal relationships, financial devastation, and drunk driving.

Common social side effects of alcoholism include:

  • Isolating oneself from friends and family
  • Changing social groups to be around other individuals who partake in alcohol abuse
  • Frequent lying and deceitfulness
  • Manipulating others to obtain and abuse alcohol
  • Being unable to follow through with plans or responsibilities
  • Conflict with friends, family, and coworkers leads to worsened social isolation
  • Decreased performance in school, work, or activities not related to alcohol abuse

One of the most common and most damaging psychosocial effects of alcohol abuse is drunk driving. Most people who engage in drunk driving are binger drinkers and alcoholics, as their ability to make sound decisions has become severely impacted by long-term alcohol abuse.

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, “Every day, about 28 people in the United States die in drunk-driving crashes — that’s one person every 52 minutes.”[4]

In addition to the social effects of alcoholism, long-term alcohol abuse can have severe impacts on an individual’s psyche.

Some of the psychological side effects of alcohol include:

  • Frequent and rapid mood swings, often including aggression and extreme sadness
  • Increased irritability, anger, and violent behaviors
  • Issues with memory, concentration, and attention
  • Worsened anxiety and panic attacks
  • Hallucinations or delusional thinking, especially during periods of withdrawal

Find Help for Alcohol Use Disorder Today

If you or a loved one suffer from an alcohol use disorder, professional treatment is necessary. The long-term effects alcohol abuse can have on your mind, body, and overall quality of life may become irreversible or life-threatening without the help of an alcohol addiction treatment center.

With that being said, Moving Mountains Recovery is here to help. With our top-rated alcohol use disorder treatment program we can provide you and your family with the help you deserve. Contact us today for more information regarding alcohol abuse and alcoholism treatment.

References:

  1. https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/285913-overview
  2. https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohols-effects-health/alcohols-effects-body
  3. https://adf.org.au/insights/alcohol-and-bowel-cancer/
  4. https://www.nhtsa.gov/risky-driving/drunk-driving
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