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3 Long-Term Effects of Alcohol on Your Body

Man dealing with the long-term effects of alcohol

For people struggling with alcohol use, the long-term effects of this disease can take a significant toll on the body, including damage to the brain, heart, and liver. Understanding these effects can help you realize the importance of treating an alcohol use disorder.

If you or a loved one is struggling with an alcohol use disorder, it’s important to understand the risks and effects of this disease. An alcohol addiction treatment program can help you or your loved one get on the road to recovery.

1. Damage To The Brain

The slurred speech and slower reaction times that are common when someone’s had too much to drink are a clear indication of alcohol’s impact on the brain. What many people don’t know is that these short-term effects can have long-term consequences. The entire central nervous system is affected by alcohol. Over time, exposure to alcohol can actually damage the brain. Frontal lobe damage is common, which can lead to:

  • Short-term memory problems
  • Problems with judgment
  • Problems with emotional control

People who have an alcohol dependency problem may lose their ability to think clearly and make rational choices. Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome is a disorder that leads to permanent brain damage. This disorder begins when alcohol causes a thiamine deficiency, which in turn causes brain damage. If left untreated, this can turn into psychosis, which causes permanent learning and memory problems.

2. Liver Disease

Not only does alcohol use affect the brain, but it also affects the liver. The liver breaks down and removes harmful substances from the body, and this means it’s the primary organ that deals with alcohol when you consume it. Long-term exposure to alcohol causes alcoholic liver disease (ALD), which is a progressive disease that has the potential to become quite serious.

The first stage of ALD is fatty liver disease. This occurs when fat accumulates around the liver and inhibits its function. Continued alcohol use causes acute alcoholic hepatitis, or swelling of the liver, which can lead to liver failure. Cirrhosis of the liver is the most severe type of alcoholic liver disease, and it occurs when inflammation causes scar tissue buildup in the organ. Cirrhosis makes it difficult for the liver to do its job, and this creates a buildup of toxins and waste in your body. This type of alcoholic liver disease is often fatal.

3. Circulatory System Damage

In addition to the liver and brain, alcohol use can compromise your circulatory system. People who use alcohol regularly are at higher risk of heart issues than those who do not, and this risk is higher for women than men. Alcohol use often causes a problem called cardiomyopathy. Cardiomyopathy occurs when the heart no longer pumps blood well, and this can have far-reaching implications for your overall health. Some other common problems associated with drinking and the heart include:

  • Risk of heart attack or heart failure – Alcohol use can cause high blood pressure, which is a major risk factor for both heart attacks and heart failure.
  • Stroke – Alcohol use increases the risk of stroke because it can cause high blood pressure and damage to the brain.
  • Arrhythmias – Alcohol use can cause irregular heart rhythms, which can be potentially dangerous.
  • Pancreatitis – The pancreas is a gland that produces enzymes that help with digestion. It also produces hormones that regulate blood sugar levels. Alcohol abuse can cause pancreatitis, or inflammation of the pancreas. This can be a serious condition that leads to abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting. If left untreated, pancreatitis can be fatal.
  • Anemia – Alcohol abuse can cause anemia, or a low level of red blood cells. This can cause fatigue and other problems.

While many of these are reversible problems, some, like heart failure or heart attack, are not. Once the heart has suffered extreme damage, it is difficult to restore its function, and you’re left with a lifetime battle for your health.

How to Stop Drinking

Alcohol use has serious consequences for your health and well-being. If you’re ready to stop drinking, you do need to understand how to do so safely. The moment you stop consuming alcohol, your body enters the withdrawal process, and this is a potentially dangerous place to be. The safest place to go through this process is in a facility that offers medical monitoring and support. In a detox program, you’ll receive help and support through withdrawal. After completing detox, you can continue with professional addiction treatment to help you address your addiction and any underlying mental health needs you may have.

Get Help For Alcohol Addiction at Vertava Health Mississippi

At Vertava Health Mississippi, we offer a residential alcohol treatment program that uses evidence-based practices to address this serious disorder. We also offer alcohol detox and rehab support and outpatient services. Reach out to Vertava Health Mississippi at 844.951.1931 today to see if our program is a good fit for your needs.