Out of the 21 million people with a substance use disorder in the United States, 15 million of them have alcohol use disorder. Alcohol use disorder is defined as a chronic disease characterized by uncontrolled drinking and preoccupation with alcohol. Those who have alcohol use disorder tend to display symptoms such as continuing to drink despite negative consequences, neglecting responsibilities, struggling at work or school, or experiencing unpredictable mood swings. And while the vast majority of alcohol use disorder symptoms can be seen with the naked eye, several more can be occurring inside. Alcohol, when consumed in a manner consistent with alcohol use disorder, can damage the body significantly.
How Does Alcohol Damage the Body?
Alcohol is not something that the human body is meant to have in its system constantly. Of course, having one drink from time to time will likely do no harm at all, but consistent consumption of alcohol such as that done by alcoholics is a recipe for disaster. The longer that alcohol is abused, the more likely the alcoholic becomes to suffer more severe physical health problems. And, if nothing is done about the health problems that develop, the physical damage can become fatal. There are countless ways that alcohol damages the body, including by damaging the liver, the heart, and other parts of the body.
1. Damages the liver
The liver is a vital organ. Without one, it is impossible for any human being to live. The liver has a number of different functions that keep the human body alive and well. In fact, the liver is responsible for the following:
- Bile production and excretion
- Blood detoxification and purification
- Storage of vitamins and minerals
- Excretion of cholesterol and hormones
- Metabolism of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates
The liver cannot process all of the alcohol someone consumes all at one time. Instead, it can only filter through a certain amount of it. So, when alcohol is being rapidly consumed, whatever cannot be filtered through the liver spills over into the bloodstream. The massive influx of alcohol essentially overwhelms it, leading to the development of serious problems such as cirrhosis, alcoholic hepatitis, and even liver cancer due to cell mutation.
2. Causes heart problems
The heart is one of the most affected organs in the body when someone is abusing or addicted to alcohol. That is because, as mentioned before, alcohol gets into the bloodstream, meaning that when blood is pumping, the alcohol pumps along with it. Any organ that the alcohol-tainted blood touches can suffer destruction. Specifically with the heart, however, alcohol can increase the potential for high blood pressure, which can lead to heart attack and stroke. Most notably, heavy drinkers can experience cardiomyopathy, which is a disease in the muscles of the heart. Cardiomyopathy occurs when the heart is compromised to the point where it cannot pump blood as easy as it used to. This can lead to heart failure, which is fatal.
3. Decreases immune system
Regular alcohol abuse chips away at the strength of one’s immune system. That is because alcohol is a depressant, meaning that it slows down functions in the body such as the immune system. A slowed immune system means that white blood cells cannot reach areas of concern quick enough to produce healing effects. As a result, whatever ailment a person catches can become severe and/or stick around for long periods of time. In times like today where a pandemic is raging on, being an alcoholic comes with even more of a risk, as the body is less likely to be able to combat a virus as powerful as coronavirus, which can lead to death. This possibility is not just limited to pandemics, as viruses like the common flu can become severe.
4. Damages the reproductive system
Men who struggle with alcoholism can also begin suffering from erectile dysfunction. This condition makes it difficult to engage in sexual activity, which is a vital part of most healthy relationships. Not only does erectile dysfunction impact the physical act of sex, but it can also affect a man’s confidence and self-esteem, causing him to drink more. In regards to women, alcoholism can cause the cessation of menstruation, which is connected to infertility. Additionally, women who abuse alcohol are also at a higher risk for developing breast cancer. Similar to men, the emotional damage that can be done as a result of infertility or cancer can serve as a trigger for continued alcohol abuse.
5. Affects the gastrointestinal system
Alcohol can damage the entire gastrointestinal system, which can have long-lasting and potentially deadly effects. When alcohol is abused to excess, it has the potential to create the following problems:
- Esophageal and stomach ulcers
- Gum disease
- Acid reflux
- Internal bleeding
- Salivary gland damage
Alcohol use disorder can also cause several different types of cancers within the gastrointestinal system, ranging from throat cancer to stomach cancer. Chronic problems like heartburn, hemorrhoids, and acid reflux can create regular, daily discomfort that interferes with basic functions like eating and using the bathroom. When life becomes complicated by health problems such as these, it can be highly discouraging and unmotivating, fueling the continued use of alcohol.
Do You Need Help? Call Us Right Now.
If you are struggling with alcohol use disorder, know that you are not alone. You are one of the millions of people who are facing the daily challenges that alcoholism can create. But, it is important to know that you do not need to keep drinking. You have the power to stop, and we can help.
At Genesis House, we understand the hard truths about alcoholism. We know that getting sober is not easy. But we also know that continuing to drink is a deadly decision. So, call us right now. Speak to one of our admissions specialists to find out how we can help you end your active addiction for good. We are waiting for your call. Reach out to us today to get started on a better tomorrow.