Alcohol causes some of the most damaging effects of any addictive substance, impacting both short-term and long-term health. Alcohol abuse essentially rewires the brain to reinforce addictive behaviors, and long-term over-consumption of alcohol has disastrous effects on the body, especially to internal organs.
Alcohol’s Effects on Internal Organs
Alcohol abuse is very damaging to the heart and the abdominal organs. Even one session of excessive drinking can damage these organs, especially the heart. Like most addictions, alcohol abuse will inflict greater internal damage the longer it continues.
Alcohol abuse strains the body’s ability to properly function and leaves alcohol abusers more susceptible to severe medical conditions later in life. In many cases, organ damage is life-threatening or fatal.
Alcohol’s Effects on the Heart
The longer alcoholism continues, the higher the risk of a stroke or heart failure caused by impaired organ performance. For example, alcohol abuse can create instances where the heart doesn’t beat in the proper rhythm and cannot process blood and oxygen effectively.
While atrial fibrillation (brief, irregular heartbeat) is a relatively short-term concern, repeated occurrences caused by alcohol consumption directly contribute to higher risk of the following symptoms:
- Heart Enlargement
- Swollen Extremities
- Difficulty Breathing
- Fibrous Damage in the Heart
- Congestive Heart Failure
Damage to the Digestive System
The esophagus and stomach are the first organs to process alcohol after consumption. Excessive alcohol intake damages the esophagus and causes it to constrict, making it more difficult to swallow food.
Over time, this causes GERD, or gastroesophageal reflux disease. This condition leads to:
- Stomach acid splashing into the esophagus, deteriorating tissue and causing pain and burning sensations.
- Tearing and bleeding of the esophagus, requiring surgery and blood transfusions.
- Increased risk of esophageal cancer. The stomach responds to excessive alcohol consumption with inflammation, often leading to gastritis. Chronic gastritis often causes ulcers and stomach cancer.
The liver is the organ responsible for processing toxins in the body. Alcohol consumption strains the liver because it the primary site of alcohol processing in the body.
Over time, liver disease like cirrhosis can turn life-threatening, and excessive alcohol consumption significantly increases the risk of liver failure.
The liver can repair itself, however, so the sooner a person stops drinking, the better the chances of the liver returning to healthy functioning.
Impaired Kidney Functioning
The kidneys suffer directly from alcohol consumption. Alcohol alters the balance of water and nutrients in the body, hampering proper kidney function.
With extended alcohol abuse, this imbalance can cause dangerous blood sugar level drops or seizures. People who abuse alcohol over a long period of time also display symptoms of dehydration because of slowed or impaired kidney functioning.
Nutrition and Mental Health
Drinking has significant effects on mental health as well, and many of these problems arise from damage to other internal organs. As substance abuse progresses, decreased organ function occurs in tandem with dehydration and poor nutrition. This dangerous combination puts the individual at high risk for severely limiting the brain’s ability to function.
Seeking Treatment for Alcohol Abuse
Alcohol addiction is so dangerous because it progresses very rapidly and affects the entire body. Additionally, alcohol is legal to own and consume for people over 21 in the United States, and is so socially acceptable that it can be easy for alcoholics to maintain their addictions while leading normal lives.
The reality is that this type of lifestyle cannot continue for long. The toll that alcohol abuse takes on the body is too enormous to ignore.
It’s vital to seek treatment for alcohol abuse as soon as possible to prevent significant organ damage. The Treatment Center offers medically assisted detox services as well as an abundance of personalized treatment program options. Our comprehensive alcohol addiction treatment services empower our patients to recover at their own pace and rebuild their lives with healthy choices and sober living.