For some, alcohol abuse in its most severe form can have serious or even life-threatening effects. While a person may not be able to physically see the damage that is causes to the internal organs of the body – whether it be on a short or long-term basis – it can result in significant and often irreversible health problems.
Each and every organ is impacted by excessive alcohol consumption. Those at greater risk for considerable damage are:
Alcohol can affect the brain rather quickly. It causes complications such as a loss of coordination, memory loss, the inability to think clearly and can alter a person’s overall behavior and mood.
Excessive alcohol consumption over an extended period of time may also result in some irreversible long-term side effects. Continuous excessive use of alcohol interferes with specific areas of the brain such as the limbic system (this handles emotions, memories and stimulation), cerebellum (the part that receives sensory information and co-ordinates movement), and cerebral cortex (the part of the brain where the most information processing takes place. When these areas are affected, the communication pathways between the brain and body are adversely impacted, compromising routine functions.
For example, your motor skills are controlled by the cerebellum, when you consume alcohol and it affects this area of your brain, you’ll experience a loss of balance.
Drinking over an extended period of time or even just having too much to drink on a particular occasion, can result in cardiovascular damage. Over time, excessive drinking weakens the heart. This impacts the way in which oxygen and vital nutrients are transmitted to various vital organs throughout the rest of the body.
Excessive alcohol consumption also causes a rise in the levels of triglycerides, a type of fat found in the blood. Elevated triglyceride levels put a person at a higher risk of developing life-threatening conditions such as diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.
The development of a number of chronic illnesses, diseases and conditions is associated with excessive or chronic alcohol consumption, these include hypertension (high blood pressure) and irregular heartbeat (medically termed arrhythmias).
Long-term ramifications of extreme drinking include heart attacks, stroke, cardiomyopathy (heart muscle disease) and death.
When a person consumes alcohol, the liver’s job is to break it down and expel it from the blood. Consuming large volumes of alcohol in a short amount of time can disrupt its metabolism and could result in a fatty liver. A fatty liver is often the result of alcohol abuse. It is considered a chronic medical condition and occurs when the liver stores an excess of harmful fats. Having a fatty liver due to excessive drinking also puts a person at a higher risk for developing type 2 diabetes as well as liver failure.
In addition to the above, alcohol addiction can also result in hepatitis (inflammation of liver) as well as liver cell damage. The combination of liver cell damage and inflammation may cause scarring, fibrosis (thickening of scar tissue), cirrhosis (advanced liver scarring) or even liver cancer.
An organ that assists by regulating the body’s blood sugar levels, the pancreas can be severely damaged by excessive alcohol consumption. A person may develop pancreatitis, a medical condition in which blood vessels within the pancreas begin to swell. This results in the interruption of the digestive process which increases a person’s risk of pancreatic cancer which is potentially very dangerous as it’s the type of cancer that spreads very quickly.
A person may experience the following symptoms with an acute pancreatic attack: fever, rapid heart rate, nausea, abdominal pain and discomfort as well as diarrhea. While there is a host of medication and various treatment options available for pancreatitis, it is often very challenging to reverse.
Extensive scientific research has shown that those who consume higher amounts of alcohol over extended periods of time are at a higher risk of developing specific types of alcohol-linked cancer. These types of cancer include:
Head and neck cancer
Research has proven that those who drink 50 grams of alcohol or more each day (equivalent to 3.5 alcoholic drinks or more each day) are at a higher risk of developing oral cancer (excluding those of the lips, throat (pharynx), and voice box (larynx)). People who smoke or use tobacco in addition to consuming large amounts of alcohol showed to be at a considerably higher risk of developing these types of cancers.
A type of cancer that affects the tube that runs from the throat down to the stomach. A leading risk factor for this cancer is severe or excessive alcohol consumption.
Studies that were conducted showed that women who consumed more than three alcoholic drinks (45 grams) each day were 1.5 times more likely to develop breast cancer as opposed to those who did not drink.
A primary cause of liver cancer (medically termed hepatocellular carcinoma) is excessive alcohol consumption. In addition, Hepatitis B and C are also chronic conditions that may be induced by excessive alcohol intake and eventually cause liver cancer.
Based on extensive research, studies have indicated that those who consume 3.5 alcoholic beverages daily on a regular basis have a higher risk of developing colorectal cancer (cancer of the colon or rectum). There is a 7% increase in the risk of developing colorectal cancer for every 10 grams (or more) of alcohol are consumed daily on a continual basis.
The Immune System
Drinking excessively has an impact on the body’s immune system which will make you more susceptible for disease. Those who drink chronically are more likely to contract certain illnesses such as TB (tuberculosis) and pneumonia compared to those who don’t consume as much alcohol on a regular basis. This is because the body is so busy dealing with the excessive alcohol intake that it lacks the ability to fight off any infections that rear their nasty heads – even a mere 24 hours after getting intoxicated.