Are you wondering whether alcohol consumption is damaging your health? According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, drinking too much alcohol, whether on a single occasion or over a longer period of time, can have a negative impact on a person’s health. Alcohol can not only affect the organs but can also lead to serious health complications, including death.
Organs Most Commonly Affected by Alcohol
Even moderate use of alcohol can have negative effects on the body and cause problems with the major organs. The organs that are most affected by alcohol include:
- Brain. Alcohol can suppress the neurotransmitters in the brain and interfere with how the brain communicates. It can cause changes in a person’s behavior and mood and make it difficult to focus. Alcohol can also cause difficulties with coordination. Long-term alcohol use can cause brain shrinkage and a loss of gray and white brain matter.
- Heart. Using alcohol can damage the heart by causing conditions such as high blood pressure, cardiomyopathy (a disease of the heart muscle that causes stretching and drooping), and irregular heartbeat. It can also increase a person’s risk of stroke. Consuming large amounts of alcohol for years can lead to heart failure and even death.
- Liver. Moderate alcohol use (about two 6-oz glasses of wine a day) can cause fatty liver disease, and heavy use of alcohol can significantly and permanently affect the liver. The liver works to filter out harmful toxins and waste from the body. When it is unable to do so due to damage, toxins and waste can build up in the body and cause inflammation and other problems such as cirrhosis, fibrosis, or alcoholic hepatitis.
- Pancreas. Excessive use of alcohol can lead to pancreatitis, an inflammation and swelling of the blood vessels in the pancreas. This problem can prevent digestion and cause severe pain and other symptoms. Chronic pancreatitis due to long-term alcohol consumption can be life-threatening. Alcohol use can also impair the pancreas’ ability to produce insulin. This can lead to diabetes.
- Kidneys. Drinking alcohol can affect the function of the kidneys, which are responsible for filtering alcohol and other toxins. Alcohol can lead to dehydration and cause kidney failure due to the damage it can cause to the tissue of the kidneys. Alcohol can also cause other conditions such as kidney stones, urinary tract infections, and inflammation of the kidneys.
- Stomach. Alcohol can irritate the lining of the stomach and increase the amount of digestive juices and acid. If alcohol is used long-term, ulcers can develop; frequent irritation to the stomach lining can lead to gastritis.
Short and Long-term Effects of Alcohol
In addition to causing problems to the major organs, alcohol has other short and long-term effects on the body. Having just a few drinks can cause short-term effects such as:
- Changes in mood or behavior
- Loss of concentration
- Lowered inhibitions
- Inability to make rational choices
- Increased blood pressure
- Blacking or passing out
- Nausea or vomiting
Drinking too much alcohol over an extended period of time can have serious consequences on a person’s health. Long-term effects of alcohol on the body include:
- Memory loss
- Heart problems
- High blood pressure
- Liver or kidney disease
- Increased risk of certain cancers such as throat, mouth, liver, breast, colon, or esophageal
- Impairment of the body’s ability to fight infection or disease
- Weakening of bones and increased risk for fractures
It is important to seek immediate medical attention if you experience signs of organ failure. Some signs to be aware of include:
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Increased heart rate
- Loss of appetite and nausea
- Yellowing of the skin
- Extreme fatigue or weakness
- Swelling of the abdomen
Twin Lakes Recovery Center Is Here to Help
If you or a loved one is struggling with a substance use disorder, the staff at Twin Lakes Recovery Center is here to help. Located near Atlanta, GA, we offer various treatment options for substance abuse, alcohol abuse, and co-occurring disorders. In addition, our continuum of care includes a variety of programs that can meet your individual needs, including detox, inpatient residential treatments, intensive outpatient programs, relapse prevention programs, certified therapists, and wellness activities. Contact us today to learn more about our programs and services.