It’s okay to drink responsibly once and awhile. But it’s easy for things to get out of hand. A 2013 study by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health found that Canadians drink 50 percent more than global culture on average.
Alcohol is the third leading cause of disease and injury, and drinking too much can ruin a perfectly healthy body.
Exactly how far do alcohol’s effects on the body span?
Let’s take a look at some of the various ways that drinking regularly — and alcoholism — affect a person’s physical, social and emotional health.
Short Term Effects
One of the main effects of alcohol are first felt on the body. Even one alcoholic drink affects the body. Whether or not you feel any difference after just one beer, there is still a lot happening below the surface. Alcohol doesn’t take a long time to digest like food.
Instead, it hits our brains in around a minute. Twenty percent of what you drink goes straight into your bloodstream, while 80 percent is absorbed by the small intestine.
When an adult drinks a serving size of alcohol, they usually don’t experience many negative effects. However, if they go over this limit, they will soon start to feel the telltale signs of being drunk such as:
- Slurred speech.
- Loss of coordination.
- Lower body temperature.
- Slower reflexes.
- Emotional changes (Some people may become giggly and euphoric, others may get upset and start to cry).
Drinking a lot even once affects your body’s immune system. If you get drunk, your body will have a harder time fighting off bacteria and germs up to 24 hours after you were intoxicated.
Long Term Effects Of Alcohol
The short term effects of drinking aren’t so bad. In fact, when someone drinks in moderation, they usually feel good and the worst thing they have to deal with is a headache the next morning. Nothing an Ibuprofen or two can’t fix, right?
The real problem with alcohol starts when someone begins to drink daily for prolonged periods of time or more than the recommended amount.
Alcoholism affects millions of people worldwide, and it’s not always binge drinking.
Many alcoholics are simply unable to resist the urge to consume alcohol and become dependent on it. While some alcoholics may get blackout drunk, others may just drink until they start to feel the positive effects social drinkers experience.
The only problem is that the more frequently you drink, the greater a tolerance your body develops. This means that even if you only drink a few beers every evening after work, you will start to need more and more to feel the same light, carefree feeling. This leads to excessive consumption and alcohol dependency, which can ruin a person’s life in many different ways.
Every alcoholic is different, and not every alcoholic will experience the same effects. However, every person with a drinking problem does put themselves at an increased risk for physical, emotional, mental and social damage.
Positive Effects – Really?
You can drink a small alcoholic drink every day and experience some positive effects on your health.
The School of Public Health at Harvard University found that “moderate” drinking can actually reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. This is because drinking can increase the level of HDL — the “good” cholesterol — in the body.
However, the American Heart Association currently doesn’t endorse drinking to improve cardiovascular health.
Some positive social effects people who drink may experience include less anxiety, a “weightless” and relaxed feeling throughout the body and greater confidence.
For people with social anxiety, drinking can sometimes offer relief. But it’s not a real solution to any problem.
Instead of drinking, it’s better to seek therapy for anxiety and depression. This isn’t the easy route, but it’s definitely worth it.
Negative Effects Are Just Too Many
As you can see, the positive effects of alcohol are either temporary or under researched.
The negative effects of alcohol are far more enduring, and they are often very hard to recover from. Even former alcoholics who have been sober for years still experience cravings that tempt them to go back to their former ways.
The consequences of drinking range from depression to death. It’s a pretty broad spectrum, and it only gets worse as you move down the line.
You may think that if you watch how much you drink that the “serious” results of alcoholism won’t affect you. Unfortunately, too many people think that they are the exception and wind up addicts before they even realize that they have a problem.
Reading up on the negative ways that drinking and alcoholism affects the body and mind are great preventative measures as well as motivators to quit if you are already looking for advice on how to stop drinking.
Mental Effects That No One Can Ignore
Alcohol affects the brain in a lot of ways. A person’s chemistry is greatly altered by drinking, especially if they drink heavily or are alcoholics.
Alcohol brain damage can also lead to more serious problems such as blackouts.
These periods of unconsciousness render a person completely helpless and can put their lives at risk, especially if they live or drink alone or are with others who are also drunk. They also cause permanent memory loss.
Depression goes hand-in-hand with alcoholism, so it’s important to identify this condition as a result of drinking and not a reason to do so.
If you drink to soothe your sadness, know that plenty of other people do the same, but understand that this is not a healthy solution and will only make your problems worse.
You should always seek help — professional if possible — for chronic emotional and mental problems like prolonged sadness and anxiety because they can be fixed.
Physical Effects On The Body & It’s Organs
The mind may be heavily affected by drinking, but the body seems to get the brunt of the trauma when it comes to alcohol.
The worst part about alcoholism is that it hits the body’s major organs, and when these start to fail, the rest of the body goes along with them.
Here are three of the core major organs in your body and what alcohol does to each of them.
Memory loss, chemical imbalances that cause emotional problems and blackouts are the most common ways drinking affects mental health.
Drinking puts you at an increased risk for cardiovascular disease and heart attacks.
It also weakens heart muscles, which causes weaker blood flow and creates a condition called cardiomyopathy.
Regular drinking also causes high blood pressure, which puts a person at a greater risk of stroke.
Many heavy drinkers also experience weight gain; being overweight also leads to high blood pressure and can cause many other health problems.
The liver is the body’s largest solid organ and weighs roughly three pounds.
The liver is responsible for many processes including producing important blood proteins and removing substances like alcohol from the body.
Alcoholic liver disease is caused by years of heavy drinking; it reduces the organ’s function, causes permanent damage and increases the risk of cancer.
Another disease common among alcoholics is cirrhosis. Cirrhosis causes the organ tissue to scar and prevents proper functions. Without these functions, many health complications arise.
It’s not uncommon for people to require a transplant, but the wait lists are very long.
Most people can’t last the amount of time it takes for a donor to become available.
There’s also the risk of a new organ being rejected.
Be Honest and Get Help
Whether you’re having one too many drinks when you go out or are struggling with alcohol addiction, there is a program that can help you stop drinking.
Your problems and reasons are not insignificant, even if they feel so much smaller than someone else’s. Don’t hesitate to reach out to a friend or professional alcohol treatment centre like ours.