What Are the Physical Effects of Alcohol Use Disorders?

A lot of attention is given to the social, emotional, and psychological impact of alcoholism. However, sometimes, people don’t think about the physical health problems that can develop as a result of excessive alcohol use in both the short-and long-term. Our Asheville rehabilitation experts study these habits and their consequences, as well as researching the statistics. According to the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 14.4 million adults ages 18 and older had an alcohol use disorder. This represents 5.8 percent of this age cohort. Unfortunately, only about 7.9 percent of these people received treatment. This means that the vast majority of people with an AUD went untreated. This has implications for their health. In this article, we’ll examine some of the physical effects of excessive alcohol consumption.

Short-Term Effects of Alcohol Abuse

Even if an individual doesn’t abuse alcohol on a regular basis, they can experience negative effects. Consuming more than one alcoholic beverage per hour can cause an individual to become intoxicated. The physical effects can range from flushed skin to vomiting or passing out. The individual may also experience problems with vision, increased blood pressure, and a lower core body temperature.

Individuals who engage in binge drinking are at risk of alcohol poisoning. For women, binge drinking is classified as drinking about 4 drinks within a couple hours of each other. For men, it’s five drinks. These amounts lead to a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 g/dL or higher.

  • Indicators of alcohol poisoning include:
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Irregular or slowed breathing
  • Pale skin
  • Low body temperature
  • Seizures
  • Unconsciousness

If you suspect that someone is experiencing alcohol poisoning, you need to call 911. Alcohol poisoning can lead to permanent brain damage and death, so you need to act quickly.

Long-Term Effects of Alcohol Abuse

Drinking excessively over a longer period can lead to even more serious health problems. Alcohol use disorders can damage the:

  • Liver. The liver can become scarred or inflamed. Individuals may develop cirrhosis, fatty liver, alcoholic hepatitis or fibrosis. Liver cancer is also a possible consequence.
  • Digestive system. Alcohol can increase the production of stomach acid and wear down the lining of the stomach, leading to ulcers. Alcohol can also cause nutrient deficiencies since it can affect the breakdown, absorption, transportation, storage, and excretion of nutrients. Many people with alcohol use disorder develop thiamine deficiency and this can lead to neurological issues.
  • Pancreas. Pancreatitis can develop when alcohol stimulates the production of harmful substances in the pancreas. This condition impairs digestion.
  • Bones. Calcium is necessary for the maintenance of healthy bones. However, alcohol abuse can result in a calcium imbalance and disrupt the production of vitamin D which is necessary for proper calcium absorption. A lack of calcium puts an individual at greater risk of osteoporosis and consequently, bone fractures.
  • The central nervous system. The thiamine deficiency that’s linked to chronic heavy drinking can cause Wernicke–Korsakoff syndrome. Symptoms of this illness include memory problems, learning problems, confusion, and impaired coordination. Liver disease can also damage the brain and cause anxiety, depression, sleep changes, mood and personality changes, and impaired concentration. Excessive alcohol use can also prevent the growth of new brain cells.
  • The cardiovascular system. Drinking too much alcohol has been linked to irregular heartbeat, blood clots, cardiomyopathy, stroke, heart attack, and difficulty pumping blood around the body. Excessive alcohol use can also lead to anemia, both direction and though the malnutrition that often results.
  • The reproductive system. Both men and women who consume too much alcohol can develop reproductive problems. These include reduced fertility, irregular menstrual periods, and erectile dysfunction. Women who drink during pregnancy are at an increased risk of stillbirth, miscarriage or having a baby with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder.

Getting Treatment for Alcohol Use Disorders

Every individual’s body responds to alcohol in a unique way. However, if you’ve developed an alcohol use disorder, you’re likely to develop some of the physical health problems mentioned here. If you’re ready to talk about getting treatment, the team at Asheville Recovery Center is here to help.

We’ll assist you in getting to the bottom of your problematic use of alcohol and help you to improve your physical and mental health. Sobriety is possible no matter how much you drink or how long you’ve been drinking. However, you’ll need professional help along the way. We’ll devise a treatment plan that meets your unique mental and physical challenges and provide support for you and your family. Call us today to learn more about how we can help you.

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