Long-term exposure to alcohol can damage the brain, central nervous system, and major organ systems in the body. Some of these long-term effects are reversible soon after sobriety is achieved, however, after long-term alcohol abuse, other changes are not so easily reversed.
Apart from the direct effects of alcohol on the brain and body, other changes occur when someone who is drinking excessively stops eating healthy meals or exercising. The combined effect is a weakened immune system, vitamin deficiencies, and an increase in the number of accidents resulting in head trauma or death.
Dramatic changes in the biochemistry of the brain make withdrawals dangerous especially for those who have been abusing alcohol for a long time. If you are suffering with alcohol dependency, seek help in achieving sobriety. Quitting cold-turkey without medical support can lead to severe and life-threatening withdrawal symptoms,.
What Constitutes “Heavy Drinking”
Men and women metabolize alcohol differently, so heavy drinking for men is defined as 15 or more alcoholic beverages per week and eight drinks or more for women. Even someone who does not meet the criteria for alcoholism can still drink in excess leading to long-term ill health effects.
Alcohol’s Long-Term Impact On The Brain
Alcohol’s impact on the brain is evident even in a first-time drinker who drinks too much. Changes to parts of the brain associated with memory, decision-making, coordination and balance, along with a depression in central nervous system function, all occur with excessive drinking, even in the early stages of alcohol use. Long-term abuse can significantly alter these functions semi-permanently.
Studies examining the brain’s of those addicted to alcohol for several years utilize scans both pre- and post-mortem, as well as during heavy drinking and following sobriety. These studies are shedding light not only on how the brain is altered structurally and biochemically, but also indicating certain markers that might help researchers identify risk for alcohol addiction in certain people.
Using CT and PET scans, researchers have been able to identify brain atrophy and shrinkage in long-term heavy drinkers, caused by a deterioration in white and grey matter from alcohol use.
White matter is responsible for the transmission of signals relating to communication of nerve cells. This deterioration means an overall reduction in brain function for those who abuse alcohol long-term. White matter damage can lead to a form of alcohol-related dementia and lead to long-term cognitive impairment, memory loss, poor coordination, and psychosis.
Long-term Health Effects of Alcohol on the Brain Include:
- Cognitive impairment
- Memory recall issues
- Nerve damage
- Poor coordination
- Wernicke encephalopathy
- Korsakoff’s psychosis
- Brain shrinkage
Alcohol’s Long-Term Impact On The Body
People drink excessively typically to experience the associated euphoria from an initial surge in dopamine levels brought on by the brain’s reward system response to the alcohol. Alcohol depresses the central nervous system, leading to a reduction in pain sensitivity, the slowing of breath rate and heart rate, and a feeling of general relaxation.
Long-term alcohol abuse can lead to a whole host of problems including cancers of the mouth, throat, liver, and breast. The correlation of cancer and alcoholism suggests aldehyde, generated during the ethanol oxidation process, alters our DNA, allowing for the development of malignant cells.
Life-long alcohol exposure can also wreak havoc on the liver, the organ designed to rid the body of toxins like alcohol, causing a build-up of fat, scarring or hardening of the liver, and alcoholic hepatitis, or inflammation of the liver. High blood pressure, cardiovascular changes, and stroke are also common with long-term abuse of alcohol. Pancreatitis, another side effect of long-term alcohol abuse, can develop with few to no symptoms over time and lead to a sudden and severe onset of symptoms related to the the disease. Changes in skin, including patchy hardening of skin is evident in those who have been drinking in excess for long periods of time.
Long-term Health Effects of Alcohol on the Body Include:
- Compromised immune system
- Irregular heart rhythm
- High blood pressure
- Steatosis of the liver
- Liver fibrosis
- Cirrhosis of the liver
- Changes in skin
Other Ill-Effects Of Long-Term Heavy Drinking
Heavy drinking can have lasting and devastating consequences for developing fetuses, leading to a host of fetal alcohol syndrome spectrum disorders with symptoms ranging from physical deformities to cognitive impairment and emotional disturbances. There is also a higher rate of sudden infant death syndrome in babies born to mothers who drank in excess even once during their pregnancy.
Rates of violent crimes committed by and on heavy drinkers increases significantly, including homicide, spousal homicide, domestic abuse, and sexual assaults. Mood disorders relating to alcohol abuse include anxiety and depression and can lead to suicidal thoughts or actions. Accidents are also more common in those who drink excessively long-term. These include auto-related accidents and head injuries due to falls, gun-related accidents, and drowning.
If You Are Suffering With A Long-Term Dependency On Alcohol, Help Is Here
Even if you have tried to get help previously and relapsed, recovery from alcohol addiction is possible and AlcoholTreatment.net can connect you with the online resources, professional support, and comprehensive treatment options available to meet your individual needs. You deserve a better life.
Contacting AlcoholTreatment.net can get you started on a path toward recovery. Discover a better life free from addiction today.