Alcohol abuse leads to a number of negative effects, both physically and mentally, from liver disease and malnutrition to depression and much more. Alcohol is a central nervous system, or CNS, depressant which impacts every organ in the body through being absorbed into the bloodstream from the stomach and circulated throughout the body.
The effects vary from person to person, depending on their age, gender, how much alcohol they consume and their physical health, but anyone who consumes too much alcohol long-term will feel the effects on their body. If you’re concerned about someone you care about who may be drinking too much, suggesting they seek help or visit a rehabilitation centre for advice can help reduce the risk of the following effects taking place.
Alcohol affects the parts of the brain responsible for communication and over long periods, it can actually alter the structure and function of the brain. Even if alcohol is abused just once, it can have serious and irreversible damage to the limbic system, cerebellum and cerebral cortex. It can also contribute towards mental health conditions such as anxiety, bipolar disorders and depression.
Alcohol abuse massively impacts the liver and can even lead to life-threatening liver conditions, such as liver inflammations like fatty liver, alcoholic hepatitis and cirrhosis. Enzymes in the liver metabolise alcohol to break it down and turn it into a digestible product but it can only metabolise small quantities of alcohol at one time. This means that excess alcohol is left to circulate throughout the body, causing harm to other organs and over-stressing the liver.
From a single occurrence to a long period of time, heavy drinking places a lot of strain on the heart and can contribute to heart conditions. The heart receives blood from the liver and pumps it throughout the body – when there is alcohol contamination in the blood, it can lead to a number of long- and short-term health effects including heart disease, cardiomyopathy, arrhythmias, stroke and high blood pressure.
The pancreas produces two vital hormones that helps the body digest food by increasing and decreasing sugar levels in the blood. But alcohol interferes with this and causes the pancreas to produce a chemical that is damaging to the body – over time, long-term abuse can cause the blood vessels around the pancreas to swell and cause pancreatitis which can be fatal if left unnoticed and untreated.
The kidneys filter out harmful substances from the blood, but regular heavy drinking can lead to high blood pressure, which can cause kidney disease. What’s more, liver disease as a result of drinking alcohol is caused by the kidneys being overworked.
Even when consumed in moderation, alcohol can disrupt the digestive system and lead to nausea, vomiting, acid reflux and diarrhoea. Over long periods of time, heavy drinking can also cause inflammation of the stomach lining which is known as gastritis, causing stomach ulcers and even stomach cancer in some cases.