Despite alcohol is meant to be enjoyed in moderation, drinking heavily can have very grave consequences on your body over longer periods of time. It not only harms the individual but also ruins relationships and society by aggravating violence, crime, and accidents. Alcohol can diffuse into almost every biological tissue into the body because cell membranes are highly permeable to alcohol. There are numerous short and long-term effects of alcohol abuse, hitting your health in a life-threatening manner affecting your body in many ways.
Central Nervous System:
Alcohol intake influences mood and behavior, the way the brain looks and works, balance and coordination, thinking, memory, and learning by impairing brain areas such as the cerebellum and cerebral cortex and interfering with the brain’s communication pathways. Long-term binge drinking causes blackouts, memory loss, and anxiety. Alcohol also causes short term effects like slurred speech, blurred vision, weakened muscles and decreased reaction time. In severe cases, it may lead to confusion, hallucinations (delirium tremens), and seizures. Damage to your nervous system can result in pain, numbness, or abnormal sensations in your feet and hands.
Drinking heavily over longer periods can also cause the heart to beat irregularly (arrhythmia) linked to cases of sudden death. Circulatory system complications include, the risk of heart attack, stroke, hypertension, raised cholesterol, stroke, and dementia, affected the growth of cardiac muscle cells (cardiomyopathy), irregular heartbeat and heart failure. Women who drink are at even higher risk of heart damage than men.Moreover, alcohol in bloodstream diminishes white blood cells ability to battle bacteria or other foreign pathogens, making you fall sick.
It has been reported that people who drink a lot of alcohol are more susceptible to lung infections, collapsed lungs and pneumonia.
Alcohol abuse can damage the salivary glands and irritate the mouth and tongue, leading to gum disease and tooth decay. Alcohol generates irritation and inflammation in the lining of the stomach giving rise to or exacerbates existing stomach and intestinal ulcers, internal bleeding and cancer. Alcohol makes it harder for your digestive tract to absorb nutrients and B vitamins or control bacteria, causes the stomach to be inflamed, and malnutrition. Alcohol causes the pancreas to produce toxic substances that can eventually lead to inflammation and swelling of the blood vessels in the pancreas that prevents proper digestion, i.e., pancreatitis leading to chronic fibrosis, acute hemorrhagic pancreatitis and pseudocyst formation. Excessive drinking leads to fat accumulation in the liver that can result in life-threatening conditions, such as, inflammation of the liver known as alcoholic hepatitis. A fat-clogged liver cannot efficiently perform the rest of the body’s nutritional health. It can also cause a potentially fatal condition, liver cirrhosis in which the liver cells cannot regenerate due to excessive damage to liver cells. Alcohol also inflames the liver’s cells; causing swelling that can trap or inhibit normal bile flow causing jaundice.
As alcohol is a known diuretic, the more you consume, the more urination occurs causing influence on bladder and kidneys. It can also cause renal failure in extreme conditions where due to alcohol; bladder lining is inflamed and stretched utmost with a backflow to the kidneys.
Effects of alcohol abuse in men are impotence, low desire, erectile dysfunction or premature ejaculation and infertility. Explaining the risks of alcohol abuse in women, Dr. Amita Bhandarkar, General Medicine, Apollo clinic HSR Layout, Bengaluru explains that alcohol intake increases the risk of breast cancer, abnormal menstrual cycles, and infertility in women. Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can significantly damage the development of the unborn baby and enhance the risks of miscarriage, premature delivery, and stillbirth.
Excessive alcohol intake reduces body’s natural immunity, and increases the chances of infections such as pneumonia or tuberculosis than the general population.
Skeletal and Muscle System:
Excessive drinking interferes with the body’s ability to absorb calcium and can speed up the rate of bone deterioration putting you at increased risk of bone fracture and osteoporosis (thinning bones). Muscles also become prone to weakness, cramps, and even atrophy after alcohol intake.
Other effects: Weight gain, skin to look red and blotchy with a bloated, puffy face and cancers of the mouth, esophagus, throat, breast, liver and colon.