Understanding the Long Terms of Effects of Alcoholism
It’s no secret that the consumption of alcohol is common in the United States. From listening to stories of our parents in their wild days to clanking glasses and toasting the New Year, just about everyone has had alcohol. The long-term effects of alcoholism however is something that most people do not know about.
For those over 21, there’s not much standing in the way of having whatever alcohol you want aside from the cost itself. Many people mistake alcohol for a stimulant that gets them going or allows them to have a nice time but it’s a harmful misconception. Alcohol slows the central nervous system down, making it a depressant. One that, over time, can have some devastating effects.
Deciphering the Effects of Alcohol
In the short term, many factors alter what effects will be seen by the individual consuming the alcohol. Differences in the size, weight, gender, and percentage of body fat of the person consuming the alcohol play a huge role, as does the time is taken to consume it, the amount consumed, what foods the individual has recently eaten, and reactions with any medications taken, the emotional states of the user, and the environment in which the alcohol is consumed.
The Center for Substance Use Disorder Research (CESAR) states that “A person who consistently uses alcohol over a period will develop a tolerance to the effects of drinking; that is, it takes progressively more alcohol to achieve the same effects. Over time, that person may grow dependent on alcohol, and in some cases, this can lead to a vicious cycle of addiction.”
When Long Term Effects of Alcoholism Set In
Unfortunately, as light-hearted and joy-seeking as many people believe the consumption of alcohol is, it’s just not the truth. As the days wear on and alcohol consumption continues a regular basis, permanent damage builds in the body and brain of the user. Every person’s story is different, and their gender, age, extent, and duration of abuse will affect the individual damage they incur to their bodies from long term alcoholism.
The list of possible damage from alcoholism runs long:
- Liver – Accumulation of fat, damage, cancer, cirrhosis
- Heart – Enlarged, damage, the risk for coronary disease, irregular heartbeat, poor blood flow
- Brain – stroke, damage, deterioration, atrophy, mental health issues/disorders
- Bones – stunted if early in youth, damage, the risk for osteoporosis
These are just a few of the many organs and organ systems in the body that can sustain damage from sustained alcohol consumption. Alcohol causes damage at the cellular level to every part of the body, the effects of which can be seen throughout your complexion, hair, skin, etc. Your overall health can expect to deteriorate or diminish over time and while the body is amazing at healing itself, it can only do so with the cessation of consumption of alcohol.
What Happens When You Stop Drinking?
What happens when you quit drinking varies from person to person but for the sake of this conversation, we’re going to assume that heavy and prolonged alcohol use was the case. If so, the changes your body goes through as you suddenly stop drinking are known as alcohol withdrawals. Withdrawals from alcohol may produce physical and psychological symptoms such as trembling, anxiety, insomnia, cravings and in worse cases, death. This is why going to alcohol rehab is essential when stopping drinking.
Harvard Medical School’s Harvard Health Publishing produced an article on alcohol withdrawal, that sheds light on the devastating effects. Earlier, we talked about alcohol being a depressant. For those who were long term drinkers, consuming heavy amounts of alcohol, that means your brain was almost continually subjected to those depressive effects.
Over time, the brain must adjust to deal with it. That means, your brain changed its chemistry by overproducing chemicals that are naturally stimulating like norepinephrine and serotonin.
When the alcohol consumption is suddenly stopped, your brain is too full of these chemicals and is naturally, overstimulated. The symptoms experienced during withdrawals from alcohol are usually related to this chemical imbalance.
About 1 in 20 people withdrawing from alcohol will also experience a condition called DTs or delirium tremens, which is an inability of the brain to adjust seamlessly to the withdrawal of alcohol. When this occurs, one can expect much harsher symptoms that create a unique level of danger if left untreated.
Treatment and Therapy Options
There are many addiction treatment options out there that just about anyone with the desire to do so should be able to access the treatment they need to overcome the devastating effects of alcoholism. Whether you’re rich and want to go to a luxury rehab center or you’re just thrilled to get into a local facility that meets your needs, there are treatment options that suit everyone’s needs.
Keep in mind that your needs may differ from others’, but you should look for personalized care and treatment planning, facilities that offer cognitive behavioral therapy as part of their repository of services, dual diagnosis treatment if needed, group and peer support for those who enjoy it, and of course recreational therapies to enhance your time.