We’ve all been there: One drink turns into two, and two turns into too many. While the hangover will subside after a couple days of misery, the tangible and visceral physical damage to your body lingers. Below are 20 interesting and terrifying facts regarding the toll alcohol takes on your body.
Toxic optic Neuropathy
Drinking excessively over prolonged periods of time can cause a painless loss of vision due to nutrient deficiency and visual disturbances caused by toxins. The disease often begins with bright colors losing their brightness, leading to progressive blurriness. Optic neuropathy has equal effects on genders and ages, and is curable only if diagnosed early.
The liver is arguably one of the most important organs in the human body, and ethanol – the primary ingredient in alcohol- damages and degrades its functions. Excessive intake of alcohol overtime can have the following effects on the liver:
Fatty liver: One of the liver’s primary functions is to turn glucose into fat to store until needed. Alcohol interferes with this process by causing damages to liver cells, which, consequently causes fat to collect in the liver. Fortunately, the liver is able to purge fat after two weeks of sobriety; however, if left untreated, can cause further complications and damage.
Hepatitis: Alcoholic hepatitis is inflammation of the liver caused by consuming alcohol in excess and is most likely to occur in people who drink heavily over many years.
Cirrhosis: This last stage of liver damage replaces healthy liver tissues with scar tissue. As the disease progresses, and more healthy liver tissue is replaced with scar tissue, the liver stops functioning with the end result often being liver failure.
Alcohol withdrawal symptoms occurs when an alcohol-dependent person stops or slows down intake significantly all at once, sending the body into shock. While some symptoms can be mild, more severe cases have been reported to cause hallucinations, seizures, and can lead to death.
The body converts alcohol into a carcinogen called acetaldehyde, and alcohol damages cells and limits the body’s ability to repair itself. Furthermore, alcohol reduces the absorption of vitamins and folates, a nutrient that cells require to remain functionally healthy. Heavy alcohol consumption has been linked to cancer involving the mouth, throat, voice box, breasts, esophagus, and liver.
Weakened immune system
Drinking lowers the body’s ability to fight off harmful pathogens and viruses. Studies have shown that those who habitually consume alcohol are more prone to developing tuberculosis and pneumonia than those who don’t. In some life-threatening cases, the immune system can crash leading to complications such as liver failure.
Damaged cardiovascular system
Frequent or excessive drinking over an extended period can cause serious damage to the heart, which can increase the likelihood of strokes and heart attacks.
Alcohol flushes out calcium from the bones and can lead to acceleration of bone deterioration and can increase the risk of bone fractures. Loss of bone density has also been documented in many cases.
Inhibits reproductive health
Studies have shown a link between alcohol consumption and its effects on fertility. Women who have more than five drinks per week have been found to have trouble being able to conceive, and 10 drinks per week decreases the possibility even further. Additionally, men who drink excessively tend to have lower testosterone levels and produce sperm counts of low quantity and quality.
Those who drink excessively over prolonged periods of time may experience nerve damage which can cause decreased sensation and numbness, pain, hypersensitivity and impaired motor abilities.
The kidney is responsible for filtering out harmful toxins from your blood - including alcohol – and maintaining a healthy balance/ratio of water in the body. Chronic heavy drinking can impair the kidney’s functions, leaving an unhealthy level of toxins in the blood and drying the body out to dangerous levels.
Alcohol limits the ability to process information and can severely dampen one’s attention span and levels of awareness and concentration. Alcohol also limits one’s ability to calculate risk and can lead to accidents such as motor vehicle related collisions. Alcohol intake in excess has also been shown to in crease anxiety and stress and to drastically raise aggressive tendencies for some individuals.
Alcohol affects the brain in a variety of ways. Drinking releases reward chemicals in the brain called dopamine and serotonin, which can further encourage consumption. Unmanaged excessive consumption can cause memory loss, blackouts, and hinders the process of forming new memories.
Alcohol consumption in any capacity will cause acid production within the stomach. Heavy drinking will propel over-production of stomach acids leading to inflammation within the stomach lining. This can cause acid reflux, ulcers, and gastritis with severity ranging from mild discomfort to potentially fatal.
Dehydration and inflammation throughout the body caused by alcohol use can lead to dullness, the manifestation of fine lines, discoloration, broken capillaries, and lack of resilience of the skin.
Hair relies on the body for constant nourishment, and dehydration caused by heavy alcohol use can leave hair dry and brittle. Alcohol also hinders the absorption of zinc and folic acid which can lead to breakages and even hair loss in extreme cases.
It is often said that most alcoholic spirits are high in calories and offer little to no nutritional value, but did you know that alcohol is also responsible for heightened appetite? While this has little effect on the occasional drinkers, habitual drinkers will likely experience weight gains due to a perceived notion of constantly feeling hungry.
Alcohol has a variety of effects on the urinary tract which can also affect the kidneys. On top of dehydration and bacterial infections, UTI (Urinary Tract Infections) can be caused by excess alcohol consumption. Alcohol can raise acidity of urine and irritate the lining of the bladder as well.
Many research studies have found that the brains of those who engage in severe alcohol abuse are smaller and less dense than those of non-drinkers. Under such duress, the manner in which the various components of the brain communicate with one another degrades in such a way that the wiring of the brain contracts in such a way that the physical mass of brain matter “shrinks”. Alcohol damages chemicals within the brain and as a result the functions of neurotransmitters are impaired in a variety of ways as well.
Combat alcohol use disorder with help from the Scripps Research La Jolla.
The effects of alcohol use disorder are destructive, but they don’t have to be the end of the line. Most effects from alcohol consumption can be improved or reversed with proper treatment. We are here to help you fight alcoholism and are committed to supporting you in your recovery.
To find out more about our alcohol treatment study in San Diego, call us at (858) 784-7867.