Alcohol is the most frequently used drug in the U.S. It’s easy to buy, and there is no social stigma around drinking to relax and have fun. Sadly, these factors make people vulnerable to developing substance use disorders and related health conditions.
Self-medicating with alcohol may seem like a simple solution, but the adverse effects will eventually catch up to you. Keep reading to learn more about what happens to your body when you drink.
1. Mental Illness
Alcohol misuse and mental illnesses have a strong correlation. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, about half of people with a mental health disorder have a co-occurring substance use disorder. While drinking might provide temporary relief from depression, anxiety and PTSD symptoms, a worsening alcohol use disorder will eventually create a self-sustaining cycle of addiction, chronic stress, guilt and shame.
2. Liver Disease
Liver disease is the most common long-term effect associated with alcohol abuse. Your liver plays a critical role in removing alcohol and other toxins from your bloodstream, but there are limits to how much it can handle. As a result of their habit, someone with alcoholism may experience cirrhosis, alcohol-related hepatitis or liver cancer, eventually reaching full organ failure. People with chronic alcoholism might not be eligible to receive a transplant, making liver disease a long-term and even fatal diagnosis.
3. Cardiomyopathy and Heart Disease
Alcohol abuse increases the risk of alcoholic cardiomyopathy. This condition weakens the heart muscle, affecting your heart’s ability to pump blood throughout the body.
This chronic condition typically develops after five to 15 years of heavy drinking. For women, that’s more than three drinks a day or seven drinks a week, and for men, that’s more than four drinks a day or 14 drinks a week.
Besides having zero nutritional value, alcohol can dehydrate your skin and inhibit your body’s ability to absorb essential nutrients from the foods you eat. Even if you eat a balanced diet, you may still have vitamin and mineral deficiencies like these.
- Vitamin B1: This vitamin plays a crucial role in metabolizing carbohydrates. Drinking alcohol limits B1 absorption, thus limiting your body’s energy levels. It can also cause a condition called wet brain, which causes confusion, discoordination, memory loss and vision problems.
- Vitamin B12: Alcohol consumption prevents the absorption of vitamin B12, and chronic drinking can create a vitamin B12 deficiency, causing muscle weakness, fatigue, difficulty walking and a rapid heart rate.
- Folic acid: Folic acid helps your blood cells form and promotes healthy cell formation and function. Alcohol can prevent folic acid from doing its job, and long-term nutrient deficiency can lead to a disease called megaloblastic anemia. This illness limits the amount of oxygen a person can carry in their body, impacting their endurance and stamina.
- Zinc: Zinc serves various functions, including maintaining a healthy metabolism and a robust immune system. Consuming alcohol reduces the amount of zinc in the body, making you more susceptible to infections and illnesses.
Regain Your Health by Ending Your Relationship With Alcohol
Do you experience frequent blackouts, feel guilty about how much you drink or notice your habit is damaging your relationships? It could be time to seek professional treatment.
Alcoholism is a disease, and its progression will make it increasingly challenging to quit on your own. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. If anything, it indicates resilience because it can be so challenging to admit you have a problem you can’t solve on your own.
If you rely on alcohol and are concerned about how it is affecting your physical and mental well-being, Pillars Recovery is here for you. We provide compassionate, evidence-based treatment for young adults living with the disease of addiction. If you are ready to discover more about our advanced clinical options, accreditations and amenities, please contact us to make a change.