Alcohol is one of the most widely abused substances in the United States with more than a quarter of Americans engaging in binge drinking each month. In addition to being popular, alcohol is also highly addictive and dangerous to your health.
Chronic, heavy drinking can harm your physical, mental, and social health in numerous ways, leading to a terrifying list of long-term effects. The best way to prevent the long-term effects of alcohol abuse is to stop drinking and get professional help as soon as possible.
5 Common Long-Term Effects of Alcohol Abuse
Over time, excessive alcohol abuse can lead to physical dependence and alcoholism. While excessive alcohol is harmful to your physical, mental, and emotional health, there are additional long-term health risks of alcohol abuse.
Five common long-term effects of alcohol abuse and alcoholism include:
1. Cardiovascular Disease
Although some studies have shown the potential heart health benefits of moderate alcohol intake, alcohol abuse is linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Drinking too much for several years can increase your risk of cardiomyopathy, high blood pressure, heart disease, myocardial infarction (heart attack), heart failure, and stroke. Alcohol abuse can also contribute to obesity and diabetes, both of which further increase the risk of cardiovascular issues.
2. Liver Disease
One of the most common health problems that occur as a result of long-term alcohol abuse is liver disease. In fact, liver disease resulting from alcoholism is so common that it has its own name–alcoholic liver disease.
There are three common types of alcoholic liver disease:
- Fatty liver – a build-up of fat inside the liver cells leads to an enlarged liver. Fatty liver is often asymptomatic and will progress into alcoholic hepatitis if you don’t go to rehab and stop drinking.
- Alcoholic hepatitis – acute inflammation of the liver that occurs alongside liver cell death. Without treatment and sobriety, alcoholic hepatitis will progress into alcoholic cirrhosis.
- Alcoholic cirrhosis – occurs when there is the destruction of normal liver tissue, resulting in permanent scarring. Scars take the place of working liver tissue, ultimately resulting in liver failure.
People who develop cirrhosis are at a heightened risk of kidney problems, intestinal bleeding, liver cancer, severe infections, and other life-threatening health issues.
According to the American Liver Foundation, up to 35 percent develop alcoholic hepatitis, and between 10 and 20 percent develop cirrhosis.
3. Problems with Cognition
Alcohol impacts your physical health in many ways, including increasing your risk of cardiovascular disease, liver disease, and certain types of cancer. However, it also affects the structure and function of your brain. Long-term alcohol abuse can lead to learning and memory problems, poor academic performance, poor decision-making, and dementia.
Heavy alcohol abuse can also lead to a neurological disorder called Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome (WKS), also known as “wet brain.” WKS develops as a result of vitamin B1 (thiamine) deficiency and is associated with alcoholism because alcohol impairs your body’s ability to absorb and use thiamine, ultimately depleting your body of this vital vitamin. WKS is characterized by confusion, loss of muscle coordination, abnormal eye movements, vision changes, impaired learning, and dementia-like symptoms.
WKS occurs in about 1-2% of alcoholics.
4. Mental Health Problems
People who struggle with alcoholism are more likely to experience mental health issues like anxiety and depression than the general population. Even people who did not have a mental health condition before their alcoholism can develop one after excessive alcohol abuse.
Studies indicate that people with alcohol dependence are 3.7 times more likely to have a major depressive disorder and more than 20% of alcoholics struggle with some type of mood disorder.
5. Social, Workplace, and Family Issues
Alcohol abuse can do more than harm your mental and physical health–it can harm your social health, too. People who struggle with alcoholism are more likely to have issues at work, school, home, or in their social circles. These issues could include calling into work too often, being unable to hold down a job, being dishonest with family members, or avoiding loved ones because of one’s drinking. All of these issues can result in poor mental health and quality of life.
Can an Alcohol Rehab Center Help Me Avoid the Long-Term Effects of Alcohol Abuse?
The best way to prevent long-term health issues associated with alcohol abuse is to stop drinking and focus on staying healthy. Continuing to drink alcohol will only increase your risk of health problems and worsen existing health issues.
Unfortunately, people who are addicted to alcohol cannot stop drinking on their own. Even if they try to do so, alcohol withdrawal can be painful and serious, and without medical treatment, it can be life-threatening. As a result, the same people who are at the highest risk of alcohol-related health problems are the same ones who find themselves stuck in a cycle of alcoholism.
If you are struggling with a drinking problem, the only way to prevent long-term health problems is to get professional treatment. Alcohol detox and rehab centers can provide comprehensive physical and psychiatric support to help you get as healthy as possible.
When you arrive at rehab, you will undergo a comprehensive evaluation to determine your treatment needs. The clinical team will diagnose any health problems you currently have or are at risk for in the future and create a treatment plan based on your needs. For example, if you struggle with depression, an alcohol rehab center can take steps to fix chemical imbalances, find a medication that alleviates your symptoms, and employ evidence-based therapies that can help you cope. Depending on your unique situation, treatment may involve acute medical/detox care, medications, psychotherapy, mental health care, and more.
The sooner you start treatment, the more your physical and mental health will thank you.
Find Help for Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism Today
If you or a loved one are struggling with alcoholism, the time to get help is now. Sheer Recovery has a talented team of medical and clinical professionals who have decades of combined industry experience. First, we recommend you start your recovery in our top-rated alcohol detox program under 24-hour support and supervision, allowing you to detox safely and comfortably. Then, we’ll help you transition to inpatient or outpatient care to address the root causes of your drinking, enabling you to achieve long-term sobriety.
Our safe, secure, and private treatment facility provides you with the ideal place to begin your recovery journey. Don’t wait any longer to get the help you deserve. Call today to learn more about our alcohol rehab program in Orange County California.
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