You may not realize that even after a person enters into recovery from alcoholism, the physical effects of alcoholism use can be long-lasting. Alcoholism has physical effects on every major part of the body, which is why so many people experience medical problems secondary to their alcoholism, whether they have started their recovery journey or not.
How the Brain is affected by Alcohol
We know that alcohol interferes with the brain’s communication pathways. It can cause changes in mood and behavior (which is evident even during short-term alcohol use) and can even change the way the brain looks and works, which is sometimes referred to as brain shrinkage. Following a period of heavy alcohol use, a person who abuses alcohol may experience more difficulties thinking clearly, blackouts, sleep impairment, and even memory lapses or dementia.
Alcoholism can cause nerve damage (peripheral neuropathy) and issues with movement, in particular problems with coordination. This is typically evident even during short-term alcohol use, however, it can be something that lasts far beyond a drunken evening. Alcoholism can also have a negative impact on sexual arousal and performance. Long-term drinking often leads to depression and anxiety or other mental health disorders.
How Prolonged Alcohol Abuse Affects Other Major Organs and Health Systems
Alcohol abuse not only impairs your judgement and movement. Many people do associate alcoholism with liver disease, fatty liver, alcoholic hepatitis, fibrosis, and cirrhosis. But alcoholism has also been known to have negative repercussions on heart health. Alcoholism may lead to cardiomyopathy (poisoning of the heart muscle cells), arrhythmias (irregular heartbeat), stroke, heart attack, heart failure, and high blood pressure. Alcoholism can also lead to problems in the digestive system: ulcers, gastritis, malnutrition and pancreatitis are all common side effects of alcoholism. If left untreated, pancreatitis is particularly harmful as it can lead to diabetes or death. Chronic alcohol abuse can lead to gum disease, tooth decay, acid reflux and heartburn. Alcoholism also raises the risk of certain types of cancer, most commonly cancers of the mouth, esophagus, throat, liver and breast.
The Other Ways Alcoholism Affects Your Life
Besides illness, disease, cancer or brain and nerve damage, alcoholism affects your life, and the lives of others in more ways than you can imagine. First, there are the variety of accidents that may occur while you are under the influence of alcohol, whether it’s a car accident, fall, burns drowning, or firearm injury. On the job injuries are more common for a person under the influence of alcohol while working. Then of course, there are the broken relationships in life that come as a result of alcoholism. Family members, friends and significant others experience emotional distress as a result of alcoholism, or even worse, physical assault in the form of sexual assault or domestic violence.
It’s NOT Too Late to Get Help
While alcoholism, especially long term alcoholism, can harm a person physically and emotionally, it’s never too late to get help. If you are struggling with alcoholism, please contact a drug counselor today. It’s never too late to get help.