Long-Term Effects of Alcohol
Drinking alcohol, especially in large quantities for long periods of time, can have many negative effects on your body and mind. Alcohol – which includes beer, wine, and liquor – is a central nervous system depressant. It affects all organs in the body, especially the liver and the brain.
When you drink alcohol, you might notice effects such as difficulty walking, speaking, or thinking clearly. These short-term effects usually dissipate a few hours after your last drink. However, some long-term effects of alcohol can continue after you stop drinking, especially if you’ve been drinking in excess for an extended period of time.
Drinking alcohol over a long period of time, and increasing the amount you drink, can lead to a dependence on it. According to the , you have a higher risk of becoming dependent on alcohol if you have more than two drinks at a time on a consistent basis.
Alcohol dependence is often associated with a growing tolerance to its effects, which means that you’ll need to drink increasingly more to feel the same results. And if you stop drinking, you’re likely to experience withdrawal symptoms, which could include nausea, sweating or feeling shaky, or more serious developments, such as delirium and seizures.
Binge drinking is defined as four drinks or more in approximately two hours for a woman and five drinks or more in the same time period for a man. This pattern of drinking typically raises a person’s blood alcohol concentration to .08 or higher. More than 90% of adults who consume alcohol in excess have engaged in at least one episode of binge drinking in the past month.
An individual isn’t necessarily addicted to alcohol if he or she engages in binge drinking, but this behavior can still have detrimental results. For example, those who binge drink are 14 times more likely to drive drunk than those who don’t engage in binge drinking.
A significant long-term effect of alcohol is that it can harm the brain. Drinking too much alcohol for a long period of time can disrupt neuronal pathways. This effect negatively affects cognitive functioning, behavior, and mood. Neuronal activity is intimately connected with every function of the brain. For example, neurons in the cortex help with mental functions and consciousness, and healthy neuronal activity is required for efficient memory formation.
Alcohol’s intoxicating effects manifest as symptoms that arise during a drinking episode, but other health effects may persist on a more long-term basis when alcohol affects the neurons in your brain. These symptoms include:
Alcohol can have short-term effects on the brain when you drink small amounts of it. In other words, the effects will stop when you stop drinking. But if you drink large amounts for a long period of time, the negative effects build up and can last long after you stop drinking.
Some of the effects of alcohol on the brain can be worsened by poor health or an alcohol-related condition, such as liver disease. According to the , up to 80% of people addicted to alcohol don’t get enough of the nutrient thiamine, or vitamin B1, which is necessary for brain health. This vitamin is found in nuts, whole grain cereals, peas, poultry, and meat.
Many of those suffering from long-term alcohol addiction are at risk of developing a serious neurologic disorder known as Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, which has two forms: a short-term one called Wernicke’s encephalopathy and a long-term one called Korsakoff’s psychosis. Symptoms of Wernicke’s encephalopathy include:
Symptoms of Korsakoff’s psychosis include:
If Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome is suspected, the individual must be treated immediately. If it isn’t, the condition can progress to coma and death.
Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), which is caused by exposure to alcohol in the womb, is a severe and debilitating condition. It falls under the category of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders and causes a range of physical and psychological effects.
When a pregnant woman drinks alcohol, it passes through the placenta to the embryo or fetus and can harm development. It’s recommended that women refrain from drinking alcohol while pregnant due to these harmful health effects.
Some expecting mothers are more likely to consume alcohol while pregnant and thus give birth to a child with FAS. Some risk factors include:
A baby born with FAS has recognizable facial features, as well as impaired growth and behavioral and cognitive issues. Some qualities of people affected by FAS include:
If you’re addicted to alcohol, help is available. Untreated alcoholism can have dangerous and harmful results. Quitting drinking on your own can be extremely difficult and sometimes fatal. Even if the withdrawal symptoms aren’t life-threatening, they’re unpleasant, and discomfort might contribute to relapse.
Fortunately there are different treatment options which can provide you with both behavioral therapies and medical maintenance in order to achieve sobriety, develop healthy coping skills, curb cravings, and prevent relapse, among many other benefits.
require that you live at the facility for the duration of treatment, which usually lasts 30, 60, or 90 days, although your stay might be longer if needed. These recovery programs provide you with a number of services, such as:
Many people find residential treatment helpful because it allows them to escape everyday drinking environments in order to focus solely on recovery. Luxury treatment centers are inpatient facilities that offer same services as traditional programs with additional benefits. Typically, the patient-to-staff ratio is lower so that you can receive more individual attention and care. These recovery facilities often resemble resorts and are in desirable, vacation-like settings and locations. The focus on comfort can help greatly as you go through withdrawal and . Luxury recovery programs often have added amenities that traditional rehabs don’t offer, such as:
The best alcohol addiction rehab facilities will provide you with a psychiatric evaluation in order to assess any co-occurring mental disorders, which may be contributing to or influenced by your addiction to alcohol. The treatment team will create an integrated and personalized treatment plan designed to address the scope of your problems and enhance recovery.
Additionally, there are certain medications that you can be given during your inpatient stay that can help to decrease urges to drink and prevent relapse. When combined with behavioral therapy, medical maintenance such as this can be very beneficial in decreasing or eliminating drinking behaviors.