Author: James Anderson

Facts about moderate drinking

long term alcohol effects

So how exactly can heavy alcohol use affect someone in the long-term? Here’s what to consider as you reflect on your own relationship with alcohol. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 15.1 million people aged 18 years and over in the U.S. had alcohol use disorder (AUD), or 6.2 percent of this age group.

long term alcohol effects

However, binge drinking can be toxic to the delicate pancreas cells and cause a painful condition called alcoholic pancreatitis. Alcoholic pancreatitis symptoms include abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and more. Our kidneys help regulate our body’s natural fluid balance through what’s called the renal system. Heavy fluid intake, such as excessive amounts of alcohol, can disturb this natural functioning. Alcohol addiction is a disease characterized by a strong craving for alcohol, and continued use despite a negative impact on health, interpersonal relationships, and ability to work. If the person stops drinking, they will experience withdrawal symptoms.

Long-term effects of alcohol

It is commonly misused among individuals of all ages, resulting in significant health, legal, and socio-economic damage. While there is no one-size-fits-all method for recovering from AUD, there are lots of effective treatment options. Some examples include behavioral treatments, support groups, and FDA-approved medications. NIAAA can help people find information and resources about AUD and treatments that might work best for them.

Certain factors may increase your chances of experiencing alcohol use disorder. When you stop drinking, you might notice a range of physical, emotional, or mental health symptoms that ease as soon as you have a drink. With these conditions, you’ll only notice symptoms during alcohol intoxication or withdrawal. These symptoms typically improve quickly when alcohol use stops. That’s because drinking during pregnancy doesn’t just affect your health.

long term alcohol effects

The pancreas normally releases insulin, which helps the body respond to high blood sugar. Alcohol, however, inhibits this function of the pancreas, which leads to high blood sugar or hyperglycemia. This can also eventually result in a form of diabetes related to pancreas dysfunction. Alcohol is high in “empty calories,” meaning it lacks nutrients. Because of this, heavy drinkers are particularly susceptible to sudden periods of low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia. Alcohol also suppresses the body’s natural responses to when it senses low blood sugar starting to occur, which makes these dips more frequent and severe.

Alcohol use can factor into mental health symptoms that closely resemble those of other mental health conditions. People who drink heavily over a long period of time are also more likely to develop pneumonia or tuberculosis than the general population. The World Health Organization (WHO) links about 8.1 percent of all tuberculosis cases worldwide to alcohol consumption. Slurred speech, a key sign of intoxication, happens because alcohol reduces communication between your brain and body. This makes speech and coordination — think reaction time and balance — more difficult.

Alcohol-induced mental health conditions

In fact, 52% of people admitted to the hospital with a traumatic brain injury have a measurable amount of alcohol in their system when they arrive at the emergency room. If blood alcohol concentration is higher than 0.4, there is a 50 percent chance of death. When the amount of alcohol in the blood exceeds a certain level, this can lead to alcohol toxicity, or poisoning. Drinking with a meal slows the rate of absorption, resulting in fewer side effects and less intoxication.

  1. Lastly, in some severe cases of liver cirrhosis, fluid can build up in the chest cavity and impair respiration.
  2. Lastly, hormonal imbalances related to alcohol use can also deregulate naturally-occurring cholesterol in the body and contribute to high cholesterol, which is a risk factor for heart disease.
  3. The connection between alcohol consumption and your digestive system might not seem immediately clear.
  4. Childhood trauma, mental health issues, and stress can also lead people to begin drinking or drink more than usual.
  5. If you are on any medications, talk to your health care provider about how alcohol may affect them.

These conditions have very serious consequences, and can even manifest as heart attacks and strokes when blockages prevent blood flow to the brain or heart. Whether it’s early on in health class, through family experiences, or in sporadic doctor visits, many of us learn that excessive drinking is ‘bad for you’ at a young age. Learning more about the specific impact alcohol has on the body’s organ systems can provide a helpful, and even life-changing perspective. While the harmful effects of alcohol can be disconcerting, healing and risk-reduction is within reach. Working with a physician can help you create a personalized plan for making a change. The Guidelines also note that not drinking alcohol also is the safest option for women who are lactating.

Research shows that women who drink more alcohol than is recommended on a regular basis tend to develop liver disease, cardiomyopathy and nerve damage after fewer years than men who do the same. The pancreas helps regulate how your body uses insulin and responds to glucose. If your pancreas and liver don’t function properly due to pancreatitis or liver disease, you could experience low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia. Drinking also impacts the sex-related hormones of testosterone and estrogen. Drinking can lower testosterone levels and cause sexual dysfunction.

Alcohol use increases the risk of chronic gastritis (stomach inflammation);[3][127] it is one cause of cirrhosis, hepatitis, and pancreatitis in both its chronic and acute forms. Unhealthy alcohol use can cause a change in shape and loss of motion in the lower chambers of the heart, which is a medical condition called alcoholic cardiomyopathy. This condition affects blood circulation, which can lead to other health problems. Of major concern is the number of young people who consume alcohol. Research suggests that 20 percent of college students meet the criteria for AUD, and the condition affects some 623,000 adolescents aged 12 to 17 years.

Alcohol misuse at an early age increases the risk of developing AUD. Genetics or a family history of alcohol misuse increases that risk as well. Childhood trauma, mental health issues, and stress can also lead people to begin drinking or drink more than usual. Most people are aware that alcohol can negatively affect sleep quality. However, the connection between alcohol and various sleep disorders is often lesser-known. Studies show that people with unhealthy drinking habits have a higher risk of developing a nightmare disorder and sleep apnea.

What is a standard drink?

That’s one major reason why you should never drive after drinking. Lastly, hormonal imbalances related to alcohol use can also deregulate naturally-occurring cholesterol in the body and contribute to high cholesterol, which is a risk factor for heart disease. Another long-term consequence of unhealthy alcohol use is a chronic irritation of the delicate lining of the gastrointestinal tract. This can lead to various dangerous and even life-threatening complications including esophageal tears, bleeding, and hemorrhoids.

People who binge drink or drink heavily may notice more health effects sooner, but alcohol also poses some risks for people who drink in moderation. Many of the symptoms are caused by dehydration, but some chemicals in alcoholic drinks can cause a reaction in the blood vessels and the brain that make symptoms worse. The body absorbs alcohol relatively quickly, but it takes longer to get the alcohol out of the body. Consuming several drinks in a short time causes the alcohol builds up in the body. Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can lead to symptoms of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD). FASD can cause a range of neurodevelopmental and physical effects in the child after birth.

Women typically reach this level after about four drinks and men after about five drinks in two hours. Binge drinking—and heavy drinking—is a type of alcohol misuse (a spectrum of risky alcohol-related behaviors). Tolerance and dependence can both happen as symptoms of alcohol use disorder, a mental health condition previously referred to as alcoholism, that happens when your body becomes dependent on alcohol. This condition can be mild, moderate, or severe, depending on the number of symptoms you have.

This can also create a negative correlation between alcohol and sex drive. This can deregulate menstrual cycles, cause or worsen infertility, and most disconcertingly, be a risk factor for some estrogen-mediated breast cancers. Any amount of alcohol can cause an increased risk of headaches, with symptoms worsening with greater consumption. Wine-drinking, in particular, is a common trigger for migraine headaches because of factors like dehydration, histamines, and sugar.