Alcohol Abuse Effects

Modified: 17th Jul 2019

Last updated on July 17th, 2019 at 09:19 am

A 2015 report showed close to 30% percent of people aged 18 and up reported recent binge drinking. While this might not seem like much, considering all the alcohol in the world around us, it’s more than a little dangerous.

Why is that? It’s because of the laundry list of dire alcohol abuse effects associated with as little as a single heavy drinking session. From liver and pancreas issues, to brain damage and lowered immune systems, heavy drinking has a measurable effect on the human body, even as much as any other drug out there, in many respects.

Join us today as we take a closer look at alcohol abuse effects.

Impact On Your Heart

Thousands of people die from alcohol-related causes every year. This makes alcohol number three in the leading preventable causes of death anywhere in the United States. 

One of the most immediate impacts drinking has on the human body can actually be found in the heart. Overdrinking over a period of time can cause damage to the soft tissue. And even a single binging session can cause any number of the following problems:

  • Increased blood pressure  
  • Risk of stroke
  • Cardiomyopathy, or a stretching of the heart muscles
  • Irregular heartbeat

Liver Problems

Of the effects of addiction linked with alcohol, possibly the most well-known is the toll it takes on your liver. Liver inflammation and other problems can lead to a variety of:

  • Cirrhosis
  • Fibrosis
  • A fatty liver, otherwise known as Steatosis
  • Alcoholic hepatitis

Pancreas Function

The pancreas is an organ that helps to break down food as it passes through our digestive system. When we drink alcohol, the pancreas produces various toxic substances that may lead to pancreatitis in the long-run.

In the case of serious inflammation, the blood vessels in the pancreas can swell up, preventing proper digestion. The implications of this range from mild discomfort to a series of different infections that can lead to lifelong problems.

Weakened Immune System

Overdoing your drinking can also weaken your immune system to a dangerous level. This is much more dangerous than many people give it credit for, turning your body into a walking target for various diseases.

Alcohol effects on the body mean a higher risk of contracting diseases like pneumonia or tuberculosis. Even 24 hours after a heavy drinking session, the body shows a reduced ability to ward off all the various infections it usually fights.

Brain Defects

As alcohol makes its way into the human body, it interferes with the brain’s communication pathways. This is what leads to its inebriating effects. This also impacts the way the brain behaves, and even its physical shape.

These alcohol effects on the mind might not seem like much, in small amounts, but they can affect your overall mood and behavior. They may even affect your ability to think clearly and, with long-term use, may impede your coordination.  

Cancer

In recent years, there have been several scientific findings linking alcohol abuse with various forms of cancer. Alcohol consumption is carcinogenic, with evidence showing an increased risk of alcohol-associated cancer.

In 2016, an estimated 8.9 million people died from various forms of cancer worldwide. Of this, 3.5% of all deaths are alcohol-related. And that’s in the United States alone.

The effects of alcohol abuse have been verifiably linked to various forms of cancer, including:

Cancer of the Head and Neck

Regular consumption of alcohol presents a significant risk for head and neck cancers. In particular, we see cancers of the oral cavity, throat, and larynx. The risk of these cancers is notably high when consuming more than 50g of alcohol, daily. This is equal to roughly 3.5 or more drinks a day. And this risk skyrockets when alcohol is combined with regular tobacco intake.

Cancer of the Esophagus

Regular consumption of alcohol increases the risk factor for esophageal squamous cell carcinoma. A deficiency in certain metabolic enzymes means a higher risk this brand of cancer without even knowing it ahead of time.

Liver Cancer

One of the primary causes of liver cancer is, as you might expect, regular consumption of alcohol. Hepatocellular carcinoma often comes packaged with chronic infections. These can include hepatitis B and hepatitis C which, themselves, further contribute to liver cancer.

Breast Cancer

There have been studies into the association between alcohol abuse and increased risk of breast cancer. Across the board, there was an increased risk of this cancer in women following heavy alcohol consumption.

Women who drink more than 45 grams of alcohol daily show a risk of developing breast cancer that is 1.5 times higher than nondrinkers. Breast cancer risks increase by as much as 7% for as little as a 10-gram increase in alcohol consumption, per day. 

More recent studies have shown slightly higher estimates of breast cancer risk, as well. Every 10 grams of alcohol per day can be directly linked with a 12% increase in breast cancer risks.

Colorectal Cancer

Alcohol abuse is also associated with an increased risk of colon and rectum cancers. Various case-controlled studies show a clear association between alcohol and colorectal cancer.

People who regularly intake an excess of 50 grams of alcohol on a daily basis show about 1.5 times the regular risk of this cancer, compared to nondrinkers. As alcohol consumption increases by 10 grams per day, we see an associated 7% risk.

Alcohol Abuse Effects: Know The Risks

Alcohol is a fairly common factor in most of our lives. In small doses, it can be fairly inconspicuous, and for the most part, we can celebrate fairly safely with it from time to time. It’s when it becomes a habit, however, that we see negative alcohol effects on relationships, the mind, our finances, and the human body.

Covering everything from organ malfunction to cancer, alcohol abuse effects can have a serious impact on our health. Even the relatively minor lowering of your body’s immune system after a heavy night can mean serious illness down the road.

While there may be a good argument for the safety of an occasional drink, it’s important to know the serious road alcohol abuse can lead you down. For more on the dangers of substance abuse, from prescription drugs to alcohol and beyond, check out more at Addiction Treatment Services. Or, get in touch with us, and start your recovery process today!

Article Reviewed by Dr. Keerthy Sunder, MD, DFAPA

Dr. Keerthy Sunder, MD, DFAPADr. Keerthy Sunder, MD is an accomplished and internationally recognized expert in the field of addiction. He has earned diplomates from the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, the American Board of Addiction Medicine, and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.