While alcohol abuse can lead to unintentional injury, social isolation, depression, violence and jail time, long-term effects of alcoholism will also damage the liver, stomach, nervous system, heart, and brain.
Substance abuse patterns vary, and binge drinkers can do as much damage as those who drink every day. The determination for how much damage alcohol does can sometimes be attributed to hereditary predispositions but for the most part, the long-term effects are the same for everyone.
When the liver and stomach are damaged by alcohol, they can’t adequately break down the nutrients in food, also causing internal scarring and bleeding. The liver cleans toxins from the blood and becomes unable to do this with repeated alcohol use, the scarring, or cirrhosis can cause liver failure. The damage to these organs can disrupt vital organs and cause disease of the pancreas and stomach cancer.
The toxic nature of alcohol causes damage to the liver’s cleansing functions and can lead to heart irregularities, weakening of the heart muscle causing a condition called alcoholic cardiomyopathy. This disturbs the body’s natural regulation of blood fats and blood sugar levels, thinning the bones and reducing the production of blood cells. The blood flow shortage causes damage to other tissues and organs that rely on healthy blood to function properly.
Long-term alcohol abuse will affect the brain causing seizures, confusion, memory loss, mood and behavioral changes such as depression and agitation. Alcohol disrupts the neurotransmitter balance causing alterations in neurons reducing the size of brain cells. As a result of these changes overall brain mass shrinks affecting a wide range of abilities such as motor coordination, temperature regulation, and various cognitive functions, including learning and memory.
Alcohol’s role in poor health is often under recognized; unlike cigarette smoking that can directly cause lung cancer, alcohol increases the development of certain diseases by processes over time rather than being considered the only cause. Long-term effects of alcoholism are possible even if you rarely drink to the point of intoxication. It is a toxic substance so having it frequently circulating in your body will harm your health, and it can make some conditions worse. It is important to be aware of the potential dangers and health risks, and to be honest with physicians about alcohol intake.