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What Drinking Too Much Alcohol Does To Your Health

Lisa Taylor
Lisa TaylorAddiction Counsellor

We tend to think of alcohol as a mostly harmless substance that does not need to be worried about. You can go to just about any corner shop, supermarket, or petrol station and find alcohol for sale. And, of course, the United Kingdom is known for its ample supply of neighbourhood pubs. We drink in this country – and we drink a lot. What we seem to forget is that drinking too much alcohol is bad for one's health.

It is surprising that most of the Western world have embraced a long list of healthy lifestyle strategies ranging from getting more exercise to cutting salt and sugar from the diet. We crusade against things such as smoking and using hard drugs, knowing that these things are quite harmful. But the one thing that seems untouchable is alcohol. It is the one dangerous drug the culture appears to embrace without reservation. This is neither wise nor safe.

Do you drink too much? Only you can answer that question, but we can help you find the answer through a comprehensive evaluation of your circumstances and drinking habits. Evaluations are free when you contact us on our 24-hour helpline. We can help you figure out where you stand, the direction you appear to be headed, and whether you need professional treatment. If you do need professional treatment, we can connect you with a rehab clinic.

Excessive drinking over long periods will undoubtedly do damage to both your body and mind. Below are six areas you should be concerned about. If you are a problem drinker, alcohol abuser or alcoholic, the damage related to these six areas is either already present or in your future.

1. Your Brain

Your liver is capable of processing small amounts of alcohol without any trouble. The problem is, the liver is limited in its capacity and speed. Drinking too much alcohol inevitably leads to some of that alcohol travelling to other parts of the body by way of the bloodstream. Those other parts of the body include the brain.

Alcohol penetrating the brain causes a number of different things. First, it causes the brain to attempt to overcome the effects of alcohol by producing certain chemicals known as neurotransmitters. Certain neurotransmitters called endorphins create the feelings of pleasure that lead to the drinker feeling tipsy or intoxicated.

The second thing alcohol does to the brain is change its chemical structure. This is where the real danger lies. A change in chemical structure can result in psychological alcohol cravings, psychological dependence, and the development of mental problems including depression, anxiety, and even schizophrenia. The existence of one of these mental conditions in concert with alcoholism is known as a dual diagnosis. It is not a good place to find yourself.

2. Your Liver

Light alcohol consumption over one's lifetime does very little harm to the liver. Things are different for people who engage in moderate to heavy alcohol use. Continued heavy drinking damages liver tissue, thus preventing the organ from doing its job. Complete liver failure is a possibility. Understand that excessive alcohol consumption can lead to:

  • cirrhosis
  • fibrosis
  • alcoholic hepatitis
  • steatosis (fatty liver).

You need to be aware that there is no cure for liver failure. If continued drinking damages your liver to the point that it cannot function properly, you will need a liver transplant or you will die.

3. Your Heart

The next thing to be concerned about is your heart. Drinking too much alcohol can damage your heart to the point of leaving you with permanent heart disease or a life-threatening cardiac incident. By the way, the effects of alcohol on the heart are the same whether you drink too much in a short amount of time or over an extended period.

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Persistent, excessive drinking can lead to:

  • stroke
  • irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia)
  • hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • cardiomyopathy (stretching of the heart muscle)
  • eventual cardiac arrest and death.

4. Your Pancreas

The pancreas is an organ that is part of the endocrine system. It is responsible for producing certain hormones that are vital to life. Drinking too much alcohol over a long period can result in the production of certain toxic substances that damage the pancreas. A condition known as pancreatitis may develop as a consequence. Pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas that can lead to digestive issues, weight loss, internal bleeding, and diabetes. Chronic pancreatitis can also lead to damage to other organs due to hormonal imbalances.

5. Your Immune System

Excessive alcohol consumption weakens the immune system by stealing the resources it needs to function in order to support other systems. Unfortunately, the weakened immune system exposes the individual to a greater risk of other diseases. For example, alcoholics are at a much greater risk of developing conditions such as pneumonia and tuberculosis. Even infections that would be harmless to the average person can be a major problem for the alcoholic. Note that it takes about 24 hours from the end of a drinking session for the immune system to recover – and that is provided no more alcohol was consumed.

6. Cancer Risk

Until recently, medical science was unable to explain why alcoholics tend to have a higher risk of cancer. We now know the answer. When the body processes alcohol, it produces a toxin known as acetaldehyde. This toxin is also a known carcinogen. Drinking too much alcohol over a extended period results in the build-up of this carcinogen in certain areas of the body. As a result, alcoholics are prone to developing cancers in the:

  • throat
  • mouth
  • oesophagus
  • colorectal region
  • breast
  • liver.

You Should Be Concerned about Your Health

We hope that our description of what excessive alcohol consumption can do to your health has alarmed you. The reality is, you should be concerned about your health if you are more than just a casual drinker. Consuming more than 14 units of alcohol in a seven-day period increases your risk of significant physical and mental damage that, over time, could significantly impair your ability to enjoy a normal life. The damage could even kill you at some point.

Alcohol is a dangerous drug that should not be taken lightly. Our question to you is this: do you drink too much? If you do not know the answer, we urge you to contact our 24-hour helpline for assistance. One of our trained counsellors can perform a comprehensive evaluation to determine the nature of your drinking habits. If you are drinking more than you should, you need to take steps now to change that. Failing to do so only endangers your physical and psychological health.

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