According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, nearly 15 million people aged 12 and older suffer from alcoholism.
Alcohol abuse is considered drinking too much alcohol at once. For women, this means drinking more than 4 drinks in 2 hours. For men, this means drinking more than 5 drinks in 2 hours.
Long-term alcohol abuse can lead to full-blown alcohol addiction. When an individual suffers from alcoholism, they cannot control their alcohol consumption, suffer from intense cravings to drink alcohol, and have difficulty ending their alcohol use despite facing negative consequences.
Alcohol use is very common in the United States, but the long-term effects of alcohol abuse are extremely dangerous and often ignored.
The Signs of Alcohol Abuse and Addiction
While alcohol abuse often leads to alcohol addiction, individuals who abuse alcohol are not necessarily suffering from alcoholism. For example, an individual could engage in binge drinking without being addicted to alcohol. Either way, frequent binge drinking or long-term alcoholism can lead to serious health complications.
Oftentimes, the signs of alcohol abuse and addiction can be difficult to spot. Many people attempt to hide their alcohol abuse from their friends and family. Because of this, it is important to understand the signs of alcohol abuse and alcoholism.
Common signs of alcohol abuse and addiction include:
- Blacking out when drinking
- Suffering from short-term memory loss
- Drinking in private or alone
- Hiding alcohol around the house or workplace
- Becoming defensive when confronted about alcohol use
- Minimizing one’s behavior while they were under the influence of alcohol
- Being in denial about their problems with alcohol
- Drinking more alcohol than intended
- Being unsuccessful when attempting to cut back or quit drinking
What is Alcohol Withdrawal?
Individuals who frequently abuse alcohol or suffer from alcohol use disorder will develop symptoms of withdrawal. Alcohol withdrawal occurs when the body has become dependent on alcohol, causing uncomfortable side effects to occur when alcohol is not present in the system. This is one of the most dreaded side effects of alcohol abuse and alcoholism.
Alcohol withdrawal symptoms may include:
- Anxiety, jumpiness, and agitation
- Shakiness of hands
- Pounding heart
- Nightmares or insomnia
- Dizziness and confusion
- Nausea and vomiting
- Lack of appetite
- Profuse sweating
- Auditory and visual hallucinations
The symptoms of alcohol withdrawal can be severe and life-threatening. As a result, individuals who suffer from alcoholism should always attend a medical detox program to manage their withdrawal symptoms in a safe and controlled environment.
Side Effects of Long-Term Alcohol Abuse on the Body
Because alcohol consumption is a popular pastime in America, many people are unaware of the severe risks of long-term alcohol abuse. Unfortunately, nearly 95,000 people die from alcohol-related causes annually, making alcohol the third leading cause of preventable death.
While alcohol consumption causes short-term effects on the body, it can also cause long-term damage to the body and its organs. The side-effects of long term alcohol abuse and addiction on the body include:[3,4]
- Compromised immune system (low white blood cell count)
- Hormonal imbalances
- Stomach ulcers
- Damage to the heart
- Cirrhosis of the liver
- Cancer of the mouth, liver, colon, esophagus, and breasts
Alcohol abuse can also cause immediate dangers to one’s body. Because alcohol affects the central nervous system, it causes individuals to have lowered inhibitions and affects one’s ability to make sound decisions. That’s why people find themselves engaging in risky behaviors like drunk driving, unprotected sex, and even getting into physical altercations while under the influence of alcohol.
Long-Term Side Effects of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism on the Brain
In addition to affecting the body, long-term alcohol abuse and addiction can cause lasting effects on one’s brain. Unfortunately, even short-term alcohol abuse can impact an individual’s memory, coordination, and critical thinking skills. Additionally, alcohol is a depressant, meaning it can increase one’s risk of developing depressive disorders and anxiety-related disorders.
Additional long-term side effects of alcoholism on the brain include:
- Coordination issues
- Lowered attention span
- Trouble thinking or making decisions
- Increased impulsivity
- Worsening of anxiety and depression
- Nerve damage
- Wernicke’s encephalopathy
- Korsakoff’s psychosis (wet brain)
Because of the dangerous mental effects of long-term alcohol abuse, individuals suffering from alcoholism should always receive professional help. While some of the effects of long-term alcoholism can be permanent, others are treatable and reversible with proper medical treatment.
Finding Help for Alcohol Abuse and Addiction
If you or a loved one frequently abuse alcohol, binge drink, or suffers from alcoholism, professional treatment can help.
Allowing your alcoholism to go untreated can cause the emergence of physical health conditions and psychiatric disorders. However, attending a professional treatment program will give you the medical treatment, behavioral therapy, and social support you need to recover.
At Recovery Centers, we understand how difficult it is to struggle with alcoholism and other forms of addiction. We also know that finding a reputable treatment program to attend can be just as hard. Because of this, our team of alcoholism recovery experts is here to help you and your family find a rehab facility that meets your every need.
Contact us today for more information on how we can help you find an alcohol rehab center near you.